Can a Catholic be a Car Salesman?


#1

This seems like a silly question, but looking at an industry that has a history of subterfuge, what are the moral implications of working in a business where you voluntarily try to sell things to people that you are consciously aware are not actually good for the customer? In essence: you’re pitching what you yourself wouldn’t want, which seems like a pretty straightforward contradiction of the royal commandment… Extra money made here and there orbits around the expectation that some people will be better informed than others, and from a sales standpoint, that ignorance is something to capitalize on rather than correct, which again would seem to be the complete opposite of one of the corporal works of mercy.

I’m not personally a car salesman but I just got finished navigating through the maze of making a purchase and I thought about “What if”.


#2

(I’m not being accusatory towards anybody here that might be in the car business. But my impressions were quite different than, say, buying something at a grocery store).


#3

There are lots of people in sales, and some act morally and some do not. It’s not wrong to try and sell a product to make a living. I’ve been around many salespeople who obviously think their product is a good thing and they want to share it, but even with their enthusiasm they don’t engage in trickery or hard upselling, and if you are frank with them about your needs they don’t try to sell you something you don’t need. A Catholic could certainly be that kind of salesperson.

Yes, there are some sales practices that are unethical, immoral, and in many cases illegal, and Catholics should avoid practicing those themselves or places of unemployment where they would be expected to act that way.


#4

Nothing immoral about cars, and someone has to sell them- show the different options to the customer, help him make a decision in a field of trade where there is such a myriad of options.

Some car salesmen may use unethical tactics, but it doesn’t mean that those tactics are universal.


#5

If the car is sold as advertised and the salesman answers any questions honestly, then there’s not much more he can do! If he was telling the customer something about the car which absolutely wasn’t true, or was selling a car which was about to fall apart that would be a different matter.

The buyer has a responsibility to check things out too (caveat emptor and all that). We do it with houses when we engage a surveyor to check the house before we buy. The motoring organisations offer the same service for used cars, for people who aren’t sure what they should be looking out for.


#6

You know the Christian films Courageous and Fireproof? The company that made them first started out making home movies for their church. Their first one was Flywheel, about a corrupt used car salesman who converts to evangelicalism.

Flywheel
en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flywheel_(film

As part of the narrative, he has a Zacceus moment and starts returning the money he overcharged back to the customers he swindled. Then he resolves to sell cars only at the value assigned to them by the MSRP, and suddenly his business starts booming. (Because the DEALS are so good!)

The production values are awful, since it’s a home movie, but the message is pretty good. Part of the point is that you can be an honest used car salesman and still be successful. That means you can be a Catholic one as well.


#7

Car salesmen get a bad rap. There are many moral ones out there. There are also immoral sales people in all sales industries.

However, for every one unethical sales rep, there are tons of good ones.

Sales people (car salesmen included) depend on referrals. Referrals come form being good and trustworthy. Sales professionals know this and work hard at their reputation.


#8

Sure a Catholic can be a Car Salesman.

A Catholic, however, can NEVER, EVER be a Time Share Salesman, a Congressman, a Drug Company or Bank CEO.

:smiley:


#9

This seems like a silly question, but looking at an industry that has a history of subterfuge, what are the moral implications of working in a business where you voluntarily try to sell things to people that you are consciously aware are not actually good for the customer?

This is a pretty outdated view, especially in the Internet age where competitive vehicle costs are so readily available. Savvy consumers who do their research have the upper hand in these price negotiations now.

You could easily make the same claim about any number of industries exhibiting unethical behavior, including recent examples in accounting, banking, medicine, legal, political, etc.


#10

It would be a problem here in small-town Italy where nearly everyone is a Catholic! :slight_smile:


#11

Car salesman is such a vague label, there are new car sales and used car salesman, probably a big difference in morality among them too, naturally people in sales make more when they sell more or sell at a higher price, but I would expect a better chance of immoral behavior in selling used cars (nothing to really hide about new cars being sold).

I have a good friend who is in sales (not cars though), I once told him I could never be a good salesman because I would be too worried about getting people to spend more money than they have or can afford…he told he to be good at sales, you almost have to lack that kind of empathy, or be able to set it aside.

There are moral and immoral people in sales though, its not like it was in the past, like when ALL tax collectors were corrupt and immoral, its more a mix today.


#12

I reject the premise (and no, contrary to the accusations made by another forum member about me in the past, I am NOT a used car salesman. :p).

Not everyone can afford a new car. And used cars are not perfect - there are usually problems that are either known or unknown to the owner seeking to sell them.

If the owner is forthcoming about the problems or can HONESTLY say that he knows of no problems, then there is nothing morally wrong with selling a car that might begin to exhibit a problem after the sale is completed.

OTOH, I personally feel it would be wrong to sell a car that has something seriously wrong with it without informing the buyer of that problem (and adjusting the price accordingly). If the buyer still chooses to purchase the vehicle with full knowledge, then there is no problem.

In short, if the seller hides a known problem and represents the condition of the car falsely, that is morally wrong. But if the seller is open about the actual or potential problem, and the seller still goes ahead with the transaction at a mutually agreed price, then that is not morally wrong.

Hope this helps. :tiphat:


#13

I think the real question is can any commissioned sales person be ethical. The answer is yes.

A successfulll salesperson in any indusyry relies on repeat business. This can only be attained by high standards in all transactions.

A bad report from a former client has the potential to ruin his or her reputation, and they will not be,around very long.


#14

I’m not sure if it’s too outdated to see large purchases as a gray area. Over base prices, it might be easy for customers to know what the price of a car ought to be, but there are lots of fixings added in. i.e. the finance manager trying to sell me a service warranty that is much higher than what I could get elsewhere, and even then, often simply not worth it, and it’s all done spontaneously on a desk immediately before the purchase with a stack of papers with copious amounts of print in front of it.

It’s not outright untruthful or anything, but that’s sort of the idea. You don’t lie. You manipulate & withhold, and functionally it serves the same purpose.

I expected the answers here to be what they are. There’s nothing intrinsically immoral about being a salesman, as is the case with a few professions, but in my opinion, it can be problematic with Christian ethics more frequently than most professions, and that has always been the case historically: in the past more-so than today.

It’s hard to objectively say what any given individual may or may not want, and I realize that. I bought a dessert at a Himalayan cuisine restaurant last night. It was $4.99 and it was basically three wet donut holes sitting in an oily pool with some coconut flakes on top. It was probably the most underwhelming purchase in a restaurant I have ever made and I wouldn’t buy it again if it were 50 cents. I feel like the order was quite clearly a rip off, but not everybody in the world would agree. The yak meat, on the other hand, was quite delicious.


#15

Or let’s look at something else: the cereal aisle in American grocery stores. Boxes and boxes of brands that tout healthiness & nutrition, sometimes sneaking in the occasional toy along with it, when the science is pretty abundantly clear that the vast majority of them aren’t actually good for you. The brands move along a razor edge of what FDA guidelines do or don’t prohibit in their advertising. It’s all legal by the skin of your teeth. As a society we’ve gone from eggs, meat, potatoes and fruit to cardboard boxes that contain grain-based candy with poor nutritional value.

Is it immoral? You tell me. Certainly seems gray.


#16

I think your view of breakfast cereals is too dim. Yes, there are “candy” cereals with 50% sugar or more. Companies wouldn’t be manufacturing and selling them but for the fact that some customers want them. Marketing is partly responsible for the demand, of course, but welcome to America! There are also many cereals with a bit less sugar (20 to 25% seems to be the marketing “sweet spot” for the US market), some with only a little sugar, and some with no sugar at all, apart from what came in the grain.

There are similar choices in other aisles of the supermarket. There are good, healthy food choices to be found, and it’s up to the consumer to choose well.


#17

I expected the answers here to be what they are. There’s nothing intrinsically immoral about being a salesman, as is the case with a few professions, but in my opinion, it can be problematic with Christian ethics more frequently than most professions, and that has always been the case historically: in the past more-so than today.

That’s a highly negative, outdated, and stereotypical portrayal of the sales profession.

Good, ethical, professional salespeople create value for their clients. They are patient, empathetic, and concerned about the welfare of their clients. They are educated on the nuances and technical details of their product or service.

I can think of several other industries and professions once regarded with high esteem that now have much more serious ethical issues.


#18

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