Used car salesmen don’t have a good reputation. Jack Scheberies was a big exception.
Friends told me that he and his brother, Jerry gave people the best deals on the most reliable used cars. I’d never heard of them, even though they were running the business their father started in 1942. Maybe it’s because they never advertised. A friend drove me to his car lot.
Jack wasn’t anything like the stereotypical “used car salesman.” He looked to be in his sixties. He was about my height but stocky, with the kind of hands I remembered from my uncle, the cop. They both had hands like padded concrete blocks.
Jack smiled easily when we shook hands. I told him I needed a reliable car, that wouldn’t attract vandals in bad neighborhoods and was inexpensive enough to be disposable if something happened to it.
Jack pointed to an old compact. “Try that one for a few days,” he told me.
“Try” meant what it sounds like. He was going to let me drive the car for up to a week to decide if it was the right one. If it was, he’d write up the sale. If it wasn’t, we’d try another one.
I had never heard of anything like that, but it seemed more than fair. And it seemed like a way of doing business that generated a lot of good word-of-mouth. A few days later I brought the car back and told Jack I wanted it. We went into the office.
While he plowed through the paperwork, I looked around. There has a small desk, with several different sets of keys on it. On the wall, there were the usual plaques you see in small business offices.
There were also two newspaper clippings. One was a story about the dealership. The other was very different. It was in Spanish from a Buenos Aires newspaper. It showed Argentine President Juan Peron, surrounded by a group of young men.
Jack saw me looking. “That’s me,” he said, “1952.”
It turned out that Jack Scheberies was the US amateur heavyweight champion that year. The US boxing team toured South America, including Argentina, where they were received by President Peron.
It was several hours before I left the lot that day. I asked questions. Jack told stories. They were fascinating. Jack had a 6-bout pro career where he won every match. Then he worked as a referee. He and his brother ran the used car business that their father had started.
They didn’t advertise because they didn’t need to. Honest dealing, providing value, and treating people right generated word-of-mouth advertising and referrals to keep the business profitable. That’s one lesson from Scheberies Used Cars.
The other lesson, one I learned that day, is even more important. Everybody you meet and everyone who works for you has something special and wonderful. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes you can’t. But it’s there.
Everyone you will ever deal with has a magical something.
Jack Scheberies died in 2000. His brother, Jerry, ran the business until 2012. Then he closed it because “the cars just weren’t coming like they used to.” For the entire 70 years they were in business, Scheberies Used Cars never advertised. Not once.
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