Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Have Courage to Be Upfront--New Car Loan

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Being upfront about something in order to get what you want takes courage. Sometimes we have to part with private information that we don't necessarily want other people to know about because it might put us in a vulnerable position.

Today's story is about the time when I applied for my very first car loan in 1998 after moving 1,000 miles away from New York City to work on a book project, which you now know eventually fell through because God had other plans for me (to learn how to become a pilot).

After looking at a few dealerships and being turned down for a car loan, I was at my wit’s end. I confided in a colleague about this and he gave me the name of a large Dodge dealership where he bought his Jeep from.

Upon setting foot in the showroom, I was met by a young, overly enthusiastic salesman named Jeff. He appeared fresh out of college, probably eager to make his first sale. What he didn’t know was that moments before walking in, I had an overwhelming impression to be upfront with whoever greeted me about my credit history (you know from previous articles that I had bad credit from being reckless during the early eighties).

As soon as we sat down, I immediately launched into the “bad debt” story. His shoulders sagged a little and I could tell he thought I was probably a lost case. But to his credit, he mustered a smile, saying he would do his best and asked that I fill out the necessary paperwork anyway. He then took my application and disappeared into the manager’s office, nestled somewhere out of sight, hidden from the public eye.

While waiting for Jeff to come back, I spotted a distinguished-looking salesman at the far end of the showroom. There was something magical about his appearance, desk location and mannerisms. For some inexplicable reason, I felt compelled to speak with him.

Glancing in the direction where Jeff previously made his departure and not seeing him anywhere, I decided to walk over and introduce myself to this man. Stopping a few feet from his desk, my eyes were immediately drawn to his nameplate.

Mr. Shoebottom.

“What a strange name,” I thought. “I never heard of that one before. It sounds like something right out of a children's storybook.”

The man was on the phone. Seeing that I was standing there, waiting to speak with him, he covered the mouthpiece and said, "I'll be right with you."

Not wanting to distract Mr. Shoebottom any further, I went browsing around the showroom, while keeping an eye on him. As soon as he hung up the phone, I would dash over there.

Finally, he stood up and waved to me. As I was making my way over, I glanced once again to where I last saw Jeff. Seeing that he still had not returned from the manager’s office, I picked up my pace.

The friendly salesman reached out to shake my hand (rather firmly, I might add) and asked, "Sir, how may I help you?"

Peeking down at his nameplate once again to make sure I wasn't imagining things , I said, "Mr. Shoebottom, my name is Stephen Hopson and I'm here to buy a car for the first time in my life. Someone recommended your dealership, which is why I'm here today. I filled out some paperwork and gave it to Jeff over there for processing. But, there's one potential problem."

"And what might that be?" he said pleasantly.

I pushed on, "Sir, I messed up my credit during the early eighties and although I've been cleaning it up the last few years, the credit check might reveal less than desirable information. To be honest with you, I'm a little worried about it."

His face immediately changed from the detached, business-like expression to one of genuine understanding. The sudden transformation took me aback. I must have triggered something in him - I just didn’t know what. I would find out a few days later.

“Please have a seat, I'll go see how Jeff is doing with your paperwork. I'll be right back."

It wasn't long before Mr. Shoebottom appeared with the young salesman in tow. He was beaming as if he just made the biggest sale of the month.

"Mr. Hopson, your car loan was approved. Congratulations!"

It took me a second to gather my wits.

Not believing my eyes (remember I lip-read) I said, “WHAT!?!? I don’t need a co-signor or anything?”

“Your report did not have any history of bad credit like you thought it would.”

Either he was telling me the truth and my credit history was actually clean OR he liked me so much that an exception was made to give me a loan without a co-signer.

A million thoughts rammed through my head. I remember thinking, if my credit was so good, then how come the previous 3 dealerships turned me down for a loan? It just didn’t make any sense.

Well, I'll never know. And you know what? It doesn’t matter! It brings to mind a quote from Joel Osteen's best-selling book, "Your Best Life Now":

"God's favor is opening doors of opportunity. His favor is bringing success in your life. His favor is causing people to make exceptions for you."

When I went back to pick up my new car a couple days later, I was dying to ask Mr. Shoebottom (how can you forget that name?) what really happened.

With a warm, knowing smile, he said, “Several years earlier, I had experienced a very bad bankruptcy and know first-hand what it is like to be denied a loan because of bad credit.”

Wow! That said it all. No wonder I felt strangely drawn to the man with a storybook name!

Food for thought: People who take a big risk to follow their dreams, move a thousand miles away and take a shot at being upfront about their personal situation are rewarded in a big way because God will cause you to be at the right time at the right place with the right people if you have the right attitude!
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