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Dealer Home Deliveries (The Safe and Legal Way)

Originally published in April 2020.

Stay-At-Home Orders

In many jurisdictions across the United States–and the list is growing daily–people are being subjected to Stay-At-Home Orders. Under a Stay-At-Home Order you are requested to: stay at home. The only businesses you're allowed to visit or patronize are considered "essential businesses." That would include doctors' offices, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, banks, and in many jurisdictions automobile dealerships. But that is not uniformly true either on a city-by-city basis or a state-by-state basis.

Assuming you are still allowed to conduct operations in your jurisdiction the question becomes: can a dealership that is considered non-essential still make home deliveries of vehicles?

Right now I cannot find an answer to that question. In any event that is going to be a state or local question so let's assume during the course of this coronavirus lockdown, you are allowed to make home deliveries of vehicles to stay in business and continue servicing your customers.

The Mechanics of Home Delivery

If you can do it, how should you do it? Last week we talked about hygiene and about the concept of premises liability and how it might extend to keeping your cars clean as well as your facilities. Today I'd like to go through the mechanics of actually conducting home deliveries of the vehicles that you sell.

I recently saw an ad on television from Ford Motor Company that said to get through this crisis they're going to be providing home deliveries of vehicles. I was curious about that, so I called one of our local Ford dealerships and I said, "have you gotten any guidance on how to actually do a home delivery?" And that dealer said no we've been told to do it but even forward hasn't been telling us how. By the time you see this video that might have been solved, but right now there are a lot of open questions.

How to do a home delivery? Well, the first and most obvious step would be to make it as paperless as possible. There are many Technologies available to dealers as well as all other businesses to conduct business from remote locations. Yes, you can do an F&I presentation live from your F&I box through such technologies as Skype or Zoom and they can be very effective. Depending on the technology available at your store and available in the customer's home you can even have all the documents signed from a remote location. If the customer has a smartphone or better still a smart tablet with a touch screen capability, you can sign documents and never pass the paper whatsoever. Whether or not you have that technology or your customer has it is an individual question, but if you don't at your store now is the time to get it.

If a physical signature is necessary make sure that you're consistent in your presentation at the customer's home, that you have a process in place that you can repeat every time, and that that process includes social distancing. The 6 ft social distance we are being asked to maintain is essentially one arm's length to another arm's length. Don't sit right down next to the customer on a coffee table or a kitchen table and breathe over their shoulder telling them where to sign the documents. Rather stay a 4, 5, or 6 ft distance away and slide the document. If you want to wear gloves–that may be more for show than anything else–but if it puts your customers in their comfort zone go ahead and wear gloves. Slide the documents to them. Make sure they already have "Sign Here" stickers so you don't have to get very close and point. Make it easy. Make it obvious. When you receive the documents back take a moment and make sure every document is signed in the appropriate spot. You want to minimize return visits.

When I accepted delivery of the car I'm currently driving, a dealership employee dropped it off at my office came up the elevator, walked me through signing all the documents, and then he left. An hour later he came back because I had forgotten to sign one of the papers. Don't let that happen in a time of heightened concern.

Insurance Products & Home Delivery

One topic you need to be aware of with home deliveries is that some products are considered insurance products. Credit Life and Credit Disability Insurance are obviously insurance products, but in some states, GAP is considered an insurance product and in those states, it may be illegal to sell an insurance product away from the physical branch of the insurance license holder.

If that applies to you and your jurisdiction check with your local Dealers Association or better still your local attorney and find out if you are able to sell GAP in those jurisdictions in the context of home delivery.

Two Employees

When you make an off-site home delivery be sure to bring another dealership employee with you. This is for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious is: if you have to drive the delivering employee back to the dealership, you're going to need somebody else in a chase vehicle. But sometimes the customer has a trade vehicle that the delivering employee could just drive back to the dealership. So why do I recommend having two employees at every delivery?

One reason is physical safety. I'm not suggesting that you are going to be making deliveries to crack houses, but you may be making some deliveries to neighborhoods that better have the strength of numbers than not.

Another issue is this: (and this is a true story from today) one of my employees has a boyfriend who works as a technician at a local dealership. Today a customer drove his car to the service drive to get service performed. He was very sketchy and acting somewhat strangely. He kept yelling at people to, "Keep your social distance!" "Keep 6 ft away!" Which in fact, they were doing.

At one point, a dealership employee got less than 6 feet from the customer who apparently ran away screaming, contacted local authorities, and the dealership was then fined. I don't know how big the fine was. It seems to me strange that someone so concerned about being close to other human beings would take his car to a dealership. I'm an attorney. I smell a scam here.

So when I say bring two employees to the delivery that is so you not just have an assistant or a ride home, but so you've got a witness. So 30 days from now you don't get a lawsuit saying the delivering employee sneezed on the customer or draped over the customer's shoulder indicating where to sign a document and therefore that customer got sick from your employee. Better safe than sorry. Best practice: take two employees.

Where Should an Offsite Delivery Occur?

Where should an off-site delivery occur? The most obvious spot would be the customer's home or perhaps, if they're still able to work from an office, at the customer's place of work. However, not all places of delivery are equally safe. Before you make a home delivery you might want to check out every single address on Google Earth. Is it a neighborhood? Is it a location in which you as a dealer feel safe? Do you feel safe having your employees go to that address?

We are not suggesting that you will avoid making home deliveries to bad neighborhoods. What we are suggesting is if the neighborhood really has you concerned, offer to make the delivery at a public location somewhere that's very close, during daylight hours, easily seen by many witnesses, and has some foot traffic around it. In a time of coronavirus, there may not be a lot of foot traffic, but we don't want your employees making deliveries to a crack house. I'm not suggesting that you can only make the delivery in the parking lot of the local police precinct, but be wise. You have to serve your customers, but you have to protect your employees as well.

Home deliveries are being offered right now as an expedient and as a convenience to people in a time of heightened awareness of an infectious disease. That will pass, but you know what? The convenience is going to be enjoyed. What is now a necessity, I believe 6 months from now, will become the norm. So embrace change. This is something that Carvana has been doing for years now. So too has Vroom Auto. Get with it. Beat them where they're trying to beat you.


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