My wife needs a new car. After nearly ten years in the salt-slicked Winter streets of Chicago, her current car is rusted out and destined for the scrap heap.
It’s been over ten years since I’ve bought a car, and while chatting with her about our options she brought up CarMax, the “no haggle” used car lot that seems to be redefining used car-buying. I did a little research and like what they’re saying. They do a 125-point inspection on everything they sell, they flat-price their cars at something that appears average about 10-15% premium over the car’s private-buyer blue book value (which seems reasonable, and half the premium of a standard dealership), and they don’t commission their employees based on individual car sales. Sounds pretty good, but why not ask Twitter? I posed the following question to people that follow me on Twitter:
Me: Anyone have experience with CarMax – good/bad/gotchas? Going to hit them up this weekend.
And the generous Twitter folks got right back to me. Here were the responses:
Dukethug: @DougWick buddy of mine got burned by some BS from carmax a few years ago. Should be interesting to see how desperate they are.
Baldman: @DougWick We bought Sarah’s car at CarMax and loved the experience, including the trade-in of her old one. We’ll buy our next car there.
ScottIngram: @dougwick My CarMax experiences have been positive. Sold a car to them a couple weeks ago. My in-laws bought their car there and are happy.
Atxryan: @DougWick My friend @atxkat bought a car from CarMax and the clutch went out less than a month later. Was not covered by their warranty.
Doogsatx: @DougWick sold my 2002 Protege5 there for the same price I bought it for a year earlier (from diff dealer), so I can’t complain too much…
Ok, so three positive, two negative. I messaged my friend Josh (Dukethug) to get a little more detail on his friend who got burned:
Me: @Dukethug what was the nature of the burning? bad car? pricing? financing? just want to know where to keep my eye . . .
Dukethug: @dougwick iirc, it was a promised service arrangement that was not honored.
Dukethug: @dougwick as in, the car ended up having some problems carmax refused to fix.
It seems like both Dukethug’s and Atxryan’s friends got saddled with a car that probably shouldn’t have passed the 125 point inspection. Well this is where things got really interesting. At this point I receive a message – “CarMax Chris Wilmore (@CarMaxChris) is following you on Twitter.”
Clicking through to @CarMaxChris’s profile, Chris’ Bio reads “CarMax PR rep interested in sharing information about the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, car buying info, automotive content and social media trends.” Wow, so someone from CarMax “heard” me talking about them and reached out to me. So I take advantage of this access:
Me: @CarMaxChris Does CarMax allow inspection of vehicles by third party mechanics prior to purchase?
CarMaxChris: @DougWick Not prior to purchase, but all used CarMax cars can be returned for any reason within a 5-day period with our money-back guarantee
Well that seems reasonable, and plenty of time to get the car to a mechanic for our own third party inspection.
In the end, I got five great pieces of feedback from my network and a connection to the service I’m thinking about using who took the opportunity to address my concerns. I already like CarMax even though I haven’t set foot in one of their stores. This all transpired in the course of just about 3-4 hours.
This is a practical example of how an open publish:subscribe model for the world can become extremely powerful, and why it might be worth it to join Twitter.
Now think about if a mechanic in Austin had heard me mention “mechanic” and checked my location data to know that I live in Austin? They could have chimed in and potentially won some business. Or someone from my local CarMax to ask which car I’m looking at? Insurance providers? Financing? The DMV? They might all someday add value to this conversation because I raised my hand started talking about needing to buy a car. Good marketing – the kind I want to hear because of what my needs are right now.
The cardinal rule of Twitter is that you show your network some gratitude when they help you out:
CarMaxChris: @DougWick You’re most welcome. Hope to see you in soon.
Atxkat: @Dougwick I would definitely recomend having a third party give it the once over… @drosko would agree
Now while I was going to go to CarMax anyway, and it was nice that he answered my question, there is a big opportunity for CarMaxChris to go above and beyond. He could track down @atxkat, @drosko, and @dukethug’s friend (it would just take a few minutes) and try to win them back as customers. That is where the real power of listening into the network, from a company perspective, is so powerful – and could change everything about how companies market in the future.