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Dealers Pitch in After Sandy

“Aftermath” is a word describing circumstances following a disaster or defeat. The word can emotionally set up a person for bad news.

Hurricane Sandy delivered devastation. We knew it was going to be bad, but few could have envisioned the extent of the damage.

Two weeks later, many people still lack power and some basic needs. Many have lost their homes, cars, possessions, keepsakes family photos, everything.

Take a moment and let that sink in. They’ve lost everything.

A week after the monster storm, a nor’easter blizzard buried much of the Northeast in snow. These people got pounded and then hit again when they were down. I checked the headlines to see if a plague of locusts was coming next.

I had scheduled an Internet “Battle Plan” conference in Atlantic City with 150 people scheduled to attend in early November. I found myself scrambling to reschedule it for mid-December.

As I was calling those Northeast dealerships, I began hearing about the hardships their communities were enduring and what dealers were doing about it.

I heard from Martin D’Amato, Internet manager at Pine Belt Nissan in Toms River, NJ. That area was at ground zero when the hurricane came ashore. Entire communities were leveled.

Martin was appealing for donations to help people living in a local arena converted to a makeshift shelter. He was asking for clothes, shoes, plastic garbage bags, toiletries, anything.

This was days into it. We had already made cash donations through standard charities. But I wanted to do something personal.

My wife and I had closets filled with clothes, good stuff I’ll probably never fit in again anyway. We donated them to Martin. He joked it took two of his strongest guys to carry those clothes into the building.

I began approaching friends in the business elsewhere. The response was incredible. Dealers all over the country shipped supplies.

As I promoted it on Facebook and Twitter, more people responded, most of them in the car business. My friend Jim Boldbook did much. A dealer who asked not to be named sent a huge donation of gift cards the victims could use immediately at stores like Walmart and Target.

We heard from other dealerships, such as Hillside Honda in Jamaica Queens, NY, that participated in collections and deliveries for storm victims. I received an appeal from Hillside’s e-commerce director, Ashley Williams.

I spoke to a longtime friend and client, Mike Basil of Basil Toyota in Buffalo, NY. He has three big generators. The storm didn’t affect his store so he shipped the generators to help people in New York City.

And get this: He then bought two more generators just in case, and ended up shipping them to the help storm victims.

Car dealers sometimes get maligned and vilified. But when the chips are down, dealer always are there for the community. I’m not saying we are the only ones who helped. Many businesses pitched in, and still are doing so. But car dealers did their share, and more.

On a sad note, an Associated Press article indicated CarFax jumped in to take advantage of the storm situation. The seller of vehicle histories claimed hundreds of thousands of Sandy-damaged cars would slip into the market, many more than after Hurricane Katrina.

In the article, a lot of people blasted CarFax for making wild allegations. I Googled the story headline, “Claims About Flood-Damaged Cars Aren’t True.” Guess what the search results included? A paid ad saying: “Avoid Flood-Damaged Cars. Get CARFAX Vehicle History Reports Before You Buy.”

Oh well. A snifter of Cognac and I’m outta here until next time.

Originally posted in WardsAuto.

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