Oregon car dealers want state sales restrictions as a bailout

posted at 10:10 am on December 9, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

When people come to visit us in Minnesota, we like to point out the quaint nature of a couple of surviving blue laws in our fine state.  Liquor stores have to close by 8 pm every night, and they must remain closed on Sunday, for instance.  Another law forces car dealerships to stay closed on Sunday, too, a curious mix of alcohol and driving that would make MADD proud.

Now car dealers in Oregon want the state to impose the same law — as a bailout (via Michelle):

Oregon’s struggling auto dealers plan to ask the Legislature to impose “blue laws” prohibiting car sales on Sunday.

The day off would help them cut costs during an economic downturn that has already put 19 Oregon dealerships out of business this year. Nationally, sales of domestic cars declined more than 35 percent in 2008.

Greg Remensperger, executive vice president of the Oregon Automobile Dealers Association, told The Oregonian newspaper his members strongly favor the measure.

Why do they need state intervention?  Won’t the OADA demonstrate solidarity if they pass a resolution to urge its members to remain closed on Sunday?

If lawmakers don’t approve the restriction on Sunday sales, Oregon dealers could opt for a voluntary pact among themselves. Dealers, however, figure a state law is needed to ensure that nobody takes advantage of the others’ closure.

Minnesota car dealers have never fought the ban here, and for good reason.  Many of them will say that they sell more cars on Sunday than any other day.  Since the cars have to stay in place, Minnesotans know they can browse the lots on that day unmolested by desperate salespeople, and take their time to find the cars they want.  When they make a decision, buyers come back on an open day and head straight for that particular car, making the sale process a lot more efficient and buyers much more satisfied.

Oregon dealers should focus more on their product and the price more than a state-imposed Sunday shutdown.  They probably won’t get it anyway, as the AP reports, as the Oregon legislature has its hands full already with other economic-meltdown problems.  Maybe they’d do better to sell the proposal as a Green initiative.  Think of the energy savings a Sunday blue law would bring!

I suspect, though, that the OADA is right.  If Minnesota repealed the blue law, it would take just a couple of weeks before every dealership started holding Sunday hours.  There’s an irony in that for anyone who got mugged by a car salesman within three steps of the sidewalk of the dealership.

Update: Ugh.  Car dealers, not car makers.  Corrected the headline.  Must … have … coffee.

Update II: HA reader Hollowpoint notes that liquor stores in Minnesota can stay open as late as 10 pm in some jurisdictions on Friday and Saturday.


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My first thought was “Oregon has carmakers?”

DarkCurrent on December 9, 2008 at 10:13 AM

Ed, do you mean “Oregon car dealers want sales restrictions…”?

common sensineer on December 9, 2008 at 10:14 AM

How about this idea:

Instead of more government imposed behavior, let people run their own lives and if a car dealer wants to be open on Sunday, let it. And if you do not want to work on Sundays, find a job where you can arrange what days you work.

Just say no to more government regulation.

rbj on December 9, 2008 at 10:15 AM

Imagine, a state as liberal as Oregon, passing a “blue law”…why Sunday, isn’t that the day that the Lord said to take a rest?
The first Christian state…

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 10:16 AM

Why do they need state intervention? Won’t the OADA demonstrate solidarity if they pass a resolution to urge its members to remain closed on Sunday?

Could that be considered collusion?

forest on December 9, 2008 at 10:19 AM

I remember a dealership saying they will price the car at a drop down low price, no haggling.
They lasted for about 6 months. The car dealer said it was the strangest thing…People would rather pay a higher price, but negotiate, then to pay a lower sticker price and not negotiate.
The buying public has a pattern, don’t interrupt that pattern.

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Pssst….want a tip? Don’t buy cars from dealerships, ever. You might as well burn $100 bills.

Best thing to do is buy a 2 year old car with warranty left from a private party and let that sucker take the 35% depreciation hit.

angryed on December 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Can’t they just shut their unprofitable doors? Oh yeah, that’s right, Honda and Toyota don’t want to.

tarpon on December 9, 2008 at 10:25 AM

Why only car dealers? Why not all retail? Make WalMart shut down on Sunday; restaurants too.

No sunday pizza delivery? Oh no!

Skandia Recluse on December 9, 2008 at 10:25 AM

The day off would help them cut costs during an economic downturn that has already put 19 Oregon dealerships out of business this year. Nationally, sales of domestic cars declined more than 35 percent in 2008.

Logic police here – How does reducing the number of days a dealer can sell cars (and a lucrative day at that) help? OK, maybe they cut costs via payroll or lighting, but the salesmen are on commission anyway. Somehow, I see this restriction hurting more than helping – or am I just being foolishly logical?

Vashta.Nerada on December 9, 2008 at 10:27 AM

Why do they need state intervention? Won’t the OADA demonstrate solidarity if they pass a resolution to urge its members to remain closed on Sunday?

They’re afraid of whatever the equivalent here is of “scabs”. Big, terrible scabs! (How you can enjoy Sunday off, with the thought that someone out there might be taking your business?)

Tzetzes on December 9, 2008 at 10:28 AM

Vashta.Nerada on December 9, 2008 at 10:27 AM

The idea is that the week’s worth of sales would be squeezed into six days. Same amount of business (because people can wait one day for such a big purchase) in less time.

Tzetzes on December 9, 2008 at 10:30 AM

The idea is that the week’s worth of sales would be squeezed into six days. Same amount of business (because people can wait one day for such a big purchase) in less time.

Tzetzes on December 9, 2008 at 10:30 AM

That makes sense, though I would pick Mondays instead. People shop on the weekend.

Vashta.Nerada on December 9, 2008 at 10:32 AM

The below radio commercial is acutally running in the Savannah area:

OC Welch

ht: NASIOC

luckybogey on December 9, 2008 at 10:33 AM

Colorado has the car sales blue law. I just went on Sunday to look at some cars, it is VERY nice not having to deal with a sales rep. We did just get rid of a blue law, however. Liquor stores can now be open on Sunday…I like that for me but the small stores don’t like it.

danjrussell on December 9, 2008 at 10:38 AM

From the state that brought you taxpayer-paid assisted suicide as part of its “health”care.

ex-Democrat on December 9, 2008 at 10:39 AM

Oregon dealers could opt for a voluntary pact among themselves.

A conspiracy in restraint of trade, in other words. I don’t know Oregon state law, but that would appear to be a no-no. There’s certainly no efficiency justification for it.

In the Fair Allocation System boycott case in the Northwest, it was actually the manufacturer who blew the whistle on the conspiracy, so good luck with that, folks.

DrSteve on December 9, 2008 at 10:39 AM

Chik-fil-A is closed on Sundays. Doesn’t seem to hurt them much.

rbj on December 9, 2008 at 10:40 AM

When Texas began to roll back its blue laws in the 80′s, the car dealers went to Austin and got theirs retained. Now, car dealers can open on Saturday OR Sunday, not both.

I like the “green” angle. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if the laws that were stripped away by “progressives” because they were religious were to be put back by those same “progressives” for their religion?

Kafir on December 9, 2008 at 10:41 AM

See Detroit Auto Dealers’ Association, Section 5 of the FTC Act.

DrSteve on December 9, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Dealers, however, figure a state law is needed to ensure that nobody takes advantage of the others’ closure.

Was this lifted from Atlas Shrugged?

rhodeymark on December 9, 2008 at 11:17 AM

Who is John Galt?

I am re-reading Atlas Shrugged right now. Can the “anti-dog-eat-dog” rule be far behind?

flyoverland on December 9, 2008 at 11:30 AM

DrSteve- I’m too lazy to look it up. What does it say?

I know Detroit dealers are closed on Sunday.

MayBee on December 9, 2008 at 11:38 AM

Putting aside their ridiculous need to involve government in their business, wouldn’t closing shop on, say, a Monday be better than a Sunday since people are off work on Sunday and might want to go car shopping???

Karol on December 9, 2008 at 11:43 AM

Hey, here’s a pretty off-the-wall idea…how about any car dealer that needs to close one day a week go ahead and close on that day? Those that shrink their costs enough by using this method will beat out those that need to close but foolishly stay open all week. Those that do a good enough business every day of the week can continue to stay open and pick up the business from those that can’t justify the seventh day.

Or…they can all continue to play the prisoner’s dilemma and lose out.

Oddly enough, it’s called free enterprise.

James on December 9, 2008 at 11:49 AM

Maybe we can allow the Oregon car dealers makers assisted suicide.

Kini on December 9, 2008 at 11:53 AM

I remember a dealership saying they will price the car at a drop down low price, no haggling.
They lasted for about 6 months. The car dealer said it was the strangest thing…People would rather pay a higher price, but negotiate, then to pay a lower sticker price and not negotiate.
The buying public has a pattern, don’t interrupt that pattern.

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Then they weren’t doing it right, or people weren’t convinced they were offering the “lowest price.” Jasper Jeep north of Atlanta sells more jeeps than anyone else in the country because they truly offer the lowest price with no haggling. People come from all over the Southeast in order to buy from them. Both because they know they will get the lowest price and because they know they won’t have to go through the process of trying to talk the price down. This concept does work, but the customer has to be convinced that you really are putting the lowest price on the car.

Buford on December 9, 2008 at 11:57 AM

Best thing to do is buy a 2 year old car with warranty left from a private party and let that sucker take the 35% depreciation hit.

angryed on December 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM

Good advice…
Really though, does anyone really care about a used car salesman?
They will be closed on Sunday, and open late on Monday…the only cool thing, is that you get to look at cars without being hassled.

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 11:59 AM

Buford on December 9, 2008 at 11:57 AM

Jasper Jeep just filed for bankruptcy…

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 12:01 PM

Kidding that was a joke…

right2bright on December 9, 2008 at 12:01 PM

This is insane and if I am a dealer paying dues to the car dealer’s association I am immediately revoking my membership. What a f’ing waste of time.

Although if they were in Illinois I imagine giving the Governor an Escalade every year might get it passed.

grdred944 on December 9, 2008 at 12:06 PM

I live in Minnesota, my local booze shack is open until ten p.m.

This is good for hyper-liberal Oregon anyway, in fact they should get rid of all car dealerships in the state to save the environment.

Bishop on December 9, 2008 at 12:14 PM

Why stop there in their wanting to save costs?
Why not have the state government take over the sales of all new and used vehicles in Oregon then have just one Ford dealer, one GM dealer, etc. in the state and require that everyone living in Oregon is required to buy their cars from those few state-owned and operated dealers.

Nationalization of capitalist businesses – its the new fad coming to a town near you!

albill on December 9, 2008 at 12:16 PM

Why only car dealers? Why not all retail? Make WalMart shut down on Sunday; restaurants too.

No sunday pizza delivery? Oh no!

Skandia Recluse on December 9, 2008 at 10:25 AM

I think blue laws are silly-living in East TX years ago, everyone just went across the county line for booze (not only a Blue county, but a dry one, too).
In Bismarck ND Hobby Lobby is closed on Sunday so their employees “can enjoy a day off with their families”.
I don’t think this should be mandated, but I think it’s wonderful when places do this. I in turn try to frequent them more often bcs of their respect to their employees.
I hate when people go to church on Sunday then immediately go out to eat or shopping. It’s crappy.

But for car dealers, let them get together & police each other.
I would think the OR legislature has better things to do. Like voting on how to kill unwanted & sick people.

Badger40 on December 9, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Not only does the Oregon Health Plan cover assisted suicide, they sent a letter to a lady that though they won’t cover her $4,000 a month medication for her cancer treatment, they will cover her euthanasia when that becomes necessary! Government health care at work!

On topic, Oregon car dealers closing on Sunday would help one stricken car dealership group the most: SW Washington state car dealers. Because we have no sales tax, people come down to Oregon and use friends and relatives addresses to avoid paying sales tax on car purchases. Closing on Sunday may encourage some of those Washington folks to pay sales tax for the convenience of shopping on Sunday :) .

PastorJon on December 9, 2008 at 12:46 PM

I guess it comes down to how much clout the auto dealers have w/ the legislature. Cars are considered evil by many out here – they’d do a Pagan Happy Dance if cars (and dealers) suddenly disappeared. Most of that same crowd would hate to set aside Sunday as anything special. That crowd has a lot of pull in legislative matters, and I don’t know that the dealers have the influence to get their way.

As for labeling it a “green initiative” that would probably work. Idiots out here would heat their homes with coal-fired nuclear whale blubber if you tell them it is “green.”

innominatus on December 9, 2008 at 12:51 PM

#1 Person To Trust The LEAST: Any typical career politician

2nd Runner Up: A car dealer

’nuff said.

pilamaye on December 9, 2008 at 1:01 PM

The first time I was ever in a state w/no Sunday sales of frosty delicious beer (Colorado), I rioted in the streets and stabbed dozens of random bystanders in the neck with a pen. Wait, no I didnt.

Mike D. on December 9, 2008 at 1:01 PM

I hate when people go to church on Sunday then immediately go out to eat or shopping. It’s crappy.

It reminds me of a story that gets passed around in my church about one of our leaders (I have no idea whether or not it’s true). He ran low on gas on a Sunday and stopped in to get a fill up. While the guy was pumping his gas, the leader said, “Brother, it’s a shame you’ve got to work on the Sabbath.” The gas station attendant replied, “Sir, if gentlemen like you would remember to fill your cars on Saturday, I wouldn’t have to be at work on Sunday to pump your gas.”

When I was in NYC, they modified the liquor store blue laws because many Jewish retailers argued that being forced to be closed on Sunday meant they either had to be open on their own Sabbath or lose out on two days instead of just one. The city switched the law so that every liquor store has to pick a day that their store is closed, but the city no longer mandates which day it has to be.

At this point, I’m not sure what point the blue laws serve since there is always at least 1 liquor store in an area open each day. Seems like the government ought to get out of mandating business hours altogether.

JadeNYU on December 9, 2008 at 1:09 PM

If they closed down 35 car lots on McLoughlin Blvd. in Milwaukie/Gladstone Oregon you would still have 87 lots left.

portlandon on December 9, 2008 at 1:11 PM

MayBee on December 9, 2008 at 11:38 AM

Sorry for the delay. DADA got in trouble with the FTC for an agreement to reduce operating hours.

They now offer guidance to their members on how to stay clear of the FTC prohibitions.

DrSteve on December 9, 2008 at 1:12 PM

These guys are real Capitalists, aren’t they?

Control the customers because we can’t control ourselves.

What a bunch of wimps.

huckleberryfriend on December 9, 2008 at 1:44 PM

Liquor stores have to close by 8 pm every night, and they must remain closed on Sunday, for instance.

Not true, Ed. Depends on local law, but most (if not all) liquor stores are open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday, and in the past couple of years some locales are letting them stay open till 10pm Mon-Sat.

Still, it’s annoying that you can’t pick up a sixer for the game on Sunday, or after 8pm during the week in most cities. Also, only non-alcholic or 3.2 beer in grocery stores.

Hollowpoint on December 9, 2008 at 1:50 PM

There have been battles over car dealership hours for as long as I can remember, and here, in the Detroit Metro area, they’ve gotten pretty vicious at times. There are two comments that I want to address:

Vashta.Nerada

That makes sense, though I would pick Mondays instead. People shop on the weekend.

Not picking on Vashta, as there were several others who expressed the same idea, that it seems to make more sense to be open on a day that people like to shop.

But not car dealers. Car sales are based on a model. Once the customer walks in the door, you do all you can to keep them from walking out the door without making a purchase. They don’t want you to get a quote and take it to another dealer, and other dealers don’t like you walking in with someone else’s quote. Salesmen create a sense of urgency using a bagful of tricks. Very popular is the “One Day Sale”, in which the salesman lets you know, just because he likes you and wants to help, that his manager needs to unload inventory, today, to make room for a shipment coming in in the morning. This creates the illusion that, a)the manager is very motivated and the price they’re offering is a steal, and b)that same price won’t be available tomorrow. They set up dealership hours to make it difficult for customers to go elsewhere to check prices, and still make it back when they realize what an awesome deal* they passed up.
*(the awesome deal is rarely a deal, but sometimes awesome in other ways – like audacity)

Badger40

But for car dealers, let them get together & police each other.

Hoo boy. That may sound reasonable to most, but where I’m from it would be greeted by laughter. The fault doesn’t lie with Badger40, but with the idea that car dealerships are ordinary honest businesses that follow basic rules of decency.

Periodically a new dealership opens in the Detroit area with an owner that is either unfamiliar with the way things work, or really cocky. (Some might be motivated by a stubborn revolutionary streak, but that rarely changes the outcome.)

New dealership announces extended evening and weekend hours, and the buying public responds with enthusiasm. Sales are good, dealer is happy and making money, and the free market wins.

Except that that dealer is usually out of business very quickly. All of the profit is quickly eaten up by the cost of rising insurance rates, as the dealer is subjected to a rash of vandalism. There are headlines, people are irate, but the dealer eventually gives up and either closes their doors, or changes their hours to the “agreed” schedule.

Things are certainly better than they used to be. I remember absolute mayhem breaking out among competing dealers, with hired thugs from all sides running rampant.

Here’s a link to a Detroit News article from 2005 that gives a pretty decent overview. They mention a particular Saturday ban pact that was designed to block a union, but the motivations are usually more primitive.

Detroit News Article

I’ve heard of this same kind of thing in other states, and actually kinda thought it was common knowledge, but obviously it’s not as widespread as I’d believed. That’s actually a good thing.

ral514 on December 10, 2008 at 1:11 PM