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.
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 If Minnesota repealed the blue law, it would take just a couple of weeks before every dealership started holding Sunday hours.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.