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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stay away on my day of rest

Here's a story I just don't get. The auto dealers of Oregon want to start closing their dealerships on Sunday. They say it will boost morale among employees and give car buyers a chance to peruse the lot hassle-free.

All well and good, I suppose, but the way they're going about it puzzles me. They're asking the state legislature to make it illegal to sell cars on Sunday. Why is such a law necessary? If it's such a good idea, can't the dealers simply do it? Is there a law on the books now that says an auto dealer has to be open on Sunday?

Comments (32)

They are trying to simultaneously argue that it makes no financial sense for them to be open on Sunday AND that if they close on Sunday, some other dealer will remain open and take all their business. That just makes no sense. And I wonder how the legislature could make a law saying you have to be closed on Sunday and apply it to just auto sales? There's no way that could possibly survive a court challenge.

From a legal standpoint, it worked with alcohol -- but states have special authority to regulate alcohol.

"If you don't make this illegal, somebody is going to do it, and then I'm going to have to do it"? Wow.

They need to come up with an argument that what they want is "green" and "sustainable." I'm surprised we haven't heard that yet.

This is a terrible idea. Reviving blue laws is a move in the wrong direction. When I lived in Oregon, I always hated that I couldn't buy a bottle of gin on Sundays (I'm glad to hear liquor stores may now open on Sundays, though being able to buy gin at Fred Meyer at market rates would be even better).

Also, this would be a boon to auto dealerships on the Washington side of the Columbia, who would be open for both weekend days, unlike their Oregon competitors.

It is deeply strange that business owners want such restrictions and seems rather short sighted. When the economy heats up and more people are buying cars again, I'm sure the dealers would regret such a restriction were it to pass.

When I was growing up in my teen years in Wash DC were "Blue Laws" in effect at that time. No retail business besides pharmacy's selling Rx were allowed to be open.

The "green" angle is pretty obvious. Fewer people will buy cars, which pollute and emit greenhouse gases, if sales are only permitted on one of the two weekend days.

This is a dumb idea. I dont understand why they would want to do this. I would think most of their sales are on weekends.

Jon, I think the dealerships probably make money from their M-F techs to justify that schedule, but by keeping only the sales staff on site on Sundays, they aren't bringing in any revenue except for what they sell (opposed to servicing).

I find it interesting that the dealers who can't afford to sell on Sundays want to prevent the smaller competitors (who maybe can eke out a small profit) from being open. Isn't that called "the free market?"

The "green" angle is pretty obvious. Fewer people will buy cars, which pollute and emit greenhouse gases, if sales are only permitted on one of the two weekend days.

Somehow I doubt that. It just makes it more of a hassle. Taking time off work during the week, etc.
Maybe they should pick a couple of weekdays to close?

In the article it also says sales of "domestic" cars are down. Maybe that has more to do with the quality?

Of course the New Car Dealers will need to keep security staff on duty Sunday and they just may happen to be well versed on the options available.

Gotta remember, the Auto Show was once Free of Sales people.

I would think most of their sales are on weekends.

I read somewhere that they're saying that Sunday is a relatively slow day for them.

Of course, these days are all slow...

Maybe not allowing foreign dealers to be open on Sundays would be more effective.

Restricting hours of commerce has almost always required regulation, because of the competitive race to the worst or lowest state. Blue laws were rooted in religious rules that set aside a day of rest. They existed, until recently, in most of Western Europe. Retailers benefit, since a restriction on hours doesn't threaten sales losses the way a decision to stay closed would, and the closures reduce ongoing expenses for labor, utilities and whatnot. Some might argue that there are social benefits (not just for retailers) in blue laws: less driving, more opportunity to focus on something other than shopping. Most people, like those commenting here, seem to think it's more important to be able to shop whenever and wherever one wants.

As a kid in the midwest 50 years ago, most retail stores were closed on Sunday. The only exception was what we called 'milk stores.' I don't know if they were closed because of law or custom, but the root is of respect to family and faith.

This new proposal is based on neither. It is based on the idea that government can be effectively used to control one's competitors in the market place.

What percentage of our laws are just for that purpose? Google something innocuous to get an example. 'Shop Towels' for instance.

"We lack the self control and self regulation to be able to do this on our own - so let's let the state be the heavy here."

What a concept. And the timing, quite frankly, is terrible, given the economic conditions in the entire auto industry - domestic, foreign, all of them.

Real estate agents likewise complain about the long weekend hours. Why not apply it there as well and further stimulate that industry?

Maybe this is a ploy to make the system crash even sooner, at which time they can say "they made us do it"?

favorite comment -- give a competetive advantage to Washington Dealers who open on Sunday.

Government regulation already sending people to Washington and California -- with the ads "In Washington, we open on Sunday."

Doubt if the legislature will touch it, as the chief rationale for the dealerships is cutting labor costs (though aren't the sales people compensated on commission or at least on a basis of sales?).

On the other hand, it might be a worthy idea in that it does give employees a day off. If so, then a law would be necessary to make sure some dealerships don't take advantage of the rest. Same way most bars won't ban smoking on their own, but will be fine once the statewide ban on smoking goes into effect.

Indiana autodealers are also not allowed to open on Sundays. I assumed that it was a blue law, which I thought interesting in that the business of car sales is being conflated with moral vices such as drinking and gambling. I'm not saying it is accurate to equate selling cars with other activities that have garnered state "morals" regulation, but I'm not saying it is inaccurate either.

So...are the auto dealers really sure they would like to subject themselves to "blue law" regulation when the perception of such regulations applying to "immoral" activities is fairly strong? It would seem an inadvertent admission that your business is full of scheisters from whom the people need state protection.

My first impression was also that it would be good news for Vancouver auto dealers.

I also wonder how the law would apply to dealers or individuals selling in others ways on Sunday, such as eBay, Craig's List or through the papers or auto sales websites.

If they do it this way, they'll have a law to bitch about after the economy picks up again. Win-win!

Yeah. Let's not.

This is such a stupid proposal. It's a free market, if a dealer doesn't want to be open on Sundays, everyone else shouldn't be forced to stay closed. I happen to know that many dealers do great business on Sundays. This just doesn't make sense to me.

Here's an idea: How about the Legislature mandate that they be closed for sales Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but open on all other days? Plus service should be open seven days a week. And they need to offer customers free coffee. Not just any coffee mind you, but fair-trade Stumptown.

It would only be a little less silly.

Oh the irony. The possibility of a progressive legislature re-instituting blue laws!

But it would be a step back to the 1920s, where so many planners (& Sam) want us all to go.


It is interesting that Ron Tonkin broke the blue laws in the early 60's and was arrested on the lot! Ron now wants the law put back into effect. I know that the dealers are facing their darkest days right now. I can't blame them really. It would just take one to break the handshake (if that is how they would do it).....In a way I wish all retail would take a breather on Sundays. It would help society. Back to car guys, it is interesting that the HOT brands like Toyota-Honda are having a bad time selling their products due to the tight credit. Its such a mess. The entire country is sweating it.
Only Chapter 11 attorneys are making the hay on his one.

To make it fair, we should also make it illegal to sell them on Saturday (the Jewish sabbath), and Friday (the Muslim day of communal prayer). And Tuesday through Wednesday, since each of those days are named after old Germanic gods, and therefore must have some kinda religious significance to neopagans somewhere.

Which leaves Monday. That should be enough, don't you think?

Er, that should have read "Tuesday through Thursday" above. ;-)

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Detroit area dealers used to be closed on both Saturdays and Sundays.

When the dealers are open only on week days, us working stiffs have a much harder time "shoppin" one dealer against the other for a new car. Made it real easy for the dealers to fix prices.

I had that conversation with, and admission from, a major Detrpoit area multi brand dealer, who readily admitted that weekend closures allowed hi to get much more out of each retail sale.

He hated dealers in NW Ohio, who were open on weekends.

Concern for employees by the PDX area new car dealers? Chortle.

Tonkin, Martinez, Preble and the other clowns don'rt understand just how easy it is to get to Vancouver.

"Jon, I think the dealerships probably make money from their M-F techs to justify that schedule, but by keeping only the sales staff on site on Sundays, they aren't bringing in any revenue except for what they sell (opposed to servicing).

I assure you that the service department has nothing to do with this. Except for the occasional lot lizard or lube tech, all of the mechanics are paid flat rate. If there aren't cars to fix, they're reading magazines and throwing darts - and not getting paid to do it.

The entire system works like this: Your transmission just made some ghastly noises, and now your car doesn't go. It goes to the stealership (whoops, verbal slip) on a hook, where the service writer zips up a repair order. So, let's say your RO looks like this:

Service (hours)
Transaxle R&I (2)
Transaxle overhaul (5.5)
Transaxle diagnostic (1)

Total: 8.5 hours

The amount of hours it takes is judged by the auto manufacturer - they publish the books on how long it should take to remove, overhaul, and replace each part on the car. That's what you pay whether it takes 5 hours, or 15. Not-so-coincidentally, that's also what the tech makes. If he gets the RO with 8.5 hours on it, and does it in 6, he gets paid for 8.5 and moves onto another service. This allows him to make more money if the work is there, and he gets it done fast and correct, since a good tech can flag 14 hours in an 8 hour day.

However, if he botches it and it comes back, he's working on that for free the second time. If there's no work, there's no hours to flag, and they make nothing.

The service department in most dealerships only serves the purpose of "your car is all jacked up, and is going to take thousands of dollars to fix. Wouldn't you rather put those thousands down on a new car?" Dealerships usually don't make money on service, nor do they lose it. It's a break-even affair in order to get your meat onto the lot.

Allan L, thank you for filling us in on what we should find important in life. I couldn't have done it without you.

I couldn't have done it without you.

So it seems.

Instead of closing on Sunday, we can have dealerships close for 3 to 4 hours every days, for a total of 24 hours weekly. Let's go with closures from 2 to 5:30 am, say.

As for Sundays, I would favor closing churches.

For the life of me, I can't understand why they just don't agree as an industry not to open. Any laws enacted by a state saying it's illegal to sell cars on Sundays will ultimately fail a legal challenge on constitutional grounds. That's how pretty much every blue law challenge has turned out. Under the federal Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, only Congress can regulate commerce (i.e., sale of cars). Most states have had their blue laws struck down and even taken off the books. In the few that still have them on the books (Pennsylvania for example), the statewide car dealers associations came to agreement many, many years ago that they wouldn't sell cars on Sundays. If a state with 12 million people can figure it out, why can't Oregon.

All of the dealers getting together and agreeing not to open on Sunday sounds like collusion to me, and surely violates anti-trust laws of some type.


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