I remember serious discussions that went on around 1998 when lots of people thought we would soon be buying everything online; cars, boats, food (including pet food), even houses were all going to be bought and sold online. And the fear was that the Internet would put all dealerships, retail stores and real estate brokers out of business. The idea was that we could buy it or sell it online and fix it with web-provided instructional help and that all retail establishments would therefore become obsolete ghost towns.
We’ve come a long way and learned a lot since then. Yes, the Internet has taken over for retailers in many ways…but certainly not all. In significant ways the Internet has made local businesses even stronger. The bottom line…great local retail stores and great local dealerships still play very significant roles in our lives, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. And remember, this is coming from a guy who owns a successful Internet-based boat parts and accessories business…iboats.com!
Let’s look at boating specifically and more closely. For me, and I don’t think I’m too different than you are in why I boat. I do it to have fun, to have real enjoyment with my family and friends on and around the water. Taking my wife and the kids, and now grandchildren, and/or friends out for a day of fishing, tubing or wakeboarding, exploring new places or revisiting old favorite haunts all add up to terrific days of fun and newly created fond memories for all of us. Boating is alive and well for millions upon millions of us, and we just love it.
My experience has been that having a great boat dealer…in my case Bosun’s Marine in East Falmouth on Cape Cod, MA…has helped me to have ongoing fun while putting over 440 engine hours on our boat during 2012. Bosun’s did this by solving inevitable situations and problems associated with owning and using a multi-faceted boat week after week, all summer long. Bosun’s also has locations in Mashpee, Peabody and Quincy, MA. Here are six examples of how my boat dealer has helped me. These six will most likely also apply to your needs.
- When I first purchased our new boat in March of last year from Bosun’s Marine there was rigging and set-up that needed to happen. This included installation of the several electronics items I had chosen, the auto-pilot, custom spot lights, bottom paint and the outriggers, to mention several of the important items needing to be done. All of these were way beyond my ability to do them without really professional help, if I also wanted them done right.
- Then I needed to be taught how to use my new, complicated boat. Our new boat was nothing like the smaller boats that I had owned in the past and I certainly could not have just backed it away from a slip and learned it all on my own without spending countless days of trial and error…and you don’t want to have the errors as you learn with a fine new or used boat. Bosun’s staff spent hours with me again and again over the ensuing months helping me to get really comfortable with my all aspects of my boat.
- There are some things in life where everyone involved thinks he’s an expert, or at least has a strong opinion. Boating is one such area. Who do you trust or rely on when there’s a problem or situation to be solved with you boat? The Internet as well as local boating friends have provided me with a lot of great information, but you often need to wade through the garbage to find the pearls of truth that are really helpful. Your dealer can be that real expert willing to talk with you, discuss ideas, help decide what really is best for you and your situation…including considering your budget. What kind of second anchor did I need, and where and how was I to stow it onboard? I read what the manuals said but in real life, what was I supposed to do with oil changes, fuel additives, running the generator, or avoiding the unmarked shallows when entering or exiting the harbor? Your local, knowledgeable and friendly boat dealer is the answer every time.
- As you graduate up from a smaller boat that you keep on a trailer and launch each time you use it to a larger craft, you come face to face with a whole new set of challenges that a great local dealer can really help you solve. In our case, we live in Utah during the winter and spring but boat on and around Cape Cod and the Vineyard and Nantucket Islands of Massachusetts in the summertime. We have friends who own a larger boat on Lake Powell in southern Utah – they face many of these same challenges. Your dealer can provide various kinds of winter storage for your boat, winterization and it’s opposite…spring de-winterization and preparation for the season ahead. And then you will need to keep your boat at a slip or mooring during the summer months. Again, your dealer can help with all these details.
- A somewhat larger boat has many systems onboard. These can include AC, heating, refrigerator and/or freezer, cooking range, hot and cold shower, head (toilet), electric generator, auto-pilot and the rest of the steering system, multiple electronics, and on and on. Today’s boat manufacturers do not manufacture all of these systems and items themselves but use specialty manufacturers for everything from the props to engines to electronics to ladders, to multiple pumps, and so on. When something onboard needs servicing or repair, you don’t want to personally have to deal with each of these manufacturers. That’s the role your dealer should be very skilled, experienced and willing to handle for you. He will know which manufacturers he can push for replacements versus those who will opt for repairs. Your dealer will know each manufacturer’s warranty schedule and have experience in dealing with them, and in the process represent you in the very best manner. That’s a great help to you and can save you both money and lots of aggravation. A great dealer is the pro in your corner of the ring helping you each step of the way. Respect him, work with him and appreciate him. (Obviously there are also great dealerships with “her” instead of “him” at the helm. I have used “him” to apply to both in this article.)
- The sixth area of significant help that a great boat dealer can provide to you is when you get ready to sell your boat to upgrade, downsize or change boat styles. He will know the marketplace better than you possibly could. He will also have the resources, both online and offline to advertise your boat successfully. And he will be there to help discuss with you the pros and cons of your next boat. A great boat dealer really can and should be your best friend.
Before closing this article, I’d like to share a few tips on how best to work with a boat dealer.
First, four tips when selecting a boat dealer.
- Talk to boaters in the area where you want to do most of your boating. Local boaters have experience with their local dealers that can be very insightful to you. Focus on things such as: is the dealer fair, honest, offering reasonably priced services, helpful, willing to take time for you, and does he have a good relationship with manufacturers? Also talk to local boat supply stores and after-market stores in the area. See what they say. Don’t be shy about telling them why you are asking. They’ll usually be very helpful.
- Spend some time at the dealership observing what is going on. Talk with other boaters who are there.
- Talk with the dealer’s staff, the mechanics, office staff, dock hands and the sales staff. How do you feel as you talk to these people? Do you feel comfortable about their skills, experience and the level of service you will probably get from them?
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see what they say. Is the dealership sound?
And now here are four tips that will keep your boat dealer happy with you that’s also really important!
- Don’t expect something for nothing. Every boat dealer is in business to feed his own family, to provide work for his staff so they can feed their families and try to make a little money at the end of the year if possible most of which is they put back into the dealership to make it even better.
- Don’t expect to walk into the dealership and instantly be moved to the head of the line and then get two days worth of service work done in the next two hours. Great dealerships have schedules and book the work to be done in advance. They certainly should be sensitive to those last minute crisis situations that sometimes pop up at 3 pm on Friday afternoon, but they can only do what is humanly possible, plus a bit more sometimes. Remember, they are very good…but not magicians.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Your dealer and his staff have a business to run and other customers to treat with the same TLC that they are giving to you. Let them do it.
- Treat your dealership’s staff and owners as your professional friends and equals versus your hired help. There is nothing that you can do that will help more than to follow the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Hopefully they will reciprocate and treat you in the same manner.
Have a wonderful boating year this year, and for many years to come by finding and working with a professional boat dealer. They can make all the difference in your having a great boating experience over and over again.