True Stories

True Stories From a Former Car Dealer #1: The Lottery Winner

Written By: Jerry Reynolds | Jan 18, 2018 12:00:00 AM

Over the coming weeks, I am going to rack my brain to remember some of the most interesting stories from my days starting out washing cars at 15-years old until I sold my dealerships in 2006. I hope you enjoy this series.

The Lottery Winner

The year was 1995 and I was the owner of a Ford dealership in a Dallas, TX suburb. Generally, I got to work a little before 7 AM daily, and this particular Wednesday was no exception.

I entered the showroom to go to my office and begin my day, and there was a very large African American man standing there. It was very unusual to see a customer before 8:30 AM except in parts or service. I acknowledged him and asked if he was being helped. I sat my briefcase down and walked over to him and extended my hand.

The man introduced himself as James and said "you are the owner here, right"? I verified I was indeed. James said, "I was in your dealership a little over a week ago and tried to buy a car, but you guys couldn't get the financing done."

At this point, I was sure he was going to tell me some other dealership was able to get financing for him, which had happened before. I apologized to him that we were not able to help him with his financing, and told him I was sure we did our best, after all, that is how we make our living.

At this point James said, "let me show you something" and he reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a Texas Lottery scratch-off ticket. It was the tic-tac-toe game and running diagonally were three Xs, and also on the ticket, it showed he had won one million dollars. Needless to say, I was floored.

I shook James' hand again and told him congratulations, still not clear where this was going. I asked what I could help him with at this point, and he said to me "I went to a lot of dealerships, and you guys were the only ones who treated me with respect and dignity. Get a pen and paper, I want to buy some cars."

I got a pad and a pen and we headed out toward the lot. As we walked the inventory, James would point and say "I'll take that one, and I'll take that one" etc. James had a large family and he was a very generous man. He wanted several cars for himself and his wife, had either five or six siblings, his Mom and Dad were still alive, he bought one for his Pastor, and even bought a 15-passenger van for his church.

When the smoke cleared, James picked out fourteen new Fords. We went to my office and I tallied up the MSRP prices combined, which was his request, then added the tax, title, and license and presented him with a total of $279,000 and some change.

I waited for James to ask how much discount I was going to give him. Instead, he said, "I've got an 11 AM flight to Austin to get my money. I'll be back by 6 PM with a bunch of people to pick them up". I asked to make a copy of the lottery ticket just for fun and he obliged me.

I called his salesperson at his home and asked what his schedule was for that day and he said he was on the late shift, which meant he worked from 1 PM to 9 PM that day. I did not tell him why, I just said, "you need to come in NOW and see me the minute you walk in". I am sure the young man was scared lifeless and 45 minutes later he was standing in my door.

I explained that James was in the dealership earlier to see me. The salesperson assumed James had complained about something and assured me he was super nice to James even though we could not get the financing done.

I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eyes, and said "Son, you did a great job" and told him what had happened and suggested he get busy getting the vehicles to make ready for washing, filling with gas, and getting the temporary plates on.

How The Story Ends

Yes, the vehicles all got delivered to James, although not that day. He ran into a snag in Austin but kept me up to speed on what was going on. Two days later, on Friday, James showed up with his drivers, with a cashier's check for the full amount, and I kid you not, a semi-truck pulled up towing a 40-foot long barbeque trailer and he fed the entire dealership.

The story doesn't end as happily, though. James was in to see us on a regular basis, just to say hi. The last time we saw him, just over two years after winning the lottery, he needed a new car and he needed financing for it. All the money was gone.

Photo Credit: Jakkarin chuenaka/