So you want to be a yacht broker? Here’s a little taste from the captain’s archives.
It was a quiet day in 1986 at Hansen Marine in Sarasota, Florida. A baby-poop-brown Dodge Dart pulled into the parking lot. The driver, a 20-year-old kid, gets out dressed in a tank top, cut offs, white socks, and dirty sneakers. A fortyish-looking guy in black slacks, black silk shirt, black Gucci-like loafers, slick black hair, gold watch, gold neck chain, and black sunglasses exits the passenger side.
“What can we do for you today” I ask.
“I am Joe, Joe Gambino,” Fortyish says, “this is my friend Chris, and we want to look at some boats. I want to buy Chris and his wife a new boat. You have heard of me, no?”
“Well, I have heard of the Gambino family from New York,” I reply.
“That’s me,” Joe shot back. “Show us what you got.”
Thoughts of blowing off these two entered my mind, but my sales manager’s coaching about never pre-judging a customer had had an effect. As I began the qualifying round of questions we walked towards a new Hatteras 36 Convertible with a base sticker of $235,000. Joe interrupted with, “How much does this cost? Let’s look.”
Shortly after the tour began, Joe belted, “We’ll take it.” The entire sales job had taken about as long as it took you to read this, I mean it was minutes from the time they walked in the door until I had a contract.
“Here it is Joe.” I explained, after costing some options, a process that took us to $255,000, all in Chris’ name, “I need a 10-percent deposit to hold the boat until you can make full payment.”
“No problem,” said Joe, “My chauffeur will bring it tomorrow.” Joe and Chris departed and left me with a useless contract and an “atta boy” from my sales manager. “You never know,” he reinforced. An hour later the same baby-poop-brown Dodge Dart pulled into our parking lot. Chris’s pregnant wife was with them. She sheds tears at Joe’s generosity. Again, I caution about the deposit money. They all turn their gazes to their new boat and proceed to climb all over her for a half hour. Upon leaving, Joe screams, “My chauffeur will be here tomorrow!”
Tomorrow came and went, then three days later the Dart pulls into the parking lot again. Joe exits alone in the same clothing from three days earlier. He walks into my office and explains his chauffeur was in jail for undisclosed reasons in Ft. Lauderdale, but he has just bailed him out, because you know, Joe is a generous guy. He then hands me an envelope to give the chauffeur when he shows up the following day. Joe inquires if we’ve started installing options, and I explain yet again about the deposit money.
Weeks go by, but no chauffeur. Curiosity finally overcomes me and I open the envelope to find a barely legible, hand-written note to a bank teller: “Amy, give money to Frank to pay for boat, Joe.”
Fast-forward a whole month. We are having an in-house boat show in Sarasota. I hear Pete, my sales manager, shout through the showroom, “Hey Steve, come tell Wayne (manager of our St. Petersburg location) about Joe Gambino.”
I tell the story and Wayne asks, “What was his name again?”
“Joe Gambino,” I answered.
“That son of bitch,” Pete yelped, “He came into the St. Pete store too. With two scantily clad girls in stilettos. They’d just left the Rolls-Royce dealership where he’d supposedly bought a new Rolls for one of the girls. He looked at a 52 Hatteras and signed a contract to buy it for the other girl. He was going to wire transfer the money, but no money ever came. I did get a phone number and about a week later I called and one of the girls answered. I asked about the money. The girl got real huffy. Joe had apparently forgot to pay her too.”