The death of the world’s greatest car salesman

Though it won’t, the world should pause for a moment to mark the life of Joe Girard, who was 90 years old when he fell at his home and died two days later. Joe Girard, of Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., was the greatest car salesman in the world.

From 1966-1977, he sold 13,001 vehicles at a suburban Detroit showroom, setting the one-year record of 1,425 sales in 1973.

He always ate lunch at his desk, according to Automotive News. He didn’t talk to co-workers. You can’t sell cars when you’re gabbing or eating out.

He retired at 49 and wrote books on how to be a salesperson. But when a car salesman in 2017 — claiming he read Joe’s book, “How to Sell Anything to Anybody” — said he broke the record by selling 1,582 cars, Girard sued him.

He was a character, as this Automotive News profile in 2011 confirmed.

The bankruptcy of Girard’s business in 1962 led to his automotive career. He got a foreclosure notice for his house, and he had no car, no groceries and no money. With a wife and two children to support, Girard got on a bus looking for work one day in January 1963. When the bus doors opened, he stepped off in front of a big Chevrolet dealership.

Girard begged the manager for a job. He spent that first day calling everyone he knew. At 8:30 that night, after most of the other salesmen had slipped out, a customer walked through the door. The only other salesman still working was busy. So Girard spent 90 minutes with the customer, did some more begging — and sold his first car.

“I said, ‘Look out world. I’m coming back,'” he said.

He borrowed $10 from his manager to buy groceries and sold 18 cars during his second month on the job. But the owner fired him after complaints from other salesmen. Girard went to Merollis Chevrolet in suburban Detroit and set sales records year after year.

But Girard never let go of being fired. Every year he mailed a copy of his W-2 to his old boss, with a note at the bottom telling him, “You fired the wrong guy.” After his old boss died, Girard says he even took a W-2 to the cemetery and buried it atop the man’s casket.

Joe leaves behind a wife, two children, and a world that can always use more characters.

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