Back in September, before I began this blog, I posted a note on my Facebook page that detailed my three extremely unhappy three months working for John Lund over at Lund Cadillac.
I originally composed my story as an explanation for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, to detail exactly why I no longer worked at Lund Cadillac. Technically I was “dismissed,” and if you get dismissed “for cause,” you’re apparently not eligible for the negligible weekly payments that the state sends to people who don’t have a steady gig.
They told me I had some ‘splaining to do, so I ‘splained … at length. In fact, I’m fairly certain that I gave them waaaaaayyy more detail than they really wanted. But I wasn’t going to let some state bureaucrats crimp my cathartic buzz. The result? I was not dismissed “for cause” so I was eligible for benefits.
Word was getting around that I was no longer working at Lund Cadillac, so I cleaned up the text and posted the edited-down version of my story as a note on my Facebook page. I got some public comments from friends, and even more comments sent directly to my in-box. And I thought that was the end of it.
I should point out that I have my privacy settings set on Facebook so that only friends (and not friends of friends or anyone outside my network) can see my posts. That’s just how I roll.
In November, I was contacted by a former co-worker asking me about the “rant” he’d been hearing about. It didn’t take long to figure out what he was talking about. I did a quick copy-and-paste job and sent it to him via e-mail, since he’s not an active Facebook user. Since then I have been contacted by five or six former co-workers, each of them remarking on how perfectly I described the working conditions at Lund Cadillac, and how well I captured the essence of John Lund, his personality and his treatment of his employees.
Last Friday I got a call from a former co-worker about a completely unrelated matter and just about the first thing he said was, “By the way, I loved your rant!” On Saturday I chatted briefly online with another Lund current guy and he said he had been talking to someone in the service department and was asked, “By the way, have you seen that rant?” Then today, I was in McDonald’s working on my new novel and I ran into one of John’s supervisors. The first thing he said, after saying hello, was “So-and-so showed me your rant and it was awesome!”
This guy was one of my favorite folks at Lund Cadillac. He was wise beyond his years, and one of the most “service-oriented” people I have ever met. He sat with me and we chatted for a while, and he gave me his own summation of the whole situation over there. “I just think John is completely out of place in the regular world. He grew up rich, he never had a family, so he has no concept of what it’s like to have children, to struggle, to actually make your own way. Everything he has has been given to him, and that defines his character.”
My own summation: “John is a selfish, insane prick who shouldn’t be allowed around people.” I may not be clinically qualified to comment on the “insane” part, but the other Lund people seem to be in agreement with my assessment.
So I think it’s funny that my story has gone viral in the one place I actually didn’t plan it to get to. I guess the truth will out, and all that.
Here, for the benefit of those who haven’t read it yet, is my “Lund Cadillac Story.”
My “Lund Cadillac Story“
I was hired in early May to be the Marketing Director of Lund Cadillac. John Lund, the owner of the dealership, made it very clear what he expected of me, and it looked like I would have no trouble getting things done once I got there. Little did I know what I was in for as I started the new position.
First of all, I discovered early on that John liked to be very involved with the people who worked for him. He wanted to discuss every decision, every bit of text, every pixel of artwork. He loved nothing more than to chew over everything ad nauseum, to the point where it was literally impossible to get much done. He began every day at 7:00 a.m. with a manager’s meeting, and sometimes those meetings would literally not end until 5:30 p.m. or later. The only time I ever really got to do my actual job was when he was in his office trying to do somebody’s else’s job. I would hurriedly try to get something done while he was distracted. It didn’t seem to occur to him that the all-day meetings and endless discussions had anything to do with the lack of productivity.
After a few weeks, I began to see signs of what I would consider abuse at the dealership. John would call somebody in and literally spend half an hour screaming at them, spitting out horrible language and personal insults. He used foul language in his day-to-day speech (even when he wasn’t ripping somebody to shreds), but it was definitely worse when he was yelling at someone. My work space was literally outside John’s office, so I was often forced to listen in on these screaming sessions. When I asked other dealership employees about the owner’s temper, they just shrugged and told me, “That’s just how he is. His name is on the building, so everybody just deals with it.”
During the times I wasn’t held hostage in one of the owner’s marathon meetings, I tried diligently to perform my job functions. I had initially been led to believe that this would be a standard 8:00 to 5:00 job, Monday through Friday. But it quickly turned into a 7:00 to 5:30 or 5:45 to 6:00 job. In addition, I was required to work full days on several weekends. It wouldn’t have been bad if I thought the time I was investing in the dealership was being put to good use.
Here’s a great example. I was working on a basic redesign of the Lund Cadillac website. John wanted a banner that explained a particular service that the dealership offered (but had rarely ever been provided to a customer). I had created the banner with a composite graphic that included a wide area with a treeline and a grassy field. This area was specifically put together so the text on the tiny banner would sit on a relatively neutral background.
John didn’t like the grassy field. He didn’t think it looked Arizona enough. So we spent three and a half hours in his office (I kid you not) searching through Google images looking for a more deserty image to drop into the graphic. Remember: this was a 300×60 banner and the area was blurred out and desaturated to serve as a background for text. He kept me an hour and a half later than normal, and somehow (in his micro-manager’s brain) he must of justified the time spent both by him and me looking for a tiny little stretch of pixels.
If I were a clinician, I would say that John Lund exhibited signs of ADHD, OCD and bipolar disorder–all at the same time. His standard practice was that once I got close to accomplishing something, he would change the scope of the work. I could cite numerous several examples, but two will be sufficient.
One task I was given was to get the dealership “back on the air,” securing radio air time for advertising, which had expired just as I arrived on the job. I put together a proposed buy to get us through the first couple of months, but was told to go back and do additional research on the stations that I had selected. So I spent a week or so getting the required information, performing the analyses, and producing yet another set of recommendations. At this point, Mr. Lund told me it still wasn’t enough: he wanted me to compare the rates of the stations I had chosen with the rates of all other stations in the Phoenix Metro area–a nearly impossible task, at least on a tight deadline. While I began to do this, he criticized me soundly for not having a plan in place yet, enough though he himself had changed the requirements twice in the process.
Another difficulty was that John specifically asked me to lie as I collected this information. He didn’t want me to contact radio stations directly, identifying myself as a representative of the dealership. He was so paranoid that the stations would not give us “their best deal” that he specifically asked me to use my personal cell phone and e-mail address and say that I was from an agency and had a “client” that wanted to get information about advertising. He thought we could get “agency rates” that way, and would end up spending less on air time. I informed him that I didn’t feel comfortable telling lies in this way, but he made it very clear that this was what he wanted.
A bigger issue actually came earlier in my tenure. The dealership had a huge amount of data–almost 25 years of customer records, including both car sales and service. Lots of the data was old, and hadn’t been updated in a long time. I had worked in the past with a company that provides a “fill in the blanks” service. They take a company’s customer list and supplement it with their own data in order make sure your information is all updated. Because of the requirements of their own data sources, they will only provide this data for a company’s own customers. In fact, they require you to certify that the list you’re sending is an active customer list.
When John found out we could “data mine” on the dealership’s customers, he got dollar signs in his eyes. He immediately went out and began buying wholesale prospect lists. His goal was to have me send the prospect data and have the data vendor fill in all of the blanks so we could market directly to these non-customers. It didn’t seem to bother him that my name was on the contract, and by sending them non-customers I would be committing fraud. It was just a means to an end with him, and he didn’t really care that it was (A) unethical or (B) illegal.
Another big challenge in working for John were the constantly shifting reporting requirements. When I was hired, there was little or no reporting on any marketing activity that had been done in the past. He gave me his requirement: a simple report that could go out to the sales managers once a week to give them an idea of what was happening in terms of generating business. I did as he asked (twice, actually), and then he informed me he actually didn’t want a report for the sales managers after all. He created a new reporting format that he wanted me to use, and so I began building something that would fit into this format.
One decision I made was to collect daily data, when possible, so that it could be aggregated either weekly or monthly using the same core data set. With 7-day weeks and months of different length, the two time frames never matched up neatly with each other. If I had daily data, I could create daily, weekly or monthly reports. John initially didn’t think this was necessary, but eventually he began to appreciate the flexibility that daily data gave the business, in reporting terms.
The problem was, several of our data sources wouldn’t provide information on a daily basis. One of these was AutoTrader.com, which was one of the dealership’s primary sources for leads and web traffic. AutoTrader only provided its reporting on a month-to-date basis, which didn’t help for daily reporting. After trying for several weeks to get AutoTrader to provide the information directly, I suggested that I could have a programmer put together an automated system to “scrape” the data from AutoTrader every night and send it to me in e-mail form so I could compile it. This took some time to set up, but eventually it was accomplished.
Around this time, I witnessed one of John’s worst rages yet, this time directed at one of the dealerships longest-serving and highest-ranking employees. The woman in charge of hiring a new receptionist had brought in a candidate and John hadn’t liked the looks of the girl. (In spite of her actual qualifications, John made it clear he wanted a skinny blonde with big breasts, and came absolutely unglued when he saw that the applicant was a bit dumpy and Hispanic.) I was actually in John’s office when John lost his temper with this employee, a very nice woman in her 60’s. Mr. Lund screamed at her for more than 20 minutes, using the foulest language possible … all while the receptionist candidate sat right outside the door. After he sent his employee away, he vented to the others in the room: “What a stupid bitch–I just can’t take that fucking female logic.” He made several other derogatory comments about this nice woman who had worked for the dealership for over 20 years, and those in the room simply sat and nodded along.
That night I went home, updated my resume, and begun quietly submitting applications to other companies.
A week and a half later, at month’s end, I compiled the data I have been receiving for a week from the AutoTrader scraper program. Something didn’t look right, so I called up my contract programmer to find out what was going on. He looked through the code again, and everything seemed to check out. The problem was, the numbers that I had been receiving didn’t match the numbers at the end of the month (this is the month-to-date reporting that had caused the issues in the first place). I was still trying to locate the source of the discrepancy early the next week–in between calling radio stations all around the Valley–when John asked me whether I had updated the numbers in the daily report.
I told Mr. Lund that the data was all up-to-date, except that I was still having problems with the AutoTrader numbers because the month-end data wasn’t matching the numbers that had been coming in from the automatic scraper. It didn’t make sense, and I was working with the programmer to get to the bottom of things. John was apparently having yet another one of his “rage” days, because he was instantly furious.
As veins popped on his forehead, he said, “David, how long have I given you to get this straightened out?” I tried to explain that the scraper program had only been sending numbers for about a week, and it was only after I compared the numbers from the final days of the month with the full-month summary from July that I noticed that the figures weren’t matching. Suddenly, the daily numbers (which hadn’t been important to John the month before) were the most important thing in the world.
He said, “Why don’t you just pull the numbers manually every morning at 7:00? Then you’d for sure have the correct numbers and we wouldn’t have to go through this again?”
This was debatable, because that was essentially what the scraper had been doing, though that process ran every night at midnight. I told John, “That’s fine for weekdays, but it wouldn’t work on Saturdays and Sundays.”
John gave me a disgusted look. “David, how much am I paying you?”
Trying to diffuse the situation, I said jokingly, “Not enough for me to get up every Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 to pull a manual report.”
John flew into an instant rage. He stood up and got in my face, his own face bright red and contorted. “That’s it,” he screamed. “You’re done. You are totally fucking finished here! You get the fuck out! Just get the fuck out now!”
I didn’t say another word, seriously concerned about what else he would say or do–and what I would say or do if he upped the ante. I quietly walked outside John’s office, gathered up my things and left the dealership. I wasn’t even sure whether I still worked there or not. I’d heard plenty of stories from co-workers about John going ballistic and firing a person one day, only to call up and beg them to come back the next. So I stayed at home the next day, wondering whether he would call. As it turned out, he didn’t, and I was relieved.
I worked for Lund Cadillac for just three months. During that time, I saw my work hours gradually made longer and longer. I was denied adequate time and resources to do my job. I heard 50 F-bombs before 10:00 every morning, was verbally abused and saw others abused, insulted and berated. I was assigned dozens of tasks, only to have the scope changed before I could even complete them. More seriously, I was asked to lie and commit fraud as a condition of my continuing employment.
I didn’t even like the guy, and yet he asked me to do things that could result in jail time. I guess that’s the “Lund Cadillac Advantage.”