How prevalent are drug in the auto business and what are you doing about it?

We have had our share of drug addicted employees over the last year. Many were productive salespeople and kept their problems from being our problems, except when they didn’t. That is when we reviewed our policy, fine tuned it and began testing all new hires, anyone suspected of drug use and anyone involved in any kind of accident or mishap.

It is my observation that our industry either attracts people with addictive personalities or drives more people to use illicit drugs. Might it be the rejection of 8 out of 10 prospects, the long hours, or the tough customers? The drug of choice seems to range from percocet or oxycodone to cocaine. With many of the users it has been difficult to detect the use until a pattern of tardiness, anxiety, impatience, borrowing from fellow employees, or similar develops.

In a couple of instances the individual has made their way around the store borrowing nominal sums of money from fellow employees using various excuses. None suspecting the true reason or that others have been duped as well.I have heard from a close competitor that one of their employees went as far as visiting customers homes asking for cash, telling various fictional stories.

Our policy is to try to work with the effected individual as long as they acknowledge their problem and seek treatment. The company we contract with for testing offers counseling and assistance. If the employee continues to deny drug use in spite of test evidence we are forced to part ways and leave them to their own devices.

I am interested in whether other dealers see this as a problem, and if so what policies and procedures are working and if we as an industry should be doing anything about the problem. Our experience indicates preventing the infiltration of users through pre-employment testing to be the best protection, however I know many large and small stores that either don’t care or don’t know a problem exists in their establishment. Do dealers need education on how to identify affected individuals. Do they need to be warned of the damage this does to their healthy employees and their customers?

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Comment by Kathryn Carlson on December 23, 2011 at 11:31am

Thanks for an excellent post that sparked some of the most interesting comments.  Great information shared by all.

Comment by Adam Barish on December 23, 2011 at 10:43am

Thanks again for the terrific feedback.  As it turns out, while our hiring policy and procedure include a backround check on paper, we were in fact not doing it.  A quick check with the insurance carrier and it is indeed "highly recommended"  NJCAR (NJ's trade association) offers this service and we are getting back on the horse with this hiring requirement.  The best hiring procedures seem to be hire right the first time so you don't need to fire!

Comment by Matt Page on December 22, 2011 at 3:27pm

In California, you can legally deny someone employment, simply because they smoke! Outside of this, I have never experienced higher level drugs in the industry.

Comment by Mike Warwick on December 21, 2011 at 10:44pm

I've actually noticed a huge decrease in the prevalence of drugs in the car business.  There was a time when it was very common and widespread.  Today, each store has it's issues but it doesn't seem to be as endemic as it once was. I can remember sales managers regularly using drugs in their offices.  I haven't seen that in at least eight years. Mandatory drug testing is imperative to make sure that we have a safe working environment.

Comment by Fran Taylor on December 21, 2011 at 1:26pm

 Some people can't handle success when getting into the auto business. If trained properly they usually will make more money than they ever had. Here is where personal goals come in. Without them problems may start.  I know dealers that do a drug test before hiring. Some dealers have an open door policy and the dealer will help anyone with a drinking or drug problem. Some make it and some don't.  It is good to see people turn around when they get help. Way to go John.

Comment by Adam Barish on December 21, 2011 at 7:41am

I really appreciate the quality discussion and helpful feedback.  Thank you Kathryn for "reminding me" of our backround check requirement.  I need to check if we are following through on our policy.

Comment by Tony Troussov on December 20, 2011 at 9:40pm

Thank you John Sanford for your story!!!  It has been my experience, that in addition to correct hiring and on-the job policies as mentioned by Kathryn, changing the sales process alowed for the change in sales culture.  In our case we converted to negotiation-free process and overtime it attracted a different type of employee.  By creating a life-work balance we became more sensitive to employee needs. 

Comment by Cars - Jim Canto on December 20, 2011 at 3:04pm

Bravo to John Sanford T. Golay below. Brave, brother. That's a "stand up" reply.

Comment by John Sanford T. Golay on December 20, 2011 at 1:48pm

....I was that employee, and I can say for an absolute fact it was the industry that attracted me, not created me. Although I was active in recovery well over ten years when I started out, my inability to manage my time well put me at risk...and I got loaded on the job. What I can tell you is this...allowing someone who is an addict or an alcoholic to continue to work - around people and automobiles is like playing Russian roulette! The manager or supervisor who cares more about the high gross or the fact that 8 out of 10 days he hits a "home run" is equally at fault when that gun goes off. Show that employee two roads...treatment or the door! You will be doing yourself AND him/her a huge favor. As for me? I again have over 5 years in active recovery and I thank God I have an employer that if I needed to take time for my recovery or my family, see's the benefit of me being present more than the occasional "home run"

Comment by Stanley Esposito on December 20, 2011 at 1:48pm

I think the title could easily read How prevalent are drugs in society? This question can be asked in all industries. In our business it gets harder and harder to hire good people. I would hope dealerships don't look the other way when or if they find productive sales people may be involved. The dealers need to put the health and safety of their employees and customers first.


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