Always be closing. If you’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross, you get it. And if you liked Glengarry Glen Ross, then you’re going to like episode 513 of This American Life: 129 Cars.
I’ll set the scene: The sales team at Town and Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in Levittown, NY, have to meet their quota of 129 new cars by the end of October. Apparently, manufacturers provide dealerships with hefty bonuses if they can hit arbitrary numbers like these each month. And because that money trickles down, every guy on the lot has a stake in the race. Add a mixed bag of funny/dramatic/cryptic salesmen and you got yourself an hour of decent pod.
The TAL team follows the team around with microphones, ticking up the urgency in post as the end of the month draws near. We get a glimpse into what makes these eccentrics good (or bad) car salesmen in little profiles sprinkled generously throughout the story. (These were by far the most engaging parts of the episode.)
We get to that last day of the month, the clutch, and of course, the guys (one of whom is female) are still short of their goal. Drama ensues. The series of events is almost formulaic in its unfolding.
I’d give this episode a B- if I had to grade it. Still not up to the gold standard TAL set back in the day, but I did learn one thing I will revisit every time I car shop: people can and do get deals at the end of the month because of the aforementioned goals/quotas, but the dealership and the men selling those cars eat the difference.