Purchasing a vehicle is a big event. Not only is it a large purchase, sometimes our wants do not line up with our budget. Along comes a pushy salesperson and we either end up with something we didn’t want or we leave the lot without a car. This is the car buying carousel. Unless you visit Sam Ellis, a sales consultant for Toyota of Olympia. His friendly, no pressure attitude will make car buying fun again which, by the way, is the dealership’s motto.
This Tumwater native has a 30-year history with Toyota of Olympia, so he knows his product and he knows his customers. “I still own my parents’ house where I grew up,” Sam says. “I am a bit of a collector,” he adds, laughing about not being able to sell his childhood home.
Sam began at the dealership when he was a sophomore at Tumwater High School. “It was a great job for a high school kid,” Sam says. “I got to drive brand new cars when they needed to be filled with gas at the corner station.” A self-described “gopher,” he says he did anything they asked him to, from washing cars to pulling blackberries out of the then-owner’s other businesses.
He and his father used to work on cars. “That’s probably why I was interested in working at Toyota at first,” Sam shares.
So why did he stay so long? He says he found the atmosphere enjoyable. “I like working with people and there is a really good team atmosphere here. There always has been,” he explains. “Everyone here takes care of each other and has each other’s back.”
Through the years, Sam has done pretty much everything within the company. From driving tow trucks and working as a lot attendant, to working in the parts department and finally in the service department where he spent the majority of his career.
Although Sam has been in sales for the past six months, he won’t ever be entirely out of service. Too many customers depend on his honesty and integrity there. During our interview, someone from service comes in and says a customer will only talk to Sam. “This happens to me all the time,” he says with a smile. “I can’t really leave service.”
After all, wouldn’t you want someone honest working on your car? Of course you do. Sam’s genuine care for his customers means he won’t tell you your vehicle needs repair when it doesn’t, or try to sell you a vehicle you can’t afford. After all, you don’t try to cheat your friends, and Sam considers his customers friends – family even. “They are my Toyota family,” he says. “I was taught to treat people like that and good things will happen.”
It’s clear that Sam’s parents led by example. They did not just tell him to treat people like family, they taught by example. “I remember one Thanksgiving at the old dealership, a family’s RV was broken down in the Toyota lot,” Sam recalls. “I told my parents they were stuck camping there. My parents took them Thanksgiving dinner. I love to ‘wow’ people like that – to do something out of the ordinary that they would not expect.”
Good things certainly did happen for Sam. He even met his wife through a customer of his at Toyota. “A customer of mine for years asked me one day if I was single,” Sam says. “And, I was. He set me up with his sister. Our first date was the Race for the Cure because both of our mothers had had breast cancer.” After a few dates Sam says they fell in love.
Sam Ellis’s Favorite Things
Favorite Toyota model: FJ Crusier
Favorite local drive: Downtown by the waterfront
Favorite car-themed movie: “You Only Live Twice” featuring a rare Toyota 2000GT
Favorite car snack: Life Savers
“I have made a lot of really good friends,” he adds. “Friends I go to dinner with. It’s very different than a lot of people who work in service.” When not hanging out with family and friends, Sam’s other loves are his chocolate Labrador Kona and Cocker Spaniel Sully.
On the sales floor, Sam continues to do what he knows best – helping people. “It’s all about the people,” he explains. “Cars sell themselves. What’s important is the person who is selling you the car. They make the difference in the deal. I am not going to push you or pressure you.”
And he doesn’t need to. Toyota’s many models offer something for everyone and really do sell themselves, Sam says. What Sam can offer you that’s different is his knowledge of Toyota and his genuine concern for your wants, needs and budget. Throw in his sense of humor and you can’t help but have fun buying a vehicle from Sam Ellis.