Not all car salesmen are sharks, I should know, I used be one. Twelve years ago I would have sold you a brand new BMW, whether you had wanted one or not. That was my job. And for those who liked money and cars, in that order, it was easily the best job in the world.

As an impoverished ex-student, the promise of unlimited earnings and a free BMW sounded too good to be true - never mind that I had not sold so much as a sandwich before.

After my first day at a Mayfair saleroom, I roughed the journey home in a 735i Special Equipment, a gadget-laden saloon whose retail price would comfortably have bought a small suburban semi. As I chilled out to the air-conditioning and tuned in the six-speaker Blaupunkt sound system, I reflected that life could not get any harder than this. It did not.

Learning how to become a car salesman is not difficult. It helps if you can tell one end of a car from the other, but otherwise the bonnet can be regarded as a sealed unit. Any technical question was an excuse to delve deeper into the brochures and involve the customer even more in the selling process. Provided you could combine stubbornness with charm, offer creative solutions to financial shortfalls or other objections, and ultimately close the customer to a decision, it was easy.

As with most top establishments, salesmen were paid on the profit. That meant "discount" was not part of the Park Lane vocabulary. The bottom line involved bumping up profits with plenty of extras, not difficult on cars that did not even have radios as standard equipment. A fully- loaded 6 or 7 series could easily tip the profit scales at pounds 5,000 and, if you were having a good month, 10 per cent was yours.

Few customers felt hard done by, which had plenty to do with the kudos of BMW Park Lane. West End dealerships are unlike any others: all the business is done during the week and the cars sold are predominantly at the heavy-metal end of the market. The locale meant the clientele had a high celebrity quotient. And the sales staff made it an entertaining place to buy your BMW. We were all under 30, mostly single and, above all, fun - just like the people who were starting to buy BMWs. All 10 salesmen, a huge number for any dealership, were fiercely competitive. The toss of a coin, or a rugby tackle, could decide who got up the stairs from our subterranean office to greet a showroom prospect. After hours we were all pals again, playing just as hard, but in a nightclub.

There were the other cars, too. The underground car-park was an Aladdin's cave of part-exchanged Porsches, Ferraris and Mercedes, all to be driven home for the night or shown off at the weekend. And part of the basic salary, plus commission and Bupa package, was a new BMW every three months. Park Lane was the best job I ever had.

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