There's no other way to say this: Few people enjoy spending time in most dealerships' service waiting rooms.
Even with free Wi-Fi, TV and maybe complimentary snacks and drinks, the best most dealers can hope for is to create a tolerable space where customers may ignore the knowledge they'd rather be somewhere else.
However, a recently resurrected trend in the hospitality industry might point to a better way for dealers to keep their customers content: pinball and video arcade games.
Dealers who have tried it say a few game machines can leave customers engaged and perhaps even excited about coming back.
"We've got one dealership with a pool table, another dealership with [the video game] Big Buck Hunter, another with Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man, and one with a pinball machine," said David Rosenberg, CEO of Prime Motor Group.
The Westwood, Mass., group operates 26 dealerships in New England. It ranks No. 41 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with 2015 retail sales of 20,724 new vehicles.
The games initially went to the dealerships after Rosenberg moved from one house to another and no longer had a use for them. That was several years ago, and more a convenience than a planned experiment. But it gave rise to the notion that customers in waiting rooms are happier -- and more likely to return -- when they aren't bored, Rosenberg said.
"I do believe customers should have something to occupy their time while they're in the waiting room," he said.
Prime has also experimented with small cafes in its waiting rooms, and even a fish petting zoo in one of the company's Toyota stores in coastal Maine.
"We try to vary it up," Rosenberg said.
Prime may have caught a wave in putting classic video and pinball games in its waiting rooms. Over the last decade, the hospitality industry has exploded with new arcade-themed bars and restaurants, including Dave & Busters, a popular nationwide chain with more than 80 locations. The "barcades," as they've come to be known, are nostalgic hot spots for generations who grew up prior to the explosion of home videogame systems.
For dealers, the costs of purchasing, installing and maintaining the gaming machines can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the number and complexity of the machines they choose. Maintenance alone can add up quickly, Rosenberg said, offering a piece of advice for dealers who might follow his example.
"I had one store with a pinball machine, but it kept breaking," Rosenberg said. "The video games have much better staying power than the pinball machines do."