Finance and insurance professionals say improper vocabulary use when selling products can cause misunderstandings, legal troubles and even offend customers.
Steve Roennau, vice president of compliance at EFG Cos., of Grapevine, Texas, said customers may sometimes use the wrong vocabulary, but it's up to the F&I manager to steer the conversation.
"We don't say things like 'extended warranty' because customers always use that terminology, and it's not correct," he said.
As defined by federal law, a warranty must be included for free with the sale of a physical product.
"Part of what we do in selling is get people to consider" the value of a given product, Roennau said.
"If we want to be able to get people to consider things, we have to use terms that are positive. We try to stay away from negative words or words that have a connotation that may be perceived as negative by the customer."
Paul McCarthy, vice president of national sales with AUL Corp., of Napa, Calif., said it's important to consider ethics when choosing words with customers.
"You could offend someone," he said. "A word that people in the car business use to describe something might mean something else to someone in a different business."
McCarthy also noted that dealership employees might be inclined to use slang terms.
While it is human nature to use shortcuts, it's a poor practice, he said.
Using terms that are inaccurate or misleading "can create litigious situations," McCarthy said, "even though that's not what you meant to do. When there's a dispute, if things go wrong after the sale — that's when things can get ugly."
"You never know who your customer is," he said. "There's always a possibility the customer is recording the conversations."
Even using slang terms among colleagues can cause issues, McCarthy said, because customers could overhear. Or it might be difficult for staffers to switch between using slang with colleagues and avoiding those terms with customers.
McCarthy agreed with Dave Worrall, senior director of global training and development at Assurant Global Automotive, part of Assurant Inc. of New York, that calling the F&I office "the box" is the kind of jargon professionals should avoid.