A letter to my car dealership – Your business scared me today (so I have some COVID19 advice for you)

As a longtime customer of your dealership, a physician, and a concerned citizen I wanted to reach out to you to talk about the experience I had today when I picked up my car. Please know that this is not an attempt to complain – it’s an attempt to explain – and hopefully make you, your family, your employees and your customers a little safer.

I woke up this morning excited I’d be getting my car back today! Since I realized I didn’t want to expose or be exposed to anyone that wasn’t necessary, I called ahead to pay online (thank you for making that possible!). But, once I got to the dealership… well, it just wasn’t safe.

I stood outside while someone went inside to start the process of checking me out … and here’s what happened – which is what prompted me to write you this letter:

  • I watched as one of your customers, who was clearly in at least two, if not more, high-risk groups walked up the ramp. She was passed by an employee coming down the ramp, who passed her shoulder-to-shoulder. The employee’s mask was on their face, but below their nose.
  • I watched as the service folks checked in two people who both had masks on properly (as did your employees). But they walked up to them and held out their hand to take keys, which meant they were within 2-3 feet of each other.
  • The service employee who checked me out came out with papers and then handed me a pen – which I suspect they had been using all day – and stood right next to me. When I shook my head and asked if there was another way to do this, they said “I can get you hand sanitizer”… and then “We know it’s coming again.”
  • When my car was returned to me, the employee who drove it up to me had a mask on – around their neck. The windows were up and there was no smell or sign of any disinfectant. They walked up to me (2 feet away) and reached out to hand me my key (which I put into a ziplock bag I had brought for this purpose).
  • As I was leaving, an employee walked by with their valved mask on… around their neck. Two strikes! These valved masks are being sold because it’s “easier to breathe” but that’s because all the air you breath out escapes… with the virus. So, they have no benefit at all.

Let’s break this down… and I hope this will help you and other businesses to think about this in a way that makes sense. We all want businesses to open – and stay open! So working together to prevent more spread of this deadly virus just makes sense. What’s making this hard for some people is how politicized this has become. But, it’s important to know that this virus doesn’t care how you vote or what you think. This is just medicine, science and common sense.  

The official CDC recommendations can be found here, but here’s how I would translate them for your employees i.e. what I would post somewhere if I were in your shoes:

Assume everyone you meet has COVID19

Unlike other viruses, you can be infected for up to 6 days before you feel sick. During that time, you can infect other people. Which means that everyone you meet could be infected… whether or not they are ill. If there is nothing else your employees remember, they should remember this.

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If anyone with COVID 19 coughs on their hands, touches something and then you touch it (followed by touching your face), you can become infected.

This is not the primary way this virus spreads but it can spread this way. (This is why it was so upsetting to be handed a pen.) I also wish the person who returned my car had a spray bottle of disinfectant with them. I sure would have felt better if they got out of the car, sprayed down the seat and steering wheel and then wiped it off. Oh, by the way, once COVID19 is on a surface (depending on what the surface is made of) it can last for up to three days. That’s why it’s so important to disinfect surfaces frequently and wash our hands after we touch anything that hasn’t just been disinfected.

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If anyone with COVI9 talks, yells, speaks, coughs or sneezes in a closed space, the virus can hang in the air for up to 3 hours. If you walk into that space during that time, you can become infected.

I can’t think of a worse closed space for COVID19 than inside a car! It’s true for any room, including your office space, but this is why I was perplexed when the person who returned my car didn’t have their facemask on. This is also why there is a “6 foot” rule and why we wear masks. (By the way, it’s not either-or, it’s both). We wear masks to protect others, not us… which means if we all do it, we’re are all protecting each other. (That’s also why you shouldn’t let any employee wear a valved mask) We stand at least 6 feet away from each other because the viral load will be much lower if we are talking to someone who is infected. By the way, the aerosol an infected person produces when they sneeze can travel up to 20 feet … and, remember, those viral particles can remain in the air up to three hours.

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Most of us will probably be infected eventually, but that’s not relevant.

I understand that in the face of such a terrible disease there is a tendency to just throw up your hands. I’m sure that’s why your employee told me “We know there’s another wave coming”.

But here’s the deal – every day we postpone any one of us getting COVID19 (or preventing it, if all goes well!) is one day closer to a vaccine.

With every day that goes by, we also understand more about COVID19 and how to treat it… so the odds of not needing the hospital, ICU, or morgue goes up.

For every case we prevent, we are actually preventing many, many more cases because of how this spreads.

There’s also the part about just being a good person; You don’t want to be the person who bends the rules, gets sick and then infects family, friends or customers.

You have a wonderful dealership and I will continue to be an enthusiastic customer. Your service is incredible, your employees are kind. Stay safe, stay well, and thanks for giving me an opportunity to share this information with you and for others.


Mary L. Brandt, MD

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