WOODSTOCK – Jack Cronan remembers when car dealerships used to be open on Sundays.
“I missed the family picnics,” he said. “I missed the Little League games and all the other things on Sunday because I had to work. And on those days, we’d sell four or five cars that we would have sold on another day. It wasn’t worth it.”
A 1983 state law changed that, banning the sale or long-term lease of vehicles on Sunday.
A March report from the Federal Trade Commission, prepared at the request of state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, recommends repealing the law.
The ban makes it more difficult for consumers to comparison shop, raises their search costs and diminishes competition, FTC staff said in the report.
“Collectively, these effects may lead to higher prices and reduced output for sales of new and used automobiles and related automobile services than would otherwise be the case,” the report said.
But the ban also lowers the overhead costs for dealerships, and the guaranteed Sunday off makes sales jobs more attractive, bringing a higher caliber of employee, said Cronan, who is the owner and president of Bull Valley Ford in Woodstock.
If he had to stay open on Sundays, he’d have to pay for nearly two more months of labor, and he doesn’t expect that to translate into increased sales, which means he would have to raise prices to cover the costs.
And with the Internet, consumers are doing a lot of their research ahead of time, said Scott Rosenberg, co-owner of Crystal Lake Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram.
“Most customers are shopping on the Internet,” he said. “The Internet’s 24/7. Car buying isn’t done car lot to car lot. ... They’re basically just coming in to pick up the car.”
That the ban is good for consumers is a hard argument to make, said Michael Lucci, the director of jobs and growth for the Illinois Policy Institute, a pro-free market think tank.
“If they want to have one day that dealerships are closed ... leave it up to the dealers what day they should be closed,” he said. “What determines that would then be what’s best for consumers, and I think you would see that they’re not closed on Sundays.”
By eliminating half the weekend, the ban can drive up the search costs for consumers, he said, recalling a time that he and his girlfriend had to take time off work in order to go car shopping.
While a lot can be done online, consumers can’t negotiate with a salesman online or test drive, Lucci said. Those have to be done at the dealership.
He also contested the argument that the Sunday ban leads to a better stock of employees, adding that it “sort of unnecessarily denigrates industries where you do have people work on Sunday.”