Commentary

The angry guy who wrote and recorded the 1960s-era proto-rap song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” sure got it wrong.

First, there was no revolution, at least not of the street kind he waxed on about. Second, if we ever see another American Revolution, it will be televised. Almost everything else is these days.

Don’t leave home if you’re camera-shy because they’re everywhere – at stores, on ATM machines, atop traffic lights and in the hands of cell-phone users with a YouTube user name and password.

Today’s ubiquitousness of video recording gear has created a genre of TV programs showing life’s moments, most of them far from endearing.

There’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” with mainstay clips of klutzy do-it-yourselfers falling off roofs or inattentive bicyclists smacking into utility poles. (Absent is video of ensuing physical therapy.)

Recent “reality” shows include “World’s Scariest Police Chases,” using material culled from dash-mounted cameras in police cars. (Advice to fleeing felons: when the number of patrol cars pursuing you tops 20, pull over.)

So cameras are a big part of modern society. There are exceptions: public restrooms, health-club showers and most car dealership finance and insurance offices.

Not that there hasn’t been an effort in recent years to put cameras in the latter. But the movement hasn’t gone far. It’s debated every now and then, though.

It was a topic of discussion at the recent F&I Management and Technology conference in Las Vegas, a city that arguably has more surveillance cameras than people.

Advocates of video-recording F&I business say it promotes honesty, provides a record of transactions and helps assess and improve staff performance.

Detractors say such videography is unnecessary, could be used against dealers in potential legal action and may spook customers (and, for that matter, employees).

“If you educate your staff properly and train them to not slide things past customers, like things that were done 20 years ago, you don’t need cameras in the F&I office,” says Peter Biscardi, president of NAC, a service-contract firm.

If dealers fret about what transpires in their F&I offices, “maybe they should be in there themselves to see what’s going on,” he says.

But some dealers know what’s going on, in the worst sense.

Bruce Foster, director of JM&A dealership training, tells of visiting a dealership and discovering the dealer was: a) thinking about installing F&I-office cameras and b) condoning the shady practice of “getting a leg up,” slang for secretly boosting monthly car payments to enhance the selling of F&I products.

Foster recalls: “When I pointed out to the dealer that every deal I observed had a $60 to $80 leg up, his reaction was, ‘I don’t want cameras in my F&I office after all.’”

Talk about missing the big picture.

The cameras are great if used as tools to train and advance ethical conduct, says Alan Miller, CNA National Warranty Corp.’s senior vice president-sales. Otherwise, “they just make us look bad, faster.”

The dealer Foster visited apparently got that part.

Depending on what the videos show, they can make great evidence for or against dealers, says David Robertson, executive director of the Assn. of Finance & Insurance Professionals.

“If you use cameras, a customer’s lawyer will either walk out of the dealership with his hands in his pockets or a settlement check in his pocket,” Robertson says. “So use them properly.”

Dealers with F&I cameras in operation praise them. But there aren’t many. When someone asked how many dealers in the conference audience use such recording equipment, only a few raised their hands.

Incidentally, Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” also scoffed at American commercialism, from cars to Coke.

Ironically, a search-engine link today takes Internet users to this: “Shop for ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ at Target.com. Expect more, pay less at Target.”

TVs are on sale there, too.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com