NORM WISLER, WARD'S DEALER BUSINESS' NORTHEAST sales manager, called me to tell of his happy experience with a dealership that knows how to do it right.

Mr. Wisler was about to depart on a long business trip by car during a heat wave when his Dodge Intrepid's air conditioner conked out.

"I thought, 'I can't survive this trip without an air conditioner.' So I started calling Dodge dealers," he says.

The standard service department reply to his plight was, "Bring it in seven to 10 days."

But Cherry Hill (NJ) Dodge responded differently. "They said, 'When can you bring it in?'"

He drove there forthwith. The service technician took a look, and said he needed to order a replacement part for the body control module. Getting the part would take a while. Meanwhile, the technician did a quick and temporary fix on the air conditioner.

"He also sat down in the chair next to me, and told me what the problem was in simple terms," says an appreciative Mr. Wisler.

Cool as a cucumber, he then headed out on his business trip. When he called home from Washington D.C. a couple of days later, his wife told him the dealership had sent a postcard telling him the part was in.

When he returned home and called Cherry Hill Dodge to schedule the repair, their response was the same as before - "When can you bring it in?"

He was in and out the next day.

"In the service department waiting room, another customer told me she had a similar positive experience with the dealership," says Mr. Wisler.

He adds this about Cherry Hill Dodge, "These guys aren't small-time. They are one of the largest dealerships in New Jersey. It's not like they're sitting around with nothing to do, waiting for business to come in."

Instead, the dealership has evidently figured out and executes an efficient service process that meets customers' demands and needs.

Mr. Wisler says that when it comes time to buy a new car, Cherry Hill Dodge will be at the top of his shopping list. "They won my heart and soul," he says.

A FAREWELL TO YARNS: Speaking of heroic dealer stories, a Key West tour guide relates this one. It dates to the 1920s and involves the great writer Ernest Hemingway.

The guide says that Mr. Hemingway, a frequenter of Key West, ordered a Ford from a dealership there. But delivery was delayed seven weeks.

To accommodate the famous author during the wait, the dealership housed him and his wife an apartment above the Ford store for the entire seven weeks.

Or so the story goes.

WHAT, NO SHAMPOOING? What do people do to pass the time away when they're stuck in traffic?

Some drivers finish getting dressed, floss their teeth, put on make-up and shave. That's according to a Pennzoil survey of 15,000 people.

Forty-six% said they kill time in traffic by reading. About 24% change clothes, 46% of women apply make-up, 17% of men tie their ties.

Women, more than men, check out the drivers around them. People in the South shut off their engines more than drivers in other regions.

A majority of people simply talked. The survey says they talked to fellow occupants. Failing that, they talked to themselves.

HUP ONE, HUP TWO, HIKE: Associate editor Fred Bonnie passes along this insightful comment from Gerry Lane of Gerry Lane Chevrolet, Baton Rouge, LA:

"Never hire a former baseball player as a car salesman. Baseball players think one hit out of four at-bats is a good percentage. That's not good enough in the car business.

"I like to hire quarterbacks; they have a much higher elation factor - they get more rewards more frequently. A quarterback who completes half his passes and successfully hands the ball off on almost 100% of the running plays will have a very high elation factor and usually makes an excellent car salesman."

Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business. His e-mail address is: steve_finlay@intertec.com