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pamper the super-rich

Your whim, their command

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PLUSH RIDE: Bentley's Gay says luxury car customers look at exclusivity, not price

Why would Trevor Gay, head of special VIP sales at Bentley, travel to an upmarket cosmetic shop in London and pick a nail polish to wear to a sales pitch? Well, when you pamper the super-rich, there are almost no limits to what you would do for a customer.

Gay, who has been with the luxury brand for over 40 years and is now in-charge of India, China, Africa and Middle-East regions, knows a thing or two about pandering to the idiosyncracies of the rich. "We do not sell Bentley as a car. It is all about rewarding oneself. The people I cater to want something that is unique, " says Gay, who was recently in India to land the 'big fish'.

One big fish led Gay to the nail polish experiment. "Well, it happened when we were pitching a car to a lady in the Middle East. The whole deal boiled down to the colour of the car. We started with our standard 31-colour option, but when that didn't find favour with her, we brought out the 100-colour option. When she was still not satisfied, we gave her a 22, 000-colour option formed by various combinations. But to our dismay, and immense surprise, she still wasn't happy.

"Finally, the lady summoned me to a cosmetic shop in London where she painted my nail in the shade she wanted. 'This is the colour I want' was all she said. We worked on the exact shade and delivered the car to her. Today, the shade is part of the selection of colours that Bentley offers, " Gay says.

He is full of hard-to-please customer stories. "One of our customers demanded that the interiors of his car be done in crocodile skin. We were quite stumped about how to procure it. He later told us that he had a crocodile farm in the US. "

For a luxury car customer, money is not the deciding factor, exclusivity is. "We refer to some of our wealthy customers, mostly in the Middle East, as 'one-offs'. They want a car that is just made for them, and is never repeated again, " he says.

So what are the elements that make up a 'one-off' ? "Well for example, the dimensions can be a little different from the standard model. Or the car could be fitted with gadgets that are not to be found on our other models. For one of the customers, we offered a completely sliding roof, " says Gay. The sales expert points out that Bentley has, on occasions, spent ten times the actual cost of the car to please a 'one-off'.

The tribe of Bentley fanciers is yet to grow dramatically in India - overall volumes are still small (below 100 in one year) compared to markets such as the West and China. The latter is now the company's second-biggest client base after the United States. "There is potential in India and currently we get orders from people who are biggies in real estate, large engineering companies and steel, " says Gay.

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