“I am 100% Supported Here”: Pauline Ballenger’s Story

There’s one thing you’ll notice when Pauline Ballenger answers the phone.

As the receptionist at Garber-owned Hilton Head Buick GMC Cadillac, she’s helpful. She’s kind.

But that’s not what jumps out at you first.

It’s the accent.

“Customers often talk about my English accent,” Pauline – who originally hails from the United Kingdom – said. “I must admit I’ve never had a negative reaction. They look at me in surprise and I think, ‘My God, do I have two heads?’ They’re so intently listening. We get dealers all over the country phoning here and they say, ‘You’re not from around here, are you?’ And I’ll joke and say, ‘No, I’m from Alabama.’”

Southern accents are common around the Hilton Head dealership. The store is located in Bluffton, South Carolina, after all.

But ears perk up when Pauline speaks with her English flair.

“Hilton Head and the areas around it have strong accents, and it seems like everyone is a transplant, so I’m not alone, even though mine’s an English accent,” Pauline said. “We all speak the same language but everything has different terminology. The English food from my home country is in the Ethnic section at the grocery store. I laughed when I saw that.”  

Pauline and her ear-catching voice help create a positive first impression for customers contacting the dealership. It’s a role she’s happy to fill.


Coming to America

America wasn’t part of Pauline’s life plan.

“I am from Essex in the U.K., which is a town southeast of London,” she explained. “I never saw myself living in America. I used to watch American programs and I couldn’t understand what the heck they were talking about. When we sat and watched TV shows or series or films, I had to stop and put the subtitles on.”

Like a storyline out of a romance novel, love is what pulled Pauline across the ocean to the shores of South Carolina.

“I met this guy one Christmas when he was visiting the U.K.,” she said. “His mother is English and his father is from America. I fell for him hook, line and sinker. We had to snail mail and email until I came over here in 2002 and moved here permanently in 2003.”

Pauline married her American man in 2005.  But when she first arrived in the United States, she faced some hurdles when it came to work.

“The thing was, it’s a lot of hoops to be able to work because you have to fill out to get your green card,” she explained. “You can’t get yourself a job automatically. You can volunteer, but you can’t get paid for it, so that’s what I did. Finally, my green card came through. I was scanning the newspaper and saw a job ad for this dealership. I came ‘round and had an interview and they hired me as a receptionist.”

She’s worked as the receptionist at this same store location for 14 and a half years.

“I walked through the door and didn’t walk out,” she laughed. “I’m part of the furniture now.”

Good People

Garber acquired the dealership three years ago.

After the acquisition, Dick Garber came down to South Carolina to meet the team… including Pauline.

“Right from the start, the first time I met Mr. Garber, I learned he is a down-to-earth, very nice person,” she said. “You’d think that someone like that would be so aloof and wouldn’t take time to talk to the receptionist sitting at the front answering the phone, even though 95% of business comes through the phone. He came straight up to me and introduced himself and Pat Hengesbach and others from the team. He is the nicest guy. Really fantastic.”

Mr. Garber wasn’t the only pleasant surprise to Pauline. The way the dealership started to run under Garber’s leadership was a welcomed change too.

“As soon as Garber took over, things changed for the better,” Pauline said. “With fresh ideas, they knew what they wanted to do. They were striving for greatness and they achieved it. Nothing is too much trouble. You never have to be worried about approaching anyone. They’re good people.”

The care that Garber gives its employees became evident when Pauline faced hardship.

“A couple of years ago, I had to have a month off because my brother was suffering from brain cancer,” Pauline said. “I said, ‘I’d like to go spend his last month with him.’ Shane Gault [Hilton Head General Manager] and Mr. Garber said, ‘Go. Family comes first, and your job will still be here when you come back.’ That was excellent. Garber really cares about your family.”

Pauline went back to her home country to spend precious time with her brother. He passed away six days after she returned to the States following her month-long stay.

“As soon as I came back, my brother decided he’d go,” she said. “I was so grateful to be able to spend that time with him. I went with Shane and Mr. Garber’s blessing; they said ‘Yes, by all means, go. We’ll still be here when you come back.’ And they were.”

First Impressions

Pauline puts passion and intention into her role as dealership’s receptionist.

“A receptionist is very important because first impressions are very important,” she said. “If a customer walks through the door and you ignore them, that does not create a very good impression. The customer is always first here at Garber. We make customers feel at home and welcome. The customer always comes first.”

She said her colleagues at the dealership all have something in common.

“They are all good people and friendly people,” she said. “I am 100% supported here. Everybody works with everybody. It starts at the top.”

She said Garber encourages fun activities to cultivate that healthy work culture.

“We had a Christmas party,” she said. “We closed the dealership and moved the vehicles outside and had a corn hole tournament. They gave out different awards, which was great for people to get recognized. It’s nice to have a pat on the back.”

She said that team building intentionality sets Garber apart.

“They organized a bowling competition,” she said. “We did go-kart racing, too. It’s good to have a laugh and take the pressure off. It’s nice to get together.”


 Fast Five

First concert? Prince in Earl’s Court in London. When I lived in the UK, I worked for a newspaper for 21 years and one of the girls in the office was sort of a courier to go on the coaches to take the customer to go see Prince. That place was storming.

First car in the U.K.? When I was in England, I drove a Ford Cortina. 

First car in America? The first time I came over here, we went to purchase a car and I got a VW Bug. We went to Charleston and I needed a stick because everything was automatic. I’ve never driven an automatic in my life. I was on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road.You’ve got the steering wheel wrong over here in America. 

Three words your friends or family would use to describe your personality? Wicked. Sense. Of Humor. 😊

Item on your bucket list? Eat my Christmas dinner that someone else has cooked for me on the beach

Share This Article

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Lindsay Henry

Lindsay Henry

Lindsay is the Digital Communications Manager for Garber Automotive Group.

Application Received

Thank You Robert!

We've received your application for this position.
Thank you for your interest.

Contact Us

Apply Now

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: pdf, jpg, png, jpeg, doc, docx, Max. file size: 10 MB, Max. files: 3.