My girlfriend recently got a new car. Since I am the man in her life and I'm supposed to be good with these sorts of things, she asked me to come along to help with the process. She did the upfront legwork and found a car that was basically the same car she was driving but $60 cheaper. Armed with my pen and pad, I’m kinda old school, I figured I’d at least get a column out of this.
There were ground rules we’d set up before our encounter:
-it’s okay to love the car, just don’t let it show.
-to take a page from Bill Cosby, wear ragged clothes as if you’re a
bum temporarily displaced street dweller who likes to talk to invisible strangers.
-make pretend we like a different make of car altogether, and they just happened to have a dealership just across town which is giving away one free car per customer.
-never buy the extended warranty – if you get it, your car doesn’t break down and if it does, the warranty doesn’t cover your repair.
They had their own set of rules:
-good sales guy, bad manager.
-the more confusing the paperwork, the better it is for the dealership
-divide and conquer – if they can separate the couple, it’s one-on-one instead of a zone.
-bait and switch – they never let you buy the car you came in asking about - they always have a better deal on another model.
-all couples are good looking.
-it doesn’t matter if you sell the car, but you need to sell the extended warranty - the extended warranty doesn’t really help the buyer, it helps the salesperson extend his vacation in Hawaii and the dealership to extend its lease on the building.
We walked into the dealership and I’m convinced this was the best use of my martial arts skills so far. A gang of car salespeople surrounded us and circled us menacingly. They attacked us one at a time with “What can I help you with?,” “What do you drive today?,” "She's a beauty, huh?" and “You’re a good looking couple. Are you supermodels?” We fought our way through and chose the most pathetically looking one named Barry and, come to think of it, they were all named Barry. If you name your kid Barry, he has an 86% chance of selling cars.
Barry introduced himself with, “I’m Barry and you’re a great looking couple.” She told Barry what she wanted and pulled out the newspaper ad to show him. He said, “Oh, we just ran out of the one we had at that price. Let me talk to my manager.”
China as I couldn’t see or hear anything. And it wouldn’t have mattered if I could hear because I was focusing on my knees which were in my chest and my head which was sideways against the ceiling causing my neck to make a crunching sound every time we hit a bump.
When we got back to the dealership, she threw her arms around me and said, “I love it so. It has the rims, and the moon roof, and seats of Chinchilla, with a lizard-skin shift knob cover, all which Barry told me I needed.” Barry smiled and said, “Let’s get that paperwork started.”
We went to Barry’s desk and her chair was facing the front window of the dealership and a gleam was coming off the car like the one off of a hero’s tooth in Hollywood. She did pick super deluxe model with the moon roof, the cool rims, and a transmogrifier. All of the options her previous model didn’t have and for $60 a month cheaper. I was confused but the laws of math and finance don’t exist in a dealership even though they have calculators on every flat surface.
I looked at the brochure and the moon roof looked like a nice option but it was part of the Extraterrestrial Package which also included seventeen spoilers and a plutonium detector for only $76,987 extra.” But that’s only $.25 extra a day for the next 300 years. We know this because Barry worked it out on his calculator.
So I asked Barry:
“What about air conditioning?”
“A cd player?”
“It’s in the Communications Package.”
“Power door locks?”
“It’s in the Patriot Package.”
“How much is the Patriot Package?”
“Let me check it out on my calculator.”
The car my girlfriend wanted and test drove was no longer available but he did have one with a lot more crap she didn’t need at a price she couldn’t afford and he convinced us he might be able to get us a great deal “if I can convince my manager.” He trailed off and went to the glass office with, I’m not making this up, Seymour Johnson – General Manager, on the door.
Seymour, who looked like a funeral director, looked over our paperwork and was shaking his head ‘no.’ They seemed to be arguing and there were papers thrown with what I’m convinced was violent intent. Barry swung open the glass door and came back to us smiling. “I may lose my job for this but I was able to reduce the payment by $5 a month. Which equates to, let me get my calculator.”
We took the car because we didn’t want to go to another dealer and endure an additional six hours of theatrics to basically pay the same price. Barry gave us $.75 for her trade in as “White is not a very popular color in the used car market.” She did get the super duper deluxe model with the moon roof, the cool rims, and a nuclear reactor which were a part of the Impress Your Friends at Work Package.
The extended warranty is costing us only dollars a minute if we spread it out over 210 payments. Although our car buying experience was mixed, I think we can all agree on one thing: Seymour Johnson would be a good name for a porn star.