Thursday, July 07, 2005

Losing it at the dance

This is the true story of how I bought my car last summer.

I had a dream last night in which I was freaking out about something, and that reminded me of this experience. Not to say that I always freak out about things, but suffice it to say that I am a little more tightly wound than my husband in certain situations. Remind me sometime and I will tell you about said situations, and also about the dream, which seemed very real. I woke up sobbing because I thought I was really going to have to pay for some very expensive, broken plates.

Anyway.

My old car was 12 years old, tiny, and a very unsafe to be driving here in Hummer land, so we decided to buy me a new car last summer. MAJOR STRESS. Because? Idea of haggling with slick car dealership men is a major turn-off. Being a librarian, I had of course completely researched which make, model, color and trim I wanted, and the invoice, the MSRP, and what would be considered a fair price for my area. I read articles up the wazoo about how to negotiate. But the idea of wasting time with this game playing? Made me sick.

So I turned to my financial institution, which offers a free negotiation service. You find the car you want, give your negotiator the VIN, and they call and do the haggling for you. Cool, right? And if you don’t like the price they get, you can walk away.

Well, I was very happy with the price my guy got. SOLD! Thank you very much, Super Negotiator. All I had to do was call the dealership and set up a time to come in and sign the papers.

I think our appointment was at 2:00 on a Saturday. That morning, a sales person from the dealership called to confirm the details.

“Uh, okay,” he said. “So we’re talking about the blue one, last five digits of the VIN are blah-blah-blah?”

“No,” I said. “The numbers are correct, but it is supposed to be silver, not blue.”

“Uh...right, right.”

“So we’re all set? For the silver one?”

“Uh, yeah, yeah. See you this afternoon.”


Well, after I hung up I started to Worry. Why did he say blue? Why did he sound confused? Why does he say “uh” so much? I knew this wasn’t going to go smoothly, I knew it!

Wait, breathe. Just call back and confirm everything again, you dope.

(ring, ring)

Me: Hi, Chris. This is Liz again. Listen, I just wanted to call and confirm that we are both talking about the same car here. It’s the silver one, VIN xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”

Chris: Uh, well, the paperwork says it’s a blue one, not silver.

Me: I gave Super Negotiator the VIN for the silver one. I’m POSITIVE.

Chris: Yeah, yeah—must have just gotten the VIN mixed up. Yes, we have the silver one on the lot. No problem.

Me: SILVER.

Chris: See you at 2:00!

Me: SILVER!

Click.

So, reassured, hubby and I drive to the dealership. First we pulled up at the wrong place, a lot where they sell used cars. Before we could get the doors open a horde of salesmen with dollar signs in their eyes descended on our car.


Me: Oh my God! (pulls door shut and avoids eye contact)

Hubby: (calm, friendly) “Yes, we have an appointment with Chris?”

Vultures: “Over there!” (already walking away, gesturing vaguely to another lot across the street).


So finally we get to the right place, go inside, and wait for Chris to come out. I listen to a salesman negotiating with a young couple, just a couple of kids, really, punching the keys on his calculator and sighing dramatically.

“This is the MOST I can give you for your trade-in, buddy! And man, my kids won’t be getting any Christmas presents this year, but I’m willing to do this for you. I just have to convince my manager!”

And off he stomps to do what I call “the sales dance” with the manager. There is of course a window that looks conveniently into the manager’s office, so you can catch every drop of dramatic goodness.

I’m watching this, feeling sorry for the couple that is getting screwed, glad that I have brilliantly avoided the whole mess by relying on Super Negotiator. Then Chris appears, shakes hands with us like a good salesman.

“So!” he says. “Let’s go have a look at her!”

So we got out to the lot and my heart sinks like a Mafia corpse when I see that we are in fact heading towards a BLUE car.

“No,” I say. “No no no no no no no no.”

Chris starts to open the door of the car and says over his shoulder,

“Yeah, the paperwork specifies that it’s this car.”

Damn, do I still have to do the dance? I thought I was skipping the dance! DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT.

It is an ugly blue that I hate. And it’s it doesn’t have the trim I wanted! THEY ARE TRYING TO GIVE ME A CHEAPER, UGLIER CAR.

Hubby is eyeing me. I warn him with my eyes not to say anything. I’ll finesse this bastard.

“Well, Chris,” I say sweetly, “That’s why I confirmed TWICE this morning that we were talking about the silver one with the moon roof.”

Chris looks uncomfortable.

I walk up and look through the windshield at the VIN.

“This VIN does not match the one we negotiated for.”

Chris looks even more uncomfortable.

“Uh, maybe we should go inside and talk with my manager.”

DAMMIT DAMMIT DAMMIT. But fine. I’m here, and you’re forcing me to dance. Bring it on, Michael Flatley!

We go in and are seated at a desk which, I notice right away, is directly in front of the window that looks into Manager’s Theater. That means that we have a perfect view, as though we were sitting in front of the tube at home.

Chris ambles back and we see him talking to the manager, gesturing with his arms and pointing out at the lot. Manager strikes the Thoughtful Pose, crossing his arms and stroking his chin. Finally, manager nods and comes out.

He shakes hands with us like a good sales manager.

“How are you folks doing? I’m Rick.”

Hubby: Nice to meet you.

Me: (stony silence)

Rick: See, here’s the issue. Let me put it all out on the table for you.

Rick goes into a condescending explanation, which sounds like this:

“BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH... wrong car... BLAH BLAH BLAH... silver one is actually $4,000 more... BLAH BLAH chuckle chuckle... here’s what I’m willing to do for you...BLAH BLAH.”

OH MY GOD. I am witnessing an honest-to-God bait-and-switch attempt! BASTARDS!

I smile at Rick, and very patiently say, “But I talked to your associate, Chris, TWICE this morning to confirm that we were coming here today to get that silver car. I even read him the entire VIN.”

Rick: BLAH BLAH BLAH stupid blonde BLAH BLAH

Me: (calmly, placing index finger firmly on the folder in front of me) We have our down payment and loan papers arranged today for the price that we were given over the phone.

Rick: (flippantly) Well, this is what I can offer you.

I suck in my breath and lean over the desk towards him. Hubby puts his hand on my leg.

Me: (slowly, assertively) Hi, Rick. My old car is still running JUST FINE, and we will have NO PROBLEM walking away from this RIGHT. NOW.

On cue, Rick slammed his hands down on the desk and stood up to leave. I leapt out of my chair and stormed towards the door. But not before I got one last comment in.

“NICE CUSTOMER SERVICE!” I yelled, probably scaring the crap out of the timid blonde who was sitting at one of the sales desks.

Hubby wrangles me to the car and I get in and slam the door, seething. After a moment I decide I haven’t told Rick enough of what’s on my mind, and I would have stalked back in there if hubby weren’t so damn quick with that child-proof door lock.

So, did I end up getting my car? Yes. The very one I wanted. Turns out that when Super Negotiator and Rick were haggling, they only used the last few digits of the VIN. It would normally be HIGHLY unusual for TWO CARS on the SAME LOT to have the SAME LAST 5 DIGITS. So guess what happened in this case?

You got it. My beautiful silver car had the same last 5 VIN digits as the ugly blue one. The entire negotiation had been done for a car I hated.

Super Negotiator, who has since been demoted to mere sidekick status, convinced us to go back and buy the car from them after all, at a slightly higher but still very fair price.

My instinct said NO, but did I listen?

Nah.

I wanted it over with, so we went and bought it. I went in all ready to make nice, but chickenshit Rick didn’t come out of his office the whole time, even though I know he saw me. A good sales manager would have apologized and thanked me for giving them my business after all, don’t you think?

Anyhow, I still regret going back there, because I think I should have stuck to my guns and rewarded a place that would treat me well.

So a couple of weeks ago when I got a card in the mail, I ripped it open and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a birthday card. For my CAR.

“Happy birthday! Your car is one year old! We look forward to celebrating many more years with you.”

And it was signed:

Best wishes,
Rick


I showed my husband and he sucked in his breath.

“Oh no he didn’t!”

"Oh yes, he did."

We stared at the card for a minute, and then there was only one thing left to say.

“NICE CUSTOMER SERVICE!”

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