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Friday, October 07, 2005
Looking at cars
I'm sure some of you are wondering where things are in the on-going saga that is my car. (OK, so maybe you weren't really wondering, but humor me...it makes me feel better that way!)

The car is being fixed currently and I'm using a rental to get around. Thankfully, most of this is covered by the insurance and I am filing a claim for this. Apparently being stupid and hitting what you thought was a huge rock and was instead a manhole cover sticking up in a grassy/gravelly field is covered under my policy. (Of course, I am sure that this will come back to bite me next time it comes time for renewal with higher premiums, but what you gonna do?)

However, due to spending most of Wednesday waiting to find out what the next step was and then spending some of Thursday getting that next step going, I didn't have a rental car until today. Which mean I was carless and carpooling with my dad into downtown yesterday. Which is not a bad thing since we could (legally) use the HOV lane on I-24.

While driving in and listening to local talk-show host Steve Gill spew on about whatever the hell had made him mad today, we heard a commercial for a local car dealer. If you live in Nashville you might have heard it--it is one of those where the dealer has made a ton of great deals on new cars and has a ton of awesome trade-ins for rock bottom low prices that you simply will not believe how low there are. Oh yeah, and they have a used car for $99. Now, I have to admit the inner Jack Benny was intrigued by the prospect of a used car for only $99. I mean, there just has to be a catch to this right?

Driving home yesterday, Dad and I decided to stop at said dealership (which I won't name because I don't want to give them any free publicity--positive or negative. Let's just say the name of the dealer rhymes with Gill Nerd) So, we pull onto the lot and take the left hand turn toward used car sales. As we drive up in my dad's car, it's like something off the Discovery Channel as salesman herd toward our car, clawing each other out of the way. It doesn't help that Dad and I are still dressed up from being at work either. I step out and meet a sales guy who can't stop shaking my hand...well, at least until my dad gets out of the car. We have them confused--two guys show up on a lot and he doesn't know which one is here to look or buy and he can't figure out whose you-know-what to kiss first. Eventually, he senses desparation from me and targets me.

Him: So, what can I interest you in today?
Me: Well, I heard about this $99 car on the radio and...
Him: Sold the first day of the sale
Me: Oh, OK.
Him: Did you just come for the $99 car?
Me: Well, no. I heard you had some good deals.
Him: What are you looking for?
Me: Low mileage, good condition, good price.
Him: Oh we can definitely help you out.
Me: So, what you got?
Him: Well, let's go inside first and get some preliminary stuff out of the way.

So, we go inside. And salesman tells me how this is a military speical. Well, I'm not military so does this exclude me, I wonder. Apparently not since by military sale, they mean they have guys dressed up in khaki colored t-shirts. Guy also informs me he doesn't work for said dealership but is there for this huge special sale. At this point, my Spider-sense in tingling just a bit.

We sit down at a table and salesman man starts to explain to me about this sale and he just needs some quick info from me to see how much I can afford and then we'll start going out and slashing prices on cars. I look at him and respond that I prefer not to do that, instead that I want to pay cash since I can get a better rate from other lending institutions. Say for example, the mafia.

He blinks at me as if I've spoken French or something. He then goes--well, we still have to run a credit check.

Dad: For a cash sale?
Him: Yes, we have to know how much you can afford?
Me: Look, let me just say I know what I can afford and what I want to pay. I just want to see what you've got.
Him: Can't do that without running a credit check.
Dad: So, you're saying we can't look or save a lot for cash?
Him: ::confused look::
Dad: Right, we'll go over to the Dodge dealership...they'll gladly take cash.

We stand up and walk out. We make it to the car and the salesman comes running up the car, looking like we just ran over his dog. He makes the universal gesture to roll down the window and so I do. He leans in, thus insuring we can't drive off.

Him: So you like Chryslers?
Dad: No, but they'll take our money and let us look at a car without running credit.
Him: Well, you shouldn't leave...
Dad: Why don't you go get Major Markdown over there and tell him we want to see a car for cash and what can he do?
Him: OK. Why don't you drive around the lot and see what you like and we'll talk.
Me: Sure thing.

He then stands up and I roll up the window quickly. We then drive past three cars, point at two and head off the lot.

Which is just shows you what an adventure looking at a car can be.

And just to show them, we went over to the Dodge dealer. I looked at Neon and actually...gasp!...got to test drive it. The salesman was nice, polite and didn't seem too put out when I told him that I was starting the process and figuring out what I could afford and what I wanted. He was very low-key--helpful but no pressure. Sure, after the sale we went inside to talk numbers. Of course, my car wasn't with me at the time so we were talking speculatively about it as a possible trade in. So, of course, my car is close to pristene and with no major difficulties, I tell him.

After doing all that, he brought out his floor manager who wanted to try and close it out, but understood where I was coming from. Or at least he acted like he did. Again, a big contrast to the other dealership. Of course, their eyes lit up when my dad said he was interested in a higher end Dodge and he wanted to pay cash as well. But that it was late and he'd come back Saturday for a test drive himself without me.

So, at this point, I am not sure I'd go with a new car. It depends on what has to be done to mine and will it all be fixed properly. But it was interesting to have two competing car dealerships and to witness the differences in how a potential customer is treated. I wonder how much of this was the new car vs used car dealership experience and how much of it was just the dealers I visited.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/07/2005 10:01:00 AM | |
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