At least once or twice in everyone’s lifetime, the time comes when a car must be purchased. I remember just a few years ago when I was a teenager (why are you laughing? As you get older the word “few” takes on a new meaning). I had saved up enough money to buy my first car. It was the day I had looked forward to for so many years.
Cash in hand, I went looking for Dad. He was a skilled negotiator and had worked for an insurance company as a Claims Adjuster for years and years. I knew this man would be the advocate I needed to get the very best price for my new, er…to ME…used car. Dad would walk into that dealership, take no prisoners, and proudly lead the “Dave’s New Car Parade” home. There would be much fanfare. My two older sisters would be so proud of me, welcoming me to the New Driver’s Society. Mom would probably have a cake and all my friends would applaud my skilled automobile research as they admired my new ride.
I had only one problem: I couldn’t find Dad. After a couple hours searching, I found him behind Mom’s bathrobe in the closet, in the fetal position. He was mumbling something about “no, not the used car guy…me no wanna go.”
I didn’t get it. What’s the big deal? We would simply go to the dealership, find the nicest car $618 could buy (“probably a new TransAm”, I thought), hand the money to the dealer guy behind the cash register, and drive my new baby home. What could be so hard about that?
I dragged Dad out of the closet, got him all fixed up in his nicest plaid clip-on tie, and off we went. It was a silent ride. I wasn’t sure why.
We arrived at Cal Worthington Chevrolet. What?! You’ve never heard of Cal Worthington?? I’m aghast! I will tell you about Cal. Cal Worthington was a real live cowboy who one day sold a car to the feller who owned the ranch next door. The feller was real happy with the new steer, and Cal reckoned he had a knack for helping out kinfolk and fellow ranchers in obtaining new vee-hick-uls. So Cal bought another car and sold it to his ranch hand “Hoppy”. In no time at all, Cal had a little car lot and priced the vee-hick-uls in such a way that he barely made any money. After all, he was a used car dealer now, and he reckoned he’d help other cowpokes have access to nice runnin’ machines to use around their steads. Yep, Cal was real good ol’ cowpoke. In due time, he even had his own commercials. He was a funny ol’ feller, and he loved his dog, Spot. He loved ol’ Spot so much, he’d feature Spot in all his commercials. Here, have a looky yourself at one of his commercials from them good ol’ days:
As a kid, I always thought Cal’s commercials were pretty cool, except I did find it confusing that his “dog” named “Spot” never seemed to be a…dog. Perhaps Cal had spent too much time in the hot sun whilst out on the range drivin’ them doggies…wait! that’s it! Cowboys call the cows “doggies”! After all these years, I finally “get it”! Cal Worthington had “Dog Confusion”. I’m sure there’s a fancy psychiatric term for it, but “Dog Confusion” works for me. After calling the cows “dogs” for so long, eventually every creature looked to him like a dog. (It’s much like how a woman sees her husband as a fat slob and then thinks of ALL men as fat slobs). Scientists call this phenomena “Progressive Generalizationalism”. I’m not sure why, but maybe because people PROGRESSIVELY GENERALIZE things. I’m no scientist, however, so please do not write an essay on this and use me as a source. Thank you.
Now, as you can see for yourself, Cal was just a regular ol’ cowpoke lookin’ to give other fellers a good deal on a nice, reliable used car. So what happened? Why was my Dad mumbling to himself on the way to “Go see Cal”?
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it took us 26 hours at the dealership to “seal the deal” on my (prized) 1972 Chevrolet Vega. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that the car salesman somehow got ahold of my Dad’s car keys and refused to give them back. OR perhaps it had something to do with the TYPE of people we encountered at the dealership. As a youngster experiencing this for the first time, I couldn’t help but think that the people in the car business were the SAME folks who, on weekends, act as the “Carnies” at the local fair. You know the guys:
“Hey, you! Yeah, you there in the blue Izod shirt! You wanna try to throw this out-of-round basketball through this incredibly small hoop and win this butt-ugly stuffed armadillo doll full of those irritating little teensy-weensy styrofoam pebble ball things that get all over your parents’ new carpet when it busts open after you’ve smacked your irritating big sister over the head with it?”
(Looking around) “Who, me? Golly, sir, that’d be SWELL!”
After throwing 20 dollars worth of out-of-round basketballs onto and AROUND those incredibly small hoops, you walk away dejected and without the money your parents told you NOT TO SPEND unless it was an emergency.
Yep, those are the people that sell cars during the week. FINALLY my Dad was able to threaten the sales people…or was it the “Sales Manager”…no, I think it might have been the “Finance Manager”. Hmmm. I forget. Perhaps it was the “Warranty Sales Representative”. No, definitely not him. I think it was the “Dealership Field Management Supervisor” or the “lot boy” who eventually gave Dad the keys back. Anyway, we eventually drove off the lot with my new, er…uh, used Chevy Vega. (This was no ORDINARY Vega! No sir, it was a GT model, complete with racing stripes. It WAS ordinary in other ways, however, like how it left a huge cloud of blue smoke behind it as it burned oil at the rate of 3 quarts per hour.)
My Dad got home and asked for a cold compress on his forehead and took several days off work after that experience.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. After buying several cars since those days, I have found myself in my Dad’s position and realized something: he handled it quite well. I tend to want to “go postal” by the time the process is over. The days of good ol’ Cal Worthington (in his early days) are long gone. Yep, it’s only gotten worse. Some dealerships have gone to the EXTREME to sell you a car. Take, for example, this guy:
Why is buying a car so difficult? Can you imagine buying groceries this way?
Grocery Sales Representative: “Sir, I see you have the five pound bag of potatoes. If you’d look over here, you’ll see we offer a TWENTY pound bag of potatoes at a significant cost savings. Here, let me hold your wife’s purse while you lift the bag. See for yourself! Heavy, isn’t it? While you look over those fine Russet potatoes, let me give this purse to the Grocery Sales Manager for safe-keeping.”
Me: “Hey, give my wife her purse back!”
Grocery Sales Manager: “Don’t worry, sir. I’ll keep it in the SAFE for, uh…safe keeping.”
Grocery Finance Representative: “Sir, allow me to introduce myself. I am the Grocery Finance Representative. I see you are quite taken by the twenty pound bag of Russet potatoes. What purchase price would it take for you to go home with those potatoes today?”
Me: “Uh, I don’t know. I guess , uh, three dollars?”
Grocery Finance Representative: “Three dollars. (thoughtful) Okay, I will be right back. I have to go see the Grocery Finance Manager.”
(Grocery Finance Representative returns with a piece of paper in his hands. He places it before you. It says “$16.00″ on it.)
Grocery Finance Representative: “Good news, sir! My Grocery Finance Manager has authorized me to sell you this fine twenty pound bag of Russet potatoes for this amount! ” (looking very proud)
Me: “WHAT??! SIXTEEN DOLLARS? That’s ridiculous! Give my wife her purse back, we’re going home!!”
Grocery Finance Representative: “Well, sir, no need to be hasty! What seems to be the problem?”
Me: “I told you…THREE DOLLARS. That’s what it would take to sell me the potatoes. Now gimme my wife’s purse!”
Grocery Finance Representative: “Now, now, sir. We’d hate for your wife to LOSE her purse, so it’s in safe keeping. That’s a service we provide, free of charge of course. Now, three dollars huh? Hmmmm. (thoughtful) I will need to check with my Grocery Finance Manager. I’ll be right back.”
(25 minutes later).
Grocery Finance Manager: Hello, I am the Grocery Finance Manager. It’s a pleasure to meet you! Now, I understand from my Grocery Finance Representative that you would be interested in purchasing these fine Russet potatoes, is that right?
Me (stern look on my face): “Yes, for three dollars”.
Grocery Finance Manager: “Well, I’m sure you can appreciate the fact that we’re a business, and as such, we’re here to first and foremost SERVE YOU, our customer. But we do need to make a few pennies, you know. So how about we meet in the middle and settle on fifteen dollars? I think that’s fair. So whaddya say, Sport? Shake on it?” (extending hand)
Me (to wife): “That’s it. We’re outta here. Get me my wife’s purse!!! I WILL CALL THE POLICE IF YOU DO NOT GET MY WIFE HER PURSE BACK!!!”
(another man enters the room)
Warranty Sales Associate: “Hello, I’m the warranty sales associate. Could I interest you in a wonderful satisfaction-guaranteed WARRANTY on your fifteen dollar potatoes?”
Me: “I’M NOT BUYING FIFTEEN DOLLAR POTATOES AND I DON’T WANT, er, NEED A WARRANTY ON POTATOES!!! I WANT MY, er, MY WIFE WANTS HER PURSE BACK!!!” (storming the back room, grabbing purse off of desk and running toward the door, dragging wife behind by her purse, which rips open and lipstick, change, 907 pieces of gum, car keys, a serving plate (which she planned on using to help buy some new cloth napkins), and the remote control (which she said was “lost”) fall out onto the floor of the dealership). “AAAAARGH!!!!”
Grocery Sales Representative: “Hey, I have those plates too! You know, on aisle 5 we have some really nice napkins that would perfectly coordinate with that serving set!”!
Wife (suddenly interested): “Really? What’s the pattern like?”
Grocery Finance Representative: “Sir, let me ask you. How much would it take to have you walking out that door, the proud owner of a new set of coordinating NAPKINS for that lovely place setting of yours?”
Me (running out of door with wife in tow): “AAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!
So in summary, how would Earth to Dave! guide you through the car buying process?
Easy. One word: Don’t.
Yep, that’s it. That’s the best guidance I can provide. Don’t thank me. We pride ourselves on honesty, integrity, my wife’s meatloaf, and steering our readers in the right direction (a little “automobile analogy” there. Ha! I kill myself!) It’s a service we provide to you, dear reader. If you REALLY want to express your thanks, feel free to stick a check for a few bucks in the mail. It’ll help alot, as we’re having MASHED POTATOES for supper on Sunday, and I’ll need to purchase them soon.