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01 August 2009 @ 02:04 pm
Buying Cars: The Least Fun You Can Have Without Sustaining Major Bodily Harm  
The first time I bought a car, I was 23. I had cash in hand. (From my father. Thanks, Daddy!) I was ready to buy. I knew what I wanted.

I could not get people to see me in the lot. I walked up and asked for service and was told it was too much trouble to let me test drive a car. ("You'd have to buy it," the car salesman told me. I'd have to buy it to drive it. Seriously. He said that. "I'd have to bring it down, and, well." I just stared at him and then left. After that, what else is there to say?)

When people did see me in the lot, I got treated like an idiot. Outright lies! ("It's this year's." It was last year's, and how could he think I would not see the sticker saying so?) Patronizing behavior! ("Well, first, let's talk about color. I know that's important to you girls.") Borderline actionable behavior! (I'm thinking here of the salesguy who kept pressing closer and closer to me and backing me against cars. I had no desire to test drive with him. All I wanted to do was get off his lot.)

By the time we were ready to buy, I was nearly ready to commit homicide.

I wanted a Honda, which narrowed down our options, as only one of the Honda dealerships in that city had a salesman willing to work with me. (Like, the guy who wouldn't bother to let me test drive? A Honda salesman.) The negotiations were protracted and horrible. I was using my father's money, so I felt obliged to get a good deal. (Note to parents out there: my father didn't plan it this way - he was just on a business trip that would last for quite some time, and I needed a car right then, so I had to buy it myself. But, wow, there is no way to make your kid feel more responsible for things than to give her a blank check and say, "I'm sure you'll do fine. I trust you.") And I was too young to understand that the Edmunds.com advice is written for men; women get another deal entirely. I knew how much I should be paying, and I had researched how the negotiation should go. It actually went like this:

Salesman: We can give it to you for [ludicrously inflated price].
Me, stunned: That's ridiculous. What about [fair price]?
Salesman, laughing: Oh, no. That's below our cost, you know.
Me: No, it isn't.
Salesman: Let me check with my manager.
[There is a pause. The salesman returns.]
Salesman: The best we can do for you is [precisely the same original, ludicrously inflated price].
Me, to Best Beloved: Okay, that's it. We're leaving.
[I stomp to the door, vibrating with anger. Best Beloved gathers up our things and follows.]
Salesman, running after us: Come on, now, let's work this out.
Me, warily: Are you going to give me a better price?
Salesman: Sure.
[We return to his desk, where he offers me a price precisely fifty dollars less than the original ludicrous one. I try not to scream.]

I ended up nearly walking out three times, and if there had been another Honda place willing to sell me a car or even talk to me, I would have actually done it. (I did get a very good price on the car, though, through sheer bloody-mindedness. My father was impressed.)

That was my first experience buying a car. It has colored all future car purchasing, since - okay, here's the thing. I don't get angry that easily; I've been online since the days when a 14.4 modem was considered the absolute height of technological awesome, and I've been seriously pissed off by people being wrong on the internet less than a dozen times, which should tell you something. But car buying made me mad and I stayed mad. Twelve years later, I am still angry about the way I was treated the first time I bought a car, and I only have to step on a lot to get angry all over again.

This is sort of a handicap when dealing with car salesmen. And then again, sort of not. Interacting with these people is sometimes easier when you can only really think about how much you want to hurt them. (Like, normally I care about what people think of me. But since I don't really consider car salesmen people, no problem!)

This time, since we were having to buy a car anyway, we decided we wanted a very specific beast: a used hybrid with carpool lane access stickers. (People who do not live in a major California city will not understand the importance of carpool stickers. Just, trust me, it's a very big deal, especially if you've just moved to a house that will make your commute longer, which we have. And you can only get them on used hybrids, as no new carpool stickers are on offer right now.) We researched online. I selected several cars of interest to us. And we trucked off to the dealership to look at them.

It was at this point that Best Beloved's car died completely, which left her stranded at a different dealership (DCH Gardena Honda - yes, I am in this case happy to name names - where, it so happens, I was completely ignored by the many unoccupied salesmen; that happened the last time we shopped there, too, so I conclude that ignoring female customers is a specialty of theirs.) while I ended up at South Bay Toyota alone. And immediately the Wonder of Car Buying began.

I looked at the car, which had a different price on it than it had had on the internet. When I pointed that out, I was told:
  1. That wasn't possible. (Lie!)
  2. The price was not negotiable - it was sticker price or nothing for me. (Seriously massive lie that indicated that the salesman thought I was a moron.)
  3. That this was a very good car, and that he'd taken it in trade personally. And then he started telling me the name of the former owner, and a lovely and obviously false story about him. (I had, of course, already read the car's history on Carfax, so I knew it was bullshit.)
He also wanted to talk about color. (We did not care. I guess if it had been baby poop mustard or something, we might have thought twice, but really. Any factory color was going to be fine. Plus, I had picked out this car online, where I had of course seen many pictures: I knew what color it was.)

I refused to shake the salesman's hand and stomped off the lot, already set on TOTAL FURY. I went home, stopping to get Best Beloved en route and ranting at her about car dealers for what I suspect was quite a long time.

The next day, Best Beloved called the dealership and used her librarian voice (not the nice one - the one that indicates that if you don't stop that behavior immediately, she will call the police) to confirm that we could get the internet price (provided we brought in a printout of the listing: seriously, what?) and that the salesman she was talking to would negotiate with us. And we went back to the dealership.

Now, here is where my car lot rage makes things difficult. I try to avoid being in the presence of a salesman when possible, because I'm always afraid it will end in an arrest for assault. I am not kidding. My hatred of these people, after many rounds of being belittled and ignored and, worst of all, treated like I am stupid, cannot be communicated. Normally I am a quiet, shy, reserved person who does not negotiate ever, but on car lots, I am a quietly deranged person acting like she's negotiating with terrorists entirely against her will.

This puts Best Beloved in the horrible position of first bargaining with the salesman and then bargaining with me. I am, of course, not there for the BB-salesman side of this, but I bet it looks like this:

BB: If you can sell it to me for [very low price], my wife probably won't punch you at all.
Salesman: We can give it to you at [higher price].
BB, grimly: I'll talk to her. Stay out of range.

[She comes and finds me, and I say NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, and stomp off ragefully to stare at hideous, hideous cars and hate the entire auto industry with all my soul. This particular time, while BB was negotiating with the salesman, I was mostly explaining to the earthling that these people are evil and cannot be trusted.]

BB: She says no. If you knocked off a thousand or so, it might be good. She's about to start setting fires with her brain out there.
Salesman: Why in god's name are you married to this lunatic?
BB: She's really very nice. Most of the time. Just, car buying makes her crazy. So, price?
Salesman: My sales manager says we can knock off five hundred!
BB, taking a deep breath: I will go ask her.

[She comes and finds me. I suggest we leave.]

This time, this process went on until the salesman reached our target price, probably largely to get angry, muttering me off his lot, and I went home and nursed the earthling and put him down for his nap and recovered my usual outlook on life. Best Beloved stayed behind and dealt with all the paperwork, which is unfortunately how things have to go when we buy cars if there aren't going to be casualties.

Because I really, really, really hate car salesmen. A lot.
giandujakissgiandujakiss on August 1st, 2009 09:31 pm (UTC)
Oy. I'm so sorry. Not borderline actionable, btw - it was actionable when the salesperson wouldn't let you test drive. You know about the Ayres experiments showing how women and POC get quoted and charged higher prices than white men when buying cars, right? It's awful.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 12:56 am (UTC)
I know about the Ayres experiments, yup. (I think about them, and about other similar studies, every time I buy a car.) I didn't realize that salesman's behavior actually was actionable, though - if I had, I would certainly have taken action, because I was just that pissed off.

Still am just that pissed off, actually. Grrrrr.
(no subject) - giandujakiss on August 2nd, 2009 12:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jonquil on August 2nd, 2009 01:53 am (UTC) (Expand)
Jonathan Toews does not want a sandwich.svmadelyn on August 1st, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Ahahah, grahhhhh. My friend had a crappy experience buying a car her first time, so the second time (after walking out on a lot in fury), she asked her (guy) friend to come along and basically be silent but tall and imposing. He had to cancel last minute, so she paid a random guy 25.00 on the street to do the same thing, and went to a different salesperson at the SAME LOT (she'd made sure the first guy wasn't working that day, so great was her loathing), and she said the negotiations were like night and day and got the price she wanted, and sent them a huge letter comparing the experiences and got...a fruit basket.

tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
A fruit basket.


You know, I should write a letter of complaint to South Bay Toyota. I would not mind a fruit basket.

(The internet and telephone shopping did help equalize the gap, though. I would recommend that in future to women who have to shop without male accompaniment.)
(no subject) - brown_betty on August 2nd, 2009 06:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - fish_echo on August 2nd, 2009 02:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 02:43 am (UTC)
"Are you writing a book report?"


Still better than dealing with car salesmen.

I agree! But then, so many things are. Like - most surgeries, for example. The new Transformers movie. Being stuck in an elevator for four hours. *sighs*
penknife: anvilpenknife on August 1st, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Cars, arrgh. I've given up on normal car dealerships and only shop CarMax, which is as unlike a car-buying experience as you can get while still coming home with a car. But there's still all that hateful paperwork.
ReginaGiraffereginagiraffe on August 1st, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
CarMax, yes! I heartily endorse them!
(no subject) - cereta on August 2nd, 2009 02:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elishavah on August 2nd, 2009 11:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 02:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
Adina: Rant - by Thermidoradina_atl on August 1st, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
That really, really sucks.

I've been lucky enough not to have that sort of trouble with car salesmen, but for some reason I tend to read as "male" to a lot of men, despite a D-cup chest. Bizarre, but it sure makes life easier. They start out with the patronizing bullshit, and then two minutes later seem to decide that I'm really a guy.
feochadn: kasumi matofeochadn on August 1st, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
I've had that exact experience (d-cup and everything, AND I'm short and blonde!). The first time I dealt with a car salesman I took my brother-in-law along, but after 30 minutes of them ignoring me (when I asked the questions) and addressing everything to him, I flipped out a bit and I think scared him (the salesman). After that I never had much of a problem -- although I make sure right away that they know I KNOW cars, can do a lot of my own mechanic work, WILL check under the hood, and if they mention color to me, I WILL hurt them.
(no subject) - ashkitty on August 2nd, 2009 03:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - azewewish on August 1st, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - jacquez on August 2nd, 2009 12:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 02:51 am (UTC) (Expand)
Blackletterblackletter on August 1st, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
The first time I tried to buy a car I backed out at the last minute due to a panic attack brought on by the whole process. I ended up buying my parents old car off of them, instead. (My parents gave me a fair Bluebook price on it and did not have to "talk to the superviser" to give me a reasonable offer.)
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
That process could give a panic attack to anyone, never mind someone who hates spending money. Yay for parents. (Do you think when car salesmen sell to their children they have to speak to their manager to get them a good price?)
joycejoyce on August 1st, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
When I finally decided it was time to start driving again (I'd lived in Seattle for several years, and then moved home to NC, to parts where the bus system often sucks; the final straw was getting classes to teach at a campus that was a 15 minute drive from our house, but a 1.5 to 2 hour bus ride) we got me a very used car off of Ebay motors. At the time, it was all that my budget would hold, and yes, we've had to fix many things since then (alternator, wheel bearings, brakes, and the honey did my struts and other suspension parts last week), but we didn't have to deal with car dealerships, and for that, I will keep fixing every blessed thing and driving my little Nissan into the ground.

Eventually, we aren't going to be able to fix her anymore, and by that point, maybe I'll be able to afford something better. At that point, I am going to be mighty tempted to fly to Jersey, where the honey's best friend is (bless his heart) a used car dealer (and a very good one), purchase a car, and drive it home, rather than go to a dealership here.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
At that point, I am going to be mighty tempted to fly to Jersey, where the honey's best friend is (bless his heart) a used car dealer (and a very good one), purchase a car, and drive it home, rather than go to a dealership here.

Well, there are other options, like CarMax, where you buy used cars over the internet, basically - no negotiation required. Lots of people like them. But the New Jersey option also sounds like a good one, frankly.
(no subject) - joyce on August 2nd, 2009 11:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
misspamelamisspamela on August 1st, 2009 09:56 pm (UTC)
UGH. How insanely sucky. I've only ever bought Saturns, whose dealerships have very, very unique policies. (No haggle, treat people with respect, free doughnuts, etc)

I will never forget when I bought my first car (At 22? I think?) and the salesman at the Toyota dealership kept talking to D and he said, very slowly, like the salesman was stupid, "SHE has the money. SHE is buying the car. I have NO IDEA why you're talking to me."

Professor Liddle-Oldmanliddle_oldman on August 1st, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
Friend of mine bought a Saturn, so I got to see the dealership in action. I had the impression that it was designed specifically to appeal to women, especially women really cheesed about the hormone-soaked BS discussed here.
(no subject) - robling_t on August 2nd, 2009 01:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - thefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
dancinguniverse: girlpowerdancinguniverse on August 1st, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
I am at the moment looking into buying my first car, and I am sort of terrified of this sort of thing. I kind of wonder if I could get up the nerve to actually say right off, "I am a woman, and I am 22. I am not a moron. Talk to me like an adult, or I will leave without even looking."

My dad is pretty sure he's going to fly out to help me pick one out, especially since he's helping pay for it, so that'll probably negate the whole woman thing, but ick. Ick, ick ick, I hate this whole thing. I would actually like to do this thing on my own, to say I could, to feel like I was doing something adult-like, but I feel like my dad would just make everything run more smoothly. I just hate the idea that he has to be there.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
You know, in all honesty, having your dad there is probably going to be a good thing. I mean, it sucks, but, yes: otherwise you will have to be a demon creature and take no bullshit. (Do your research. Know how much you should be paying. Read everything you can on edmunds.com. And shop by internet and phone as much as you can - call around, tell people what you want and what price you're willing to pay, and if you can get faxes confirming their offers. In other words, get most of your bargaining done before you ever walk on the lot. It is the only way.)
cranberryink: 0: haha! no.cranberryink on August 1st, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
I feel you on this.

treated like I am stupid

This sums up the entire hatred, fury, and indignation of the car buying process.
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
This sums up the entire hatred, fury, and indignation of the car buying process.

Yes. Entirely. I do not understand how an industry that is built on alienating and mistreating customers continues to run.
lknomadlknomad on August 1st, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
WTF you got a car with a carpool sticker!!!! That is so not fair.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
You could have gotten them, too, for what you paid for your new car. You just have to buy used. *shrugs*
busaikko on August 1st, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's just... like a circle of hell. I was rooting on you to set things on fire with your brain. Idiots! *gives you and your Best Beloved cups of tea and virtual foot massages*
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:13 am (UTC)
Car buying is totally a circle of hell. I hope all the car salesmen have to go there. Grrrrr.

*happily accepts the tea and foot massages*
Miladymilady1844 on August 1st, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
My boss just found out they're gonna have a third kid. So they needed a new car. His wife emailed all the bay area dealerships & asked for quotes on the specific car they wanted. She took the best offer, emailed the others & said, "So & so offered this, can you match it?" Of those, she took the best and did the same thing again. Once she had an offer they could deal with, they went to the dealership to pick it up. The sales person tried to convince them that they were totally & completely wrong. They sent the salesperson directly to his manager. The guy came back totally pissed off, but he gave them the price quoted.

Considering that I completely suck at barging, when it comes time to buy a car, I'm so doing this. I got railroaded the first time I bought a car from a dealership. I don't want that to happen again.
tried to eat the safe banana: Elektra is angrythefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
Rock on, boss's wife! I really do think staying out of the dealership as much as possible is the only way to go. Telephone! Fax! Email! These are the weapons at our disposal.
nestra on August 1st, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
I hate the color thing! I'm like "Look, I want an engine with good pickup and a car with a good reliability record." I've had four Accords at this point. I know how they work.
tried to eat the safe banana: Umbrella rainbowthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
Seriously, what is with the color? I am not buying a car for decorative reasons. I am buying one to go places. It goes places regardless of color!

I honestly think that they have a mental list of Things to Talk to Male Buyers About - mileage, engine, reliability record, warranty, etc. But they assume that if you talk to male buyers about those things, then obviously you can't talk to girls about them, so what's left? Uh, color. And interior, maybe?

(no subject) - lillerina on August 2nd, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Lucelucia_tanaka on August 1st, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
I have luckily not yet had to go car shopping, but this is certainly enlightening and depressing enough to make me want to never do so. 8(
tried to eat the safe banana: Emotionthefourthvine on August 2nd, 2009 04:30 am (UTC)
I advise CarMax if you're buying used and not in search of a specific vehicle; it will allow you to pay one basic price and is almost like internet shopping, really. There are also programs and services that allow you to circumvent this to some extent. If we hadn't been under a gun and looking for a very specific car, we would have gone that route.