tried to eat the safe banana (thefourthvine) wrote,
tried to eat the safe banana

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 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.
Tags: [miscellaneous], [rant]
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