The Gull Reef Club

6/21/2008

Used Cars: What I Understand

Filed under: — Jaime @ 1:23 am

There is so much that should have been my first clue. The 1970′s paneling in the showroom. The dealer’s lack of website. The Hawaiian shirt sported by our salesman. His over-forty-white-dude gold bling. His straight-out-of-Key-West-circa-1983 mustache. His business card in which he called himself ‘the Sheriff.’ So many warning signs. All set aside. We needed a car and we weren’t willing to rule out any place based on looks alone.

Turns out this place had a car worth a second look. In fact, after the second look, the car was alright. For the right price, of course. After appropriate research, we decided to make an offer (because as we learned in our car search, if you’re at the dealer’s place YOU have to make an offer first. They won’t make one to you). Making this offer set forth one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

Blood was in the water and the sharks started to circle. Every grossly exaggerated stereotype about the used car salesman was about to manifest itself before our very eyes. The Salesman put on a beach music radio station. Mike asked for something to drink and they didn’t even have cups for water. The Salesman had to scrounge around and settled for some coffee mugs. Somewhere along the line, as we were getting ready to sit down, he made a ‘soft’ racist remark – ‘that was mighty white of you’. Distant sirens are starting to going off in my head. We sat in torn, soiled chairs before his aluminum fabricated desk, with our coffee mugs of luke warm water. Let the fun begin.

The plan was that Mike would handle the talking portion of the negotiations. Despite my gender’s strides toward equality, I was not finding it in used cars sales haggling. It was best I kept my mouth shut and look annoyed.

Once our offer was out there (as has happened at every dealership ever) the Salesman took it to his ‘boss’. We sit and wait, likely being listened to on the speaker phone sitting on the desk. We learned later that this is actually a tactic some dealerships are willing to take to make a sale.

Side note – before the Salesman took the offer to the Bossman, he tried to get Mike to sign something. He claimed it was merely a formality (isn’t it all?) and that it said that he had set forth an offer. Mike wisely refused. Like the offer wasn’t going back to Bossman without it. Pleeeease.

The Salesman comes back with a four square form and, (as was to be expected) a significantly higher counter-offer. We refused and were ready to walk. He begged us to stay and called over the Bossman.

Bell rings. Start Round Two.

After my first glance, or more likely my first whiff, of the Bossman, my gut said, ‘this is NOT happening today. I hope this doesn’t take too long.’

Bossman was another white dude that looked like a throw back from Miami Vice. Older than the Salesman, but still in a Hawaiian shirt and gold bling. Bossman came complete with a diamond pinkie ring. The most overwhelming part was that he reeked of alcohol. In retrospect, I should have just said something about that and walked. In what can only be described as a semi-masochistic moment, I became painfully curious to see what would happen, and I knew without a doubt we would not be buying a car that day, so I kept quiet.

Bossman proceeds to explain to us that the type of car we wanted was a hot commodity right now and they were expensive to get at auction, yadda, yadda. Mind you, the entire time Bossman is talking he NEVER looks at me. He is looking and talking only to Mike. A third guy comes over, yes – also in Miami Vice attire, gold bling, and a shock of white hair in a gelled up hedgehog spike. He is introduced as their auction man. He is somehow supposed to convince us of the veracity of the ‘expensive auctions’ line Bossman is trying to feed us.

Either Hedgehog or Bossman produces some sort of auction receipt for a completely different car than the one over which we were negotiating. Mike calls BS immediately and says he wants to see the one for the car we were discussing. Salesman, who had disappeared from the desk but was still buzzing about the office, suddenly appears, clearly on queue, with the ‘auction receipt.’

Bossman lays the receipt down on the desk for Mike to inspect. I lean in to get a look. Loud sirens go off. If there is one thing in this world that I know, it’s contracts. Legally binding contracts, such as receipts. I knew without a doubt, without even closer inspection, that what I was looking at was a forgery. Some things are just. so. obvious. I sensed Mike knew too.

I’ve now moved from curiosity to true annoyance. Don’t lie to me. Or at least don’t let me catch you lying to me. The countenance of annoyance I had been artificially sporting had become real. Bossman picked up this and says to me in a very fatherly, patronizing voice, “I sure wish you would smile.”

In an instant, I stood up and roared, “F*&^ YOU!” …in my head. In reality, I tersely commented, “I don’t really have a reason to smile right now,” as I flashed him a sarcastic, condescending smile.

Bossman has the nerve to say in an even more fatherly, patronizing voice than before – seriously dripping with syrup and honey – Is it because you don’t understand?

Now instead of sirens, it’s those submarine warning blares going off in my head. BAIL! BAIL! Surreality has truly set in. He did not really say that did he? Yes. Yes, he did and I had to respond.

“Oh, I understand quite well what’s going on here.” I am really trying not to laugh now or show my shock. In my adult life, I’ve never been talked to like this before. This guy is completely underestimating me and his cluelessness is just that hilarious.

Somehow my comment pissed him off. He replied very sarcastically, very biting, “You do? What is it you understand?

Now I do let loose a small chuckle, or at least a genuine smile, and reply, “I understand you got ripped off at auction if that really was your price.” He quickly changes course and tries to go with an emotion route. He starts whining about gas prices and government regulation. It didn’t go much farther after this.

Mike made a few final jabs to assure them that no sale would be made that night. We quickly wrapped things up and left. It was over. We went home and washed ourselves thoroughly.

***

It’s one week and almost two days later. The salesman is still calling us and leaving us messages. He’s still trying to offer us the car – the car that was such a hot commodity, mind you – for the same price we left on the shabby aluminum desk.

We now own a new car. I am very pleased with our purchase.

Good luck, Sheriff.

7 Responses to “Used Cars: What I Understand”

  1. Lance says:

    In spite of your discomfort in this experience, it was certainly amusing to read. I thought you handled yourself quite well, purty lady. ;)

  2. Mike says:

    A couple of minor things left out or that merit more details…

    - When they were trying to move us on price, two of the three were standing, leaning right over us. Obviously, this is an intimidation tactic meant to pressure you into making a decision that you would not make under normal circumstances.

    - When we were looking at the “auction receipt” for the car, the initial salesman, who had just walked in with the supposed receipt said, “…and I didn’t fabricate it or anything,” to which bossman says with a hand wave, “oh, just be quiet,” motioning him away. Seems like an odd thing to say.

    - When we made our first offer, and after the salesman took it to his boss (to whom he had earlier referred as the owner) the salesman came back. He said the boss had to call his boss to talk about the price on the car. The salesman said, “I’ll call him myself.” He picked up the phone, pressed a button or two, looked to the glass cage where his boss was and said, “Oh, he’s calling now.” He then hung up the phone, got up, and went in the room with the boss. This, in all likelihood, was the salesman putting the intercom system on so that he and his boss could hear what Jaime and I were saying. We figured that we were being monitored at all times inside any dealership, and so our conversation was basically, “they won’t like our offer, they didn’t pay any more than $5,500 for this car, their $10,900 price is insane, we won’t pay more than our initial low-ball offer, repeat, repeat, repeat.” We weren’t giving them any advantage they didn’t deserve.

    Oh, by the way, our top price was $7,000. They paid no more than $5,500 for the car. We offered $6,000, hoping they’d come back with $7,000, allowing us to meet in the middle at $6,500. They’d get a good profit, and we’d get a good car. Their bottom offer was $8,000. Even countering with $7,000, we couldn’t get them down a penny below $8,000. When this guys calls– and it’s basically every day since we turned down their offer a week and a half ago– his price is still $8,000. Yeah, right. Should have sold it at $6,500 and made $1,000. As it stands, they made nothing, and we bought a brand new car for twice the price, and that dealer made half the profit of what these used car salesmen would have made.

    - I don’t remember any parting jabs on my part. Care to refresh me, Jaim? :P

    Mike

  3. Jaime says:

    I’m glad I could amuse you, Lance, during your recovery. Hope that made you feel a wee bit better. How are you doing?

    Mike, thanks for the missed points. They certainly help set the mood. There is no way, though, that I wrapped up the conversation before we left the dealer. I know your last lines included repetitions of how much the car was worth and that we wouldn’t pay more.

    So, did the Sheriff call us again today?

  4. Mike says:

    Hell no he didn’t call us today.

    He was probably too busy selling cars. They’re fetching premium prices, you know. ;)

    Mike

  5. Dayna says:

    Ha! I missed this part of your blog before. I envy your assertiveness, and now I’m just marking time until I can meet up with someone as condescending as that boozehound salesman and just let the insults fly.

    I’d do it to my current boss, now that I’ve given notice, but I am still a slave to the “reference” and therefore can’t burn my bridges.

    But you! You go, girl!

  6. moif says:

    Good story. I loved the little details. Sounds like you’ve had a pleasant victory

  7. Jaime says:

    Good to hear from you Dayna & moif. The story is hilarious…now. Not as much live and in person. Despite the strides my gender has made in this country, there are still sometimes I am stunned at how backwards/backwoods some people remain. In this case, though, it was truly their loss.

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