As I write this, it's been about a week since I've been to a car dealership. Not to pick up a box of overpriced parts, commit a series of eco-crimes, or even to scam my way into an Aston Martin test drive. No, I was there to buy a car. Or, to be more specific, help buy a car. Yes, the illustrious staff of Sport Compact Car does brown-bag it and buy cars just like everyone else. But this story isn't about a purchase I made.
A friend of mine recently drove his 15-year old Honda Accord into the ground. And when I say drove it into the ground, I mean utterly destroyed it. The car had 240,000 miles, irregular oil changes, zero other fluids or belt changes, half a rear bumper, a grayish-brown exterior scheme that was originally white paint, a smoker's interior, and significant front crash damage. The only reason he even decided to buy a car is because the Accord refused to start up and just about puked all its guts onto the garage floor. It had been reduced to a $500 scrap heap that the local junkyard had to trailer away. The joke was on them, though, not even the tires were salvageable.
Figuring he'd spend another 15 years locked away in his next car, he decided to buy a new one-a nice luxury model that nobody had the chance to taint yet. Hitting the books, he was as informed as a consumer could be. He knew the car he wanted, the MSRP price, the invoice price, the dealer holdback, how close the next model year would arrive, and preceded with obtaining multiple dealership quotes. Here's where the cut-throat business of selling cars reared its ugly head.
After receiving about 10 to 15 calls a day from hungry sales staff, he slowly cut down his list and visited the dealership that harassed him the least. It wasn't the closest establishment, not by a long shot, but it did have an 'AAA' rating from the Better Business Bureau. I can't name the dealership, car brand, or address due to liability concerns, but if you have some sort of telepathic power, read my mind. To make it easier, I'll even think about it really hard.
Negotiations go well enough, with just about as much tension and as many lies as you would normally expect during the process. The snake-oil salesman finally caves in and agrees to a few thousand dollars off the MSRP price, throws in a set of wheel locks and splashguards and offers all-weather floor mats for an extra $60. Because my friend had not brought a checkbook or cashier's check with him, we leave and are sure to get all terms written down on paper, with signatures.
The following day, money changes hands and the car is finally delivered-except for a few things. Namely, all the accessories. Excuses range from "you're not entitled to any of that" to "we can only do the mats for that price and have to leave out the rest" even after we reveal the contract with signatures. And my personal favorite: "we're here to serve you and clear up this misunderstanding" after again being faced with our signed document and the logic of why would we take up their offer and pay an extra $60 for less items.
We have to leave the car in Satan's hands for a day to get all the items installed, but I receive a full tank of gas for shuttling my friend back and forth. Everything seems mildly OK, except the porter tries to fill my car with cheap gas, as ordered by the sales manager-despite the fact that, a mere five minutes earlier, he assured me premium unleaded for my Evo. It's a damn good thing I don't let morons drive my car, and also that I went with the slack-jawed service tech to the gas station.
The entire experience is over now, but I can't help thinking if there's something else wrong with this situation. Maybe the wheels are dummy models fashioned from papier mach, or the exhaust was swapped for PVC tubing and then put on eBay-I have no idea. The biggest concern I have is the undeniable fact that this difficult experience is all too common. People really do dread going to buy a car. It takes a lot of time, it can be very confusing, and it's usually never fun. Plus, after you buy the damn thing, getting warranty work done is even more difficult if you've modified it. There has to be something we can do about this-maybe sell cars in separate packages, like Hot Wheels? Make mine a retro dragster toilet-car, please.