Monday, July 16, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Car Dealer

I rashly purchased an outrageously fast car this weekend.  Psychologists would say I am trying to fill an internal void.  They are, of course, correct, but I also like to drive really fucking fast.  It’s not my fault.  After awhile, those incessant car ads do the trick and you can’t help but think to yourself, “You know… Maybe I would be much happier driving that car with all those options…  Happiness and fulfillment is but one car payment away.”   The good news for me is I watch a lot of baseball on TV, so I saw car ads.  Had I been watching cooking shows, I would probably be crowing about my new Viking range with six burners.  “You shoulda seen this paella I made last night!”

The car buying experience is one that is unique in America.  There is no other industry where you would put up with the nonsense that you do with the auto industry.  The dealership is made up of a group of men (with a few women) that are unabashedly trying to rip you off.  Then they laugh about it later.  In your face. 

I have always thought it was pretty hilarious how car salesmen strut around the dealerships like they are a more evolved breed.  They size you up as you walk in, looking down at you as they finish up their smoke resplendent in their short sleeve dress shirts.  However, when you get down to it, how are these guys any different than the punk kids that are walking around Best Buy in blue polo shirts?  It’s all retail.  Washing machine or a Ford Focus?  They are both just machines you are buying at a store.  If you don’t walk in to that store, car sales guy has very little recourse.  He’s gotta get you in there to do “The Dance”. 

Why the car sales business has not evolved further than it has is very confusing.  The usual car buying experience goes like this…  Customer walks into the dealership wanting to buy a new car.  The sales guy comes up with a flimsy excuse to make a copy of the customer’s license and then looks at his trade in.  The negotiation opens with the sales guy asking how much a month the customer wants to pay, and casually offering several thousand dollars below wholesale value on the customer’s current car.  The customer focuses on the price of the new car, and at some point the sales guy asks “If I can get my manager to agree to your price, do we have a deal right now?”  The sales guy disappears into a back office, allegedly meeting with this shadowy unseen manager, and emerges several harrowing minutes later with a price juuuuussssttttt short of the deal the customer wanted.  The customer, stressed out of their mind, takes the deal.  He knows he got screwed, he’s just not sure where.  The customer will drive away with a 70 month loan for $419 a month on a car that will be virtually worthless in 48 months.  He will later brag to all his friends “I got a pretty good deal”.  Meanwhile, the car sales guy is slapping high fives with the other smokers in the parking lot, having made $3500 on the trade side and $2500 on the new car side.   

Would you put up with that bullshit at Best Buy?  “Sir, I can tell you are interested in that TV.  Let me ask you…  How much a month do you want to pay?”  Here’s an idea.  Tell me how much that TV really costs, and then I can figure out if I can afford it.  Why do I have to be an Arab Horse Trader just to figure out if I can actually afford the product I want?  Do I need to have an attorney present at all purchases above $500?  Can’t we just make this thing easy? 

As Americans, we like the car dealer culture.  It’s the only explanation.  We like having salespeople tell us with a straight face that our car is worth $4000 less than what an industry website tells us it is worth.  We like being lied to.  We like being duped into buying needless warranty coverage.  We like the idea of a place that sells cars selling us a little life insurance on the side.  We like the idea that if a dealership spends the money to put up a giant tent, then certainly they must also be discounting prices even further to lose even more money via a “tent sale”.  We like that a dealer with a giant inflatable Uncle Sam on the roof must be a good place to spend tens of thousands of dollars.  We like the fact that the whole buying experience is a chess game where the home team has a decided edge.  We just like it. 

So as I drive my new little slice of The American Dream, I want you to remember one thing.  

I got a good deal.


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