Sunday, July 19, 2009

Car Shopping With Betty n' HOB

Betty's a practical gal and a follower of the drive-it-until-the-wheels-fall-off philosophy of car ownership. While you would be correct to assume she does this for environmental and economical reasons, you would also show an astute knowledge of Betty's Pet Peeves to assume the main advantage of this philosophy is it keeps Betty out of car dealerships and away from car salespeople.

In the past, most of our car purchases have been exhausting, drawn-out, confusing processes in which we have emerged, overwhelmed, drained, feeling as though our very souls have been processed and packaged like sardines in little oval cans.

All the stars aligned around our household, however, and it became necessary to go car shopping, so HOB and I did what we do best: avoided it for as long as we could by doing research on the Internet. By the time we entered the doors of the dealership, we had a lot of facts and figures in out heads and I had a little notebook in my purse with notes about the different makes and models we wanted to explore.

We were armed, as much as possible, for the gruesome battle ahead.

Our journey started one evening when we drove to the Volkswagen dealership. We steeled ourselves inside the car before getting out. We knew what was coming and we vowed to be firm and not to be reduced to jelly by the relentless verbal machinations of the car salesman/vicious shark. NO! This time WE would be the ones processing the sardines, thank you very much.

We walked up to the door of the car dealership and noticed a man in his late 50's standing by the door. He had the air of a gentleman who had just arisen from his easy chair and had stepped out to enjoy the fine evening air before preparing to drink his warm milk and go to bed.

As we were entering the doors, he seemed to slowly withdraw from his reverie and introduced himself, by his first name. I noticed he was wearing a polo shirt with the dealership's logo, so I told him we were looking for the Jetta TDI diesel. He nodded and squinted across the lot for a long moment. We turned our heads in the direction he was looking, seeing nothing but the tops of cars.

Time passed.

Finally he spoke.

"Oh," he said. "You know, I think we might have one of those, but it's sold."

"Oh," we said.

Nodding again. Silence and then... "There's a couple coming in from Fresno for that car tomorrow."

We nodded back.

Silence. Looking at the sky, then over the tops of the cars again.

It was a little like a scene from an episode of the Andy Griffith Show after everyone has had one of Aunt Bee's huge Sunday dinners and is relaxing on the porch planning a big trip later down to the gas station to get a bottle of pop.

Silence. Nodding.

"Well, OK!" I brightly said, breaking the silence. We turned to go.

"I could let you sit in it, if you wanted to."

We stopped and turned back. "OK," we said.

He went in to get the keys.

We were set to walk across the lot with him, bantering about cars, using some of the lingo we had picked up in our Internet research. Instead he directed us to the car by pointing across the lot. "It's over there. You just keep walking for a bit and you'll see it."

We went. We sat in it. I made notes in my notebook. We were done. We wandered by Jettas but they were all locked up and there were no salespeople in sight. We went back up to find our "salesman" sitting in his office, leaning back in his chair, calmly waiting.

I thought about it before we entered the office again. Perhaps this sly man was a car-selling genius. These cars were in short supply. People were paying top dollar for them. Perhaps his tactics would work. Perhaps we had been lured in, expertly psychologically prepared, lambs to the slaughter. Oh yes, I thought as watching him apparently studying a spot on the wall. He knew exactly what he was doing. This is when we'd get the sales pitch, the offers, the promises, the tantalizing facts that would push us to order. NOW! Tonight! He'd use his verbal weaponry to reduced us to signing-on-the-dotted line fools.

"You ever thought about the Prius?" was the first thing he asked.

HOB asked if he had ever driven one.

"Nope. But a lot of people like 'em."

More nodding and more silence. We had thought about asking if he could actually unlock a regular Jetta for us, but we didn't really want to bother him any further, so we left.

Tomorrow: We go Honda shopping.

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