Trying to Buy: part 1

Did you know that there are many, many spellings for shyster?  That right there tells me that there are too many unscrupulous business people out there, maybe especially in sales.  “Sales” does not have to mean slimy.  Salespeople are not all liars, tying to trick you.  Sales can be about helping everyone get what they want and need.  That’s how I try to do things anyway.  I’ve been in sales since 2000, and I always try to do the Right Thing.  I know there are more out there like me.  But I’m trying to buy a car.  This means I will be face to face with the infamous figure, perhaps a shadow archetype–The Car Salesman.

My poor trusty 2001 Kia Sportage.

It started up for me every time (except the Cat and Vulture day, but that is another car-related post) and really never caused any trouble.  I have put 70,000 miles on it over the last two years, in my YarnSuperhero travels, and the Sportage is about done.  We bought it after renting one on a trip, and when I found one slightly used, it was the most I had spent on a car up to that point, but I felt like I got a pretty good deal.  It’s been paid off for several years–I love the absence of a car payment and wanted the Sportage to last forever.  Now, though, the gas mileage is pretty bad, I don’t really need an SUV, and repairs are getting more frequent and more serious…and more expensive.  So my husband and I “ran the numbers” and found that I would save money if I could get a newer, more reliable car with more reasonable fuel costs.  Now, to look for a car.  It had been a little while.  Kind of exciting, but kind of a chore, and really, kind of scary.  Is it really possible to get a fair deal when you purchase a car?    I’m finding the whole process fascinating, although not really in a good way.  So, here it is on the blog, what’s happened so far and the eventual outcome, which right now, no one knows.  How exciting!

Here’s how this works in my family.  Keith does the home work and I do the legwork.  Keith has not accompanied me to a car dealership since 1997 when we bought a new VW Golf.  I do not do so well with a lot of details, but I do actually like the “belly to belly” negotiation stage.  It’s a little thrilling.  Keith likes to have a very solid, and well-reasoned plan before he does anything.  I like to think of an idea and start doing it about one second later.  Keith seems to like to be able to predict outcomes as much as possible, and he’s quite good at it.  I like to see how things unfold.  Hmm.  Probably when it comes to a thousands-of-dollars decision, better to let him take the reins on this one.

I did manage to do a cursory bit of internet research and found I had a few choices that worked as far as price range, cargo space, gas mileage, and reliability.  We looked at used vehicles first, but then I learned that there were a couple cars in my range that I could get new, and then I would have the full factory warantee and would know exactly what I was getting.

Dealership One:

This place is nearest to my house and I had taken the Sportage there for service a few times and always felt like I was treated well and fairly.  They even have a shuttle van that would drop me at home or at happy hour at my local Belgian beer place.  My husband and I had met the owner of the dealership once or twice, and he seemed like a good enough guy.

Monday I sat down with Mike, the sales guy.  This was still when I was thinking pre-owned was the way I would go.  Mike was actually the person who suggested we think about a new car, and told me that he thought the base model Kia Soul would be a good fit for my needs.

I was happy to know that my credit is excellent and we worked up a deal that I thought was pretty good.  A note about me:  I always expect the best of people, and I believe that if I am straight with them, they will be straight with me.  I know this is naive, but even if I could change this about myself, I wouldn’t want to.  Also, I am very optimistic.  A friend once told me I was not a glass half-full kind of person, I was an overflowing glass person.  Sometimes I wonder if I annoy people by always looking for the bright side.  And also, I don’t like things to take very long.  Once I decide what I want, I want it to be mine already.   So, since I did not have my Sportage with me to trade (kind of a precautionary measure, so I did not do anything too hastily, without covering all of my bases) I went home and ran it by Keith.  A note about Keith:  He is not very optimistic.  He has told me more than once that people are all out to screw you over.  And he loves to weigh out every detail of everything in a very analytical, black and white way.  I guess you could say we balance each other out.

When I got home and outlined my deal to Keith, he hopped online and informed me that Kia was offering 1.9% financing for well-qualified buyers, and that I should have a Kia Loyalty bonus of $750, should get about $1500-$2000 for my trade, and any other incentives.  That’s not what my deal was.  Mike had offered me $1000 for my trade (now, he had not seen the Sportage, but at 160,000 miles, seeing it was probably not going to make it better!  Still, that was low,) and was giving me 3.9% on the financing.  He was giving me  the loyalty bonus of $750 and another rebate of $500.  I had not asked for anything off of the sticker price.  Once Keith told me what the number should have been, it did not sound like such a good deal.  Plus there was no base model Soul on the lot, and it wasn’t expected in until around Aug 4, and I didn’t find out the color.  Told you I’m not so good with the details.  Keith wanted me to look at other dealerships, and he found that there was a silver base model Soul being advertised as in stock at Dealership 2.

Dealership 2:

This place is not too far away from home, although less convenient for service.  I felt a little bit bad for Mike (after all, when I sold payroll services and felt like I had done my best to try to help someone, I never liked it when they shopped my price around, especially if I lost the deal,) so I called him and told him what Keith had found out and that I was going to look around.  He sounded mildly perturbed and explained to me that if I took the 1.9% financing, I would not get the $500 rebate.  But he had not even told me about the 1.9% financing, so he had lost a little of my trust.  Keith showed me some wonderful online car financing calculators, and made sure I knew what to ask for.

Once armed with Keith’s notes, I called and got Tom at Dealership 2.  Even on the phone, I was not so comfortable with Tom.  I told him I was interested in the silver base Soul and that I had a pretty detailed idea of what kind of a deal I would need for us to easily do business. He kept talking over me, kind of fast, and kept saying he would do whatever it took to give me the deal I needed, but I should come on in and bring my Sportage.  He said he was off the next day but he would be there until 9 that evening.  It was around 6:30 so I decided to go see him. I felt pretty hopeful that I would be driving home in my new car.

A few minutes down the road, I called him to tell him I was on my way, and he told me that the silver car had just been sold.  What?!  Sounded kinda fishy.  I told him I was not sure if I should still come up but he said we could agree on figures, at least.  Fine.  As I neared the exit, Tom called me back, and said that he had a Soul Plus coming in the next day, black, and he thought it was a better deal for me with all of the additional features, even though the price was a couple thousand higher.  I started to feel like I had touched something slimy, but I kept on.  I tried to call Keith to tell him all of this ridiculousness, but he did not pick up.  When I got there, I asked some salesmen if they could tell me how to find Tom.  They said Tom J or Tom D?  I said I did not remember, and they asked if my Tom was a rather “spirited individual?”  Yes, he was, and that meant my Tom was Tom D.

In talking with Tom, I finally relented to getting a price on the Soul Plus.  He said it would be in the next day, and they did not know when they would get in another base model–it could be 10 weeks if they needed to order one.  Oh boy.  He asked if I would be willing to share Keith’s notes on the deal’s numbers and I said sure, if you can do this then we are all set.  Typically, he took the paper to his manager in the other room, then came back and showed it to me, and even let me copy down the figures to share with Keith, saying he really was not allowed to do that, but for me…  Although they said they did what I wanted with the trade value, rebates, loyalty incentive, and downpayment, the monthly payment number did not come out as low as it should have.  I questioned this and they told me it was because they used a computer.  Really?  Tom also said things like he “was there for me,” “he worked for me, not for these guys” (the dealership,) and even said there was “nothing up his sleeve.” It was easy to test the veracity of this statement, as Tom was rocking the short sleeve dress shirt and cheap tie classic sales guy look.  He also told me he made $100 on any car he sold, no matter what, and he did a marginally offensive impression of a Korean company executive.  Good times.

I gave them a small deposit check and filled out the credit app, with instructions not to do anything with either until they heard back from me by phone, since I needed to discuss with Keith again.  Mysteriously, I was now leaning towards a preference for the Kia Plus.  At least Tom had done one part of his job well.  And I did not want them to sell it out from under me, as I felt had happened with the silver car I had seen on the internet–the Bait, if you will.  The black Soul Plus was supposed to be in on Tuesday.  It’s now Thursday and there is apparently no car for me, and I have had to call 3 times to get any updates.  Very poor follow up on their part. And I am not feeling the same friendly “I’m here for you” vibe from Tom or from his manager.  Thanks to the car payment calculator, Keith was able to figure out that although they said they were giving me $1400-$1800 for my trade, when they actually did the math, they did it as if they were giving me ZERO for my trade.  Unlike people, numbers don’t lie.  Here’s what I am wondering.  Is this a normal tactic?  When they say, yes we will do this, and then do not do it at all, is that seriously how they want to be in the world?  It’s like if I told my customer she was buying so much yarn at $10 a skein, but then when I wrote the order 5 minutes later, I wrote it up for $12.75 a skein, and expected to get away with it.  Was Tom really taking his day off on Tuesday? If people do not have access to online calculators, are they saying yes to bad deals that are taking advantage of their trusting nature or lack of information?  Where is the black car?  Did they get it in Tuesday and sell it to someone else, even though they said my deposit gave me right of first refusal?  Is that legal?  Does this happen to everyone, or am I getting “special” treatment for being a woman?

When I called Tom last night, he said his manager must have made a mistake on the numbers because he’s new.  The manager had told me that he forgot to account for my downpayment, but I know that is not true and I know from the numbers exactly what they did and didn’t do.  I told Tom that I was not sure I could believe anything they were telling me, and I did not feel good about doing business that way.  I had to yell at him a little bit and tell him to stop interrupting me in the middle of my sentence, that it was nice to take turns and I was surprised he didn’t know that.   It felt good to listen to the little bit of silence that followed.  Is Facing The Shadow helping me find my strength a little bit? I’m looking for the bright side, and feel that every situation can teach me something.  I will be interested to see how the rest of this saga unfolds.  Right now I’m waiting for a call back from Mike, and from Tom.

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6 thoughts on “Trying to Buy: part 1

  1. Oh my Andrea! Car buying is a horrible experience. I would not wish that on anyone. We had to buy a car last summer after we unexpectantly lost our car in a flood. It was a decent buying experience, but we did not have a trade in. I wish you the best of luck! It is really hard to get a good deal.

  2. Reminds me of my last car purchase, when the numbers on the contract did not match what I had asked for and been promised………..I tore up the contract and the salesguy had to do it all over.

    • He does not. I am such a pain in his rear now, and I kind of just want to mess with him… am toying with the idea of putting full names in my post. We’ll see how frisky I’m feeling once this all plays out.

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