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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Buying Cars

After a GREAT time in Tampa - thanks so much to Inkwood Books and my own dear, sweet sister Helen - I return to Atlanta to take up the onerous burden of two car purchases.
After the first leg of the Pink Gator tour, our Mountaineer decided to throw its transmission.  Then, during the Georgia leg, the Taurus, perhaps feeling jealous of the attention the Mountaineer was getting, decided to do the same.  It is a long story, but repairs on these two machines have yielded naught but a certain diminishment in the Martin bank account.  Hence, we are cutting our losses and getting new vehicles.
To be fair, the Taurus and Mountaineer have both put in good service - each had logged in over 140,000 miles; Nancy and I tend to hold onto cars once we get them.  Bear in mind, that the distance to the moon is only 250,000 miles.  This means if we'd driven the Taurus straight up from the surface of the earth until it gave out completely, then switched over to the Mountaineer, we'd have reached the moon, and come back about 40,000 miles toward the earth again before the Mountaineer likewise conked out.  Of course, this is only a hypothetical example and not possible with actual cars.  The Taurus didn't even have four-wheel drive.
As much as I despise buying cars, the truth is Nancy and I are pretty good at it.  Nancy's attitude is that leather seats, anti-lock breaks, sunroofs, powertrain warranties, excellent gas mileage and consumer ratings, low mileage, and a good car-fax report are things any reasonable customer is entitled to.  That a dealer actually expects money strikes her as an affront to human decency and possibly a mortal sin.  I adopt the "gaw-lee" "aw shucks" pose.  Be it said, this is not entirely a pose.  I'll make an offer shamefaced, knowing full-well it's too low, but stammer in my hayseed way it's the best I can do.  The salesman smiles condescendingly and shakes his head more in pity than resentment, and I slump in my chair.
"Aw shucks, I am so sorry -" and I really am sorry "- I hate to waste your time.  I apologize."  And I get up to leave so the salesman can get back to an actual viable customer.  At this point the salesman stays me with a gesture.  Wait a minute.  Let him talk to his manager.  He comes back a short time later with a better figure, but still not the one I'd named.  I am so grateful for his efforts on my behalf. 
"Gaw-lee," I murmur at his generosity.  I have just fallen off the turnip truck and had no idea city folks were so helpful.  But I still can't do it.  I'm nearly crying now at how hard he's worked for my unworthy self.  I'll leave right now and get out of his hair.  But no.  Wait one more time.  He comes back with another offer.  This might go on any number of exchanges.  Each time I'm sincerely ready to leave, and on many occaisions, I have left.  I never get quite the price I was aiming for, and after I sign the contract there's always a few extra surprises.  It turns out there's a delivery fee or something.  Delivery fee?  Hell, I'm just walking across the parking lot to get it.
One of our most successful car-buying experiences was when Nancy was pregnant with Catherine, our oldest daughter.  We had already sent the salesman back several times, and he'd plyed us with cokes to keep us in our seats, finally I said sadly, "I'm sorry, I am so sorry.  We just can't do it.  We have to be careful with our money."  At this moment I lay my hand on Nancy's pregnant belly.  He went back to his manager, and came back with the price we wanted.  I feel mingled pride and shame about that - touching her belly really was over the top, but it worked like a charm.  Then when we told him we had a trade-in after all - during the negotions we'd claimed we were keeping our other car - his face fell like a soufle in an earthquake.  I believe he later left the car business.  Last I heard he'd gotten a high-powered rifle and was shooting at motorists from an overpass.
The other best negotiation was with my daughter Spencer.  Spencer not only feels cars should be free, but can't see any reason why customers aren't paid a little something for the effort of taking one.  We'd found an Acura that really was a good deal, and spent the better part of an afternoon trying to make it a better one.  Finally, the salesperson said he'd done all he could do.  We got up to leave.  He didn't stop us.  We drove down the road a piece, and Spencer asked if she'd made the right decision.  I may have briefly lost control of the steering at this point.  Spencer's asking my advice is akin to spotting Big Foot sharing a latte with the Loch Ness Monster at Starbucks.  We pulled over and discussed the deal.  It seemed to me we weren't likely to find anything better.  We agreed to go back and make one more offer.
We drove back and gave the salesman our final price.  He smiled and shook his head.  No dice.  "Gaw-lee," I said.  I may have thrown in an "aw shucks" for good measure.  We were so sorry to have wasted so much of his time, and then to come back and waste even more was inexcusable.  Please accept our apologies.  We left - oh, well, there were other places to look - but just as we were backing out of the lot, the salesman came running out and waved us down.  He met our price.
Well, almost.  We did have to pay a delivery fee or something.
Still.  Damn.
Spencer won't be with me today, which is maybe just as well.  My nerves can't take the sort of brinksmanship she plays.  Maybe we'll just stuff a pillow under Nancy's blouse.
"Shucks, Mr. Salesman.  We got to be careful with our money."

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