Fun and Games with Used Car Sales
“The 93 Mercury Villager, it’s the van that drives like a car” the advertisements of the day stated, but ours had seen better days and now drove more like a wreck. On days that were below freezing you could smell gasoline until it warmed up, the needle that indicated which gear you were in was stuck on park, and the transmission made funny sounds backing up. The seats of the old van had a special coating of spilled milk and ground in Skittles. It had been a reliable kid bus but it was time to replaces this worn out old workhorse.
Marge, my mother-in-law passed away last year, a fun lady that had devoted friends. I feel fortunate to have had her as my wife’s mom, we didn’t always see eye to eye but she always accepted me as her own and I could make her laugh. She lived in Las Vegas the city that never sleeps; she enjoyed the endless buffets, slot machines, and bingo. Marge liked to smoke and she left us her car.
My wife drove the two year old Hyundai Accent on a thousand mile, two day trip mostly through the desert from Las Vegas to Eugene Oregon, and the car arrived with 4300 miles on it. It had hardly been driven and was in brand new shape. It would take a couple months to do get the paperwork processed to get the title transferred and to get new plates, and I needed that time. You see although the car was in perfect –as new- shape it smelled like an overflowing ash tray. Marge hardly drove it, but when she did it she spend some quality time puffing away. So I started the cleaning process by scrubbing every inside surface of the car with deodorizing cleaners, spraying it down with Febreze, throwing away the over flowing ashtray I found under the front seat, then sliding dryer sheets under it. I had to admit it did smell better albeit a bit strange.
Well a two door compact car isn’t what my family needed, what we needed was a new and improved minivan. So one day in my quest to find a new vehicle I stopped in to talk to the Hertz used car sales guys. The Hertz rental company sells their cars after they get a certain number of miles on them, and I figured Hertz being an upscale sort of rental company they surely took care of their fleet. So I figured maybe I had a better than average chance at getting a decent ride. The visit was purely informational on my part and I had the boys in tow, but the sales people had other plans. Like vultures sitting on a telephone pole they watched their next victim drive in.
Now I’ve spent some time in sales and I know the moves when I see them, I was prepared with printouts of the blue book value of our -strange smelling- little Hyundai Accent, and I figured it was worth on the high end of trade in value for a car of its kind because of the low mileage, about $9300. The sale guy of course zeroed in on the low –in messed up shape- value that was printed on the page.
“Sure we could give you $6300 as a trade in,” he said. I blew off his low ball attempt to see if I was a sucker, and asked to see a few minivans.
I didn’t see anything on the lot I liked, well maybe a Mazda 5, but it was probably too small, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Dodge Caravan. I had to talk with my wife so I thanked our host and started to leave.
“We have easy financing with many lender,” the sales guy states.
I wrinkled my nose and said to him “We’ll be paying cash and I don’t want a lone.”
“Oh good, that’s fortunate for you. Hold on a minute,” he says, and runs into the building.
I guess he must have realized he was not the man for the job so he called out… a manager. Out comes a short young man and I could tell that he was a bit more sharp than the last guy. I have a little chat with him (we’ll call him Sales Boss Dude) and he tells me that they are having a sale this weekend and that Saturday might be a good time to check back in. I told him that I would take note of it, said “bye bye”, then promptly drove home and listed our little car on Craigslist.
Saturday rolled around like any other Saturday, I had no bites on the little car yet, but our old van hadn’t exploded so I wasn’t in any great hurry. But low and behold I get a call on my cell phone. Who is it? Well it’s Sales Boss Dude from the Hertz lot, he must have gotten my number off the advertisement and recognized the car that I described to them.
“I saw your add on Craigslist,” he says.
“If I could give you the price you’re asking on Craigslist as a trade in, would you be interested in one of our cars?”
“As I had mentioned the other day, today we’re having our big sale,” He said as if offering me something special.
I thought for a moment and said “Ok, let me check out your website and see if there is something I would be interested in, I’ll get back to you if I find something I want.”
After scanning their website I did indeed find a minivan, a white 1998 Hyundai Entourage that would be perfect for hauling around our entourage. It was located at their Portland lot and I wondered if it was on sale too. I showed my wife the minivan, and we talked about it, then we decided that if it checked out we would buy it. So I donned my armor and prepared to battle Sales Boss Dude at Hertz, it would be an epic battle and failure was not an option, my entourage was counting on me. You see I only deal with car sales people alone as to not give them any extra leverage, they would use every trick in the book, and I needed to be in the zone. It was game on my friends, it was Game On!
I didn’t drive the -now only strange smelling- little car to the car dealership yet, it was my ace in the hole and I wasn’t ready to play it. As I parked my Chevy Blazer in a spot right outside of the sales teams windows I could see them coming. Sales Boss Dude greeted me with “Where is the little car?”
I dismissively told him “I don’t want to put any miles on it and left it at home,” and that seemed to drop the subject so then I cut to the case, I showed him a print out of a Hyundai Entourage that they had at their Portland lot. He said “Come on into my office,” I could feel a disturbance in the force, and I knew the fun was about to begin.
We sat at a desk near a window in the dealership; it wasn’t his desk he told me, and displayed were photos of a couple and their children. I’m not sure why we were not at his desk, was it a ploy? I did not know. There was a convertible Shelby Camaro sitting in the middle of the room, it was a cool looking sports car and I was wondering how they got it in there. Sales Boss Dude typed away at the computer screen in front of him, apparently the minivan that I was interested in was already on sale and the price wouldn’t go down any further (of course).
He ran off into the other room for a moment and came back with a sheet of paper, on the paper was the price for the minivan, various small charges, and an offer for the –sort of smelly- little car as a trade in. $6300 was on the sheet as a trade in offer. I was taken aback, “Does this guy think I’m an idiot” I thought to myself.
I then said to him “You called me on the phone and said you would give me the price I was selling it for on Craigslist!”
He quickly replied “I said on the phone, what if I could give you the same price as you were selling it on Craigslist.”
I started pushing my chair away from the desk to leave, and I was going leave in a huff.
“Wait right there,” he said getting out of his chair.
“I had to try,” he said as he rushed into the next room.
At this point I’m just a little annoyed, but I spend the time to come here and talk with these yahoos I may as well see where it leads. A few minutes later my *cough* buddy comes back, this time with a new piece of paper. The price for the trade in was now raised to $8500. I carefully read the paper, unimpressed I shrug my shoulders. “Ya know, I’m not really in any kind of a hurry, I can just wait until I sell the little car on Craigslist,” I calmly tell him.
“Wait here,” he said as he was rushing into the other room.
“That boy moves pretty fast,” I thought to myself.
I roll my eyes and mutter to myself “Fun and games, its fun and games.”
Here I am again sitting there, looking at the pictures of the mysterious family, glancing over at the convertible sports car sitting in the middle of the room. In a few moments –zip- he reappears sliding yet another set of papers my way.
“Here is our final offer,” he says “but because I need to make my quota, I will give up my commission and if you buy today this is what the offer is,” he slides another paper my way.
“It won’t be offered again and expires today,” he says.
“What a load of horse poop,” I think to myself.
I look down at the paper and now see that he is offering me $9600 for my trade in. I could hear the Jeopardy music playing in the background as I thought about the deal. At that very moment my cell phone starts making a noise that drowns out the Jeopardy think music in my head. Virgin mobile uses extra cool ring tones on their phones so you can be extra hip when you answer them.
My wife is calling in to see how it’s going. I give her a quick and sanitized version of my dealing with my Cheshire cat grinning friend. I tell her that the deal is within our budget and the only thing left to do is for her to give the minivan her final approval. She’s happy, and I tell her I will be home soon.
Sales Boss Dude tells me that the minivan is in route to us as we speak and that he will have the deal drawn up and nothing will be final until my wife gives the final ok.
“This guy sure had a lot of confidence to have them send it to Eugene from Portland before an agreement was made,” I thought to myself. But no matter, the sooner we get this process over with the better.
The minivan had to travel 100 miles from Portland to Eugene so there were a couple of hours before it arrived. So I said so long to my *cough* friends at the dealership and headed home. I dug up the title to the little Accent, removed the dryer sheets from under the seats, and rolled the windows down to let in some fresh air. I wasn’t too worried about the smell because car dealers have some secret formula for getting rid of funky smells, and on the paperwork Sales Boss Dude had slid over to me I saw that they were charging me for detaining the old car, so I figured I was simply getting my money’s worth.
After a couple of hours had passed we loaded the four of us into the little car, sort of a tight fit but not bad for one last ride, we drove with the windows down for some extra airing out.
We arrived at the dealership and parked the car out front, unloaded, and went inside. ”The minivan was still in route and hadn’t yet arrived,” Sales Boss Dude told us.
Having already struck the deal I wasn’t worried about the jackals trying to manipulate the family in the bargaining process, so I let the boys wandered around. I gave them a strict warning about the Shelby parked in the middle of the room, and told them to not even think about touching the expensive sports car, the last thing I needed was for them to jump in and start playing with knobs and scratching something.
We wandered around looking at the old pictures, watching other suckers, I mean customers wandering about. I took a stroll outside with my oldest son who is 11 and watched traffic for a while. We saw a couple sales guys looking at a 1984 Chrysler LeBaron a customer had driven in, they were getting a big laugh out of the ridiculously large airfoil mounted on the trunk, and it was pretty funny I would have to admit. These two sales guys had slicked back hair, and I’m sure they were very popular in high school, I could see them laughing at the nerdy guys in school. They now only have stupid looking cars to laugh at, while the nerdy guys are making six figures working for Microsoft. It’s funny how karma works.
Finally after waiting around for about a half hour the minivan rolls in. “Wow, it looks real nice” I think to myself.
We load up the troops for a test drive; Sales Boss Dude took a seat in the far back. I drive the Hyundai Entourage down the street, testing how it handles and making sure everything works correctly. In the back I hear Sales Boss Dude mumble “If I had known this van was this nice I would have charged you more.” I think it was the first true thing the man had said all day.
My wife gave it the thumbs up, so we went inside and did the actual buying of the car with another man who tried to sell us crap we didn’t need. We hand him the car title to little smelly, a pile of cash, and a check. In the mean time they transfer the plates off of the little car to the minivan. We politely shake hands and drive away with my wife in the driver’s seat of our new kid bus. I don’t think I got to drive it again for about a month, I think she really likes it.
We got a nice ride, I got a story to tell my friends, and Sales Boss Dude made his quota (like I care), I saw little smelly on their web site a week later listed for $11,300 they were bragging about the low mileage. Will I go back to this place to get another car in the future? Who knows, but you can bet I will remember the drill.
Tags: Car, Craigslist, Dan LaFollette, Eugene, Hertz, Hyundai, Las Vegas, Mercury, Oregon, sales, Used, Villager