My son starts his first job on Monday and needs transportation. Rather than having him borrow a car between us, his brother, and grandmother, we decided to get him a relatively cheap used car.
We looked in the usual used car apps and found a 2008 Jeep Patriot. Not a bad vehicle. One owner. Lots of bells and whistles. And the CarFax was clean, showing it was well-maintained. So we made an appointment.
First problem. Don, who we had the appointment with, didn’t work on Wednesdays. Wouldn’t the person doing scheduling know that? So we met with Chris instead. What were we interested in? The 2008 Jeep Patriot.
“Oh, that shouldn’t even be listed. Where did you find it? Autotrader of our website.”
“Well, we found it on CarGurus, Autotrader, and your website.”
“Did it have a black box around it? That means it’s not for sale.”
“”Then why is it listed for sale?” (There was no black box or anything to indicate it wasn’t for sale.)
“Oh. Well, that car has some problems. It needs a new transmission. Besides, for a first time driver, you’d want to get him something newer that won’t have as many problems as an older vehicle.”
At this point, we’re thinking “Bait and Switch.” They lured us in with the Patriot and now were trying to get us to buy something else, something to fatten his commission. But since the Patriot isn’t available, what choice did we have? I know, walk out. But we didn’t.
While he was gone, I quickly called up the car on their website, put in my information, and sat back and waited. Several minutes later I got a phone call. Am I interested in the Patriot? Yes. When can you come in to look at it? Can you tell me anything about it? How does it run? *pause* “Oh, it looks like it needs a lot of engine work. They’ve been working on it for over a year with no estimate on when they might be done.” I thanked him and hung up. At least that part of the story was correct.
Chris came back, there was a 2009 Saturn 3.6 Aura XR that had just come in. So new they hadn’t even had time to inspect it. OK, fine, we’ll look at it. Truthfully, it turned out to be not a bad little car. Leather heated seats. 3.6L V6 engine DOHC 251hp. ABS. Heated outside mirrors. Remote engine start. and since my son will be carrying a toolbox and other equipment around, a truck is probably handier than the all glass Jeep.
My son took it for a test ride and said he liked it. It ran nice. We noted a few issues that they’d have to fix while doing their inspections.
Now it came down to price. They were asking $5,494. I started to dicker. I mean, that’s what you do, right? Haggle the price down? Well, he wouldn’t budge. He kept giving me lame excuses like, “Corporate sets the price. It’s already so low there isn’t any wiggle room.”
And I’m thinking, bull shit! These are USED cars. The prices vary all over the place depending on condition, special features, even location. The price is always negotiable on a used car.
Finally, he says, “Would you like to see the manager?” Well duh, yeah.
So the manager came over. He acted friendly. Noted my Navy hat, asked if I was a Veteran. Yes. Where did I serve? It’s a secret and I’ll have to kill you if I reveal it. Do I get a Veteran’s discount? No.
So I started with my low number. We’ll take it for $5000. And he starts in on the it’s the lowest price already and might even go up after the inspection (meaning, get the price locked in now or we’ll be paying even more).
I said, “The CarFax shows three accidents, two minor and one moderate. $5000.”
And he came back and said the best he can do is knock $100 off.
We went back and forth. At one point I said, “So we’re agreed on $5200?” And he just repeated his $100 thing.” At this point I realized if we wanted the car, we were going to have to pay the $5,400.
Somewhere along the way The Art of Haggling died. I don’t know if there were just too many losers out there who didn’t have the balls to argue over price, or if there are too many lazy people who just wanted to pay a set price and not have to bother with dickering, or if all those kids who grew up playing sports where they didn’t keep score so no one would feel bad were now trying to force their whiny little philosophy of “Everybody’s a winner!” on the rest of us. Whatever the reason, those of us who were good at haggling are left having to pay the same price as any other schmuck who walked into the dealership. It’s degrading.
And it’s embarrassing that this is the kind of culture we’ve become.
Furthermore, it’s effected the sale staff. Whenever we went to buy a car in the past, the salesperson was with us through the whole thing. Talking. Explaining. Getting to know us. You know? Treating us like people.
Well, Chris didn’t. He barely talked expect to explain something about the car or how the financing would work. And even then he seemed irritated that he had to talk. While we were waiting during the many waiting periods we were there, he didn’t say one goddamned word. He had his phone to his face, probably surfing porn. Then we looked around and all the sales staff had their faces stuck in their phones. WTF?
I know used car salesmen have a bad rep, but this was the worst. At least our last saleman talked our ears off. Asked about family. Where the kids went to school. Where did we go on vacation. All sorts of small talk that was supposed to make him seem like Mr. Friendly. And after we bought the cars for years after, he sent us Christmas Cards.
This guy. Well, I’m sorry my son was exposed to this guy as his first time buying a car. This joker could have taken our son and made the experience memorable, tried to make it as painless as possible. He could have shown an interest in our son and our son in turn would have appreciated it. The business then would have been ensured of having a customer for life.
Instead, we’ll be damned if we ever return to this dealership again.