Tahlequah Daily Press

Columns

April 21, 2014

Selling of lies in the dreaded car game

TAHLEQUAH — Recently, my husband and I did something that is discussed in the same tone of disdain reserved for Communists, salesmen, politicians, lawyers, and sometimes, journalists. We bought ourselves a “furrin” car.

We decided on a foreign contraption because my husband now commutes to Tulsa every day, and a quick calculation revealed the horror our three-quarter-ton diesel Chevy would visit upon our bank account. That vehicle gets a comparatively impressive 18 mpg, but doing the math on the current price of diesel and a 150-mile daily round trip is enough to send anyone to the nearest toilet to hurl up the previous meal.

The only thing I hate more than dealing with a slick, young whippersnapper of a car salesman – they’re almost always slick, young and male – is owing money. Car loans are like deadbeat grown children: You just can’t seem to get rid of them, because once you think you’re clear, the hand-out cycle starts all over again.

In my mind, if you have to make car payments, the new car had better get gas mileage so good that the savings you recoup over driving the other car will be enough to cover the car payment and the higher insurance premium. This pie-in-the-sky goal could only be achieved with a car that got 45 mpg or so – a requirement that eliminated just about everything but foreign hybrids.

Sure, some American cars come close, but they got too many “black circles” from Consumer Reports. My husband is as dedicated to CR reviews as he is to shunning companies that donate to political causes he dislikes. Also, if there are rumors of recalls, or the company gets caught lying to consumers, my husband is about as likely to buy from that manufacturer as he is to do a high-wire act in downtown Tulsa.

I had been psyching myself up for several weeks for this hated excursion. In the past, I was the one who did the research, and thus did the negotiating. But this was always stressful, since salesmen typically insist on dealing with the male in any couple, and any woman who dares to assert herself is dismissed as a domineering battle-ax. I wouldn’t mind so much if the obvious pity the sales staff felt for the husband translated into lower prices.

 I once overheard a salesmen refer to me as a “bitch,” and while I do not necessarily deny the accuracy of the epithet, I didn’t appreciate it, and told my husband he’d have to take the lead next time around. My son also helped with the research, since he was hoping to eventually glom onto whatever wound up in the driveway.

Our insurance carrier has a car-buying service, which has representatives at dealerships across the country. At our first dealership, when my husband asked for the presumed USAA rep by name, the receptionist said, “Oh, I’m sorry, she’s at lunch, but ‘Carl’ will help you.” ‘Carl,’ it turned out, was the son of one of the dealership’s honchos.

We took a ride in one of the cars, and once back at the office, told the kid what we were willing to pay. He laughed and said, “No one’s going to sell you that car for that price.” Then he summoned another sales guy and said, “No one’s going to sell them that car for [X price], right?” The other guy dutifully agreed. We left, knowing he’d call us back, probably that same day. This is all part of a ridiculous game car-buyers and dealerships are apparently required, by law, to play – even though it wastes time, puts everyone in a bad mood, and occasionally gets someone called the “b-word” or worse.

Then we moved onto another place selling the same make. We told the woman who greeted us that we were just looking, because we were working through USAA’s preferred dealership. “Oh, the USAA person for this area works at this dealership,” the woman said, and cited the rep’s name. Coincidentally, this seemed to be the same gal who was “out to lunch” at the other autotopia. Someone was scamming us, either USAA or the dealership, and we were leaning strongly toward the latter.

The last dealership of the day, just shortly before closing, was selling Hondas. Our salesperson – a woman, which is unusual, in our experience – was new and seemed embarrassed by that, and her sales manager was considerably older than my husband and I, which we took as a good sign. He was nice and not oily like the stereotypical salesman, which is why we watched him closely for a bit to make sure he wasn’t on drugs. However, we are all tired, it was the end of the day, and most importantly, the dealership was trying to close the month on a high note. So we got the car for what we wanted to pay for it. By the time we got home, there were several increasingly urgent messages from other salesmen on our answering machine. They gambled; they lost.

The “Little Honda Accord,” as we call it (with respect to an Eddie Glenn tune of same name), has been doing quite well, varying from 43 mpg to about 49 mpg. We even hit the oft-touted (but seldom believed) 50 mpg on one trip. It does better in the city than on the highway  I’ve had to prove these claims to friends by posting to Facebook photos of the dashboard, where an instrument keeps track of fuel consumption.

Not everything is wine and roses and cheaper-than-diesel fuel, though. The car has a black interior, which is not necessarily good for people who own scruffy white cats, and who are slobs in their own right.

Next time we buy a car, I’m thinking a nice tan interior – about the color of dirt – would be best.

kpoindexter@tahlequahdailypress.com

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  • Selling of lies in the dreaded car game

    Recently, my husband and I did something that is discussed in the same tone of disdain reserved for Communists, salesmen, politicians, lawyers, and sometimes, journalists. We bought ourselves a “furrin” car.
    We decided on a foreign contraption because my husband now commutes to Tulsa every day, and a quick calculation revealed the horror our three-quarter-ton diesel Chevy would visit upon our bank account. That vehicle gets a comparatively impressive 18 mpg, but doing the math on the current price of diesel and a 150-mile daily round trip is enough to send anyone to the nearest toilet to hurl up the previous meal.

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