Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Car Buying for M Part 2: Playing the Harpy

A little while after our great test-driving extravaganza, M noticed another Subaru Forester XT in the paper. This one seemed to have all the features he wanted, and the trim package and color were a big improvement over the one we'd previously driven. Add these features to the significantly lower price, and we had to drive out and see what this car was actually like.

That meant a trip to a certain Seattle suburb. This is not a place where we normally spend a lot of time, but we soldiered through the traffic and found our way to the dealership filled with shiny new cars. Of course, we were not actually heading for the new car portion of things; no glossy Toyota showrooms for us. The used cars at this dealership were part of the much smaller, and much more utilitarian, Kia showroom. I warned M in the car that I planned to be the "bad cop," and so I put on my grumpiest face as the lot attendant first approached.

I let M do most of the talking as we were shown to the Subaru in question. Then, once we were on a test drive I started my show. "Why do you need a new car anyway? Your old one is perfectly good!" M almost jumped at my whiney tone and gave me a sidelong glance to check how serious I might be. I did my best to feign total innocence. I went on and on (hopefully not laying it on too thick) about how much the car cost, how we didn't need a new one, how the old one was still good, and how we shouldn't be spending money anyway. By the end, I was "wondering" if the car smelled funny. The very young lot attendant said nothing, but he heard everything I said.

After the test drive, M said he was interested in hearing more about the car, so a meeting was arranged with a more senior car dealer. This person was not immediately available (what a surprise!), so we spent a few minutes cooling our heels among the Kias (motto: crappy but cheap!). Finally, we were ushered to a cubicle festooned with sales award plaques. Clearly the lot attendant had warned his boss about us because the presentation we got was almost entirely directed at me. We heard all about the merits of the new car, the excellent price, the repair record etc. Anything to try and convince us (me) that it was a good buy.

I continued to look grumpy, but when he started talking about price I had my most shining moments acting out my mean wife part. What price did they want for the new car?! No that can't be right?! HOW MUCH?! Then I got to do the same for the proposed value of the old car (I wash shock! Shocked!). By the end of the whole thing, we got very much better prices for both, and I believe I helped out in some small way by playing the harpy.

Yes, yes, I know you may be thinking that we got a good deal because of the bad economy and the lack of car buyers in general. Perhaps I am just flattering myself by saying that my act helped. That may all be true, but I hate the way car dealers play with their "victims" and try every trick to manipulate buyers (one tried to tell my mom that she couldn't even go get lunch if she wanted the price to "stick"). Therefore, it amuses me no end to play with them in just the same fashion. No matter what the real reason, I've checked around, and we did get an incredible deal on that car. The next time you are considering a car purchase, think about pressing a friend or family member into service as your own personal bad cop.

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