Saturday, July 5, 2008

Kabuki at the Car Dealer

I just bought a new car. It's the first one I've bought in over ten years. The experience hasn't changed very much in all that time.

Perhaps the only difference is that I was a little bit more informed about the pricing and features of the various choices since I was able to get the information on the web. But the actual Kabuki dance at the dealer was pretty much the same.

My wife and I arrived at the lot and the group of salesmen hanging around the entrance checked us out. Somehow they decided whose turn it was to approach us. Then, I asked for the fleet manager. He didn't exist, according to the salesman who had won us.

Then, since we already knew which car we wanted, I looked at the MSRP price sticker and asked him how much the dealer wanted. He responded by asking how much I would offer. I gave him a ridiculously low offer. He asked for a very high price. I said that was too much. He invited us to step into his office where we could wait while he said he would try to convince the manager to lower his price. After a suitable time, the manager entered and announced that since he really wanted us to join their family of extremely happy customers, he would lower the price $500.

I said that was insufficient and that we were too far apart to continue to bargain. I thanked them for their time and we got up and left the dealer showroom. When we got to the sidewalk, the salesman ran after us and pleaded with us to reconsider, saying he really needed the commission. He promised that he would extract a better deal for us if only we would come back inside.

We returned to a good cop/bad cop routine and, after a series of final, final offers from each side, we agreed upon a price. Now, it was off to the finance office to sign paperwork.

By now, the salesman had become our closest friend. The finance guy was just the opposite. Icily detached, he could care less if we ever got the car. He shoved paper after paper in front of us for signatures, briefly explaining what the documents were about when we dared to inquire. His biggest challenge was not falling asleep during the process.

The final steps were actually fun. The car was inspected by a highly qualified technician (so we were told), washed and brought to us. We rode with the salesman to the gas station where he filled the absolutely empty gas tank up to the tune of $85. Then, the salesman explained how to set up all the features and bade us a good day. There's no one on earth who could remember what all the instructions were if they didn't have prior experience with similar electronics.

We drove off, happy but exhausted, in our new car. I wonder what it would be like if all purchases in our lives followed a similar process. The economy would probably grind to a halt.

All in all, it's an interesting ritual.


Anonymous said...

Enjoy your new car and hopefully if this one too last ten years by the time your ready to negotiate another purchase you'll be too old to remember the Kabuki dance.

Anonymous said...

Don't loved the experience. There is nothing better than a dopey sales guy chasing you down on the sidewalk and dropping his pants to get you back in the store.