What Recession? Go Away, You’re Bothering Us

winter hatI’m about to enter the dreaded “new car zone”…that black hole of fear and uncertainty, where we wander aimlessly until we emerge on the other side with more horsepower and gadgets than we need having spent more money than we intended.

I go through this exercise every 3 to 4 years. This time I was looking forward to it. After all, we are in a recession; the government subsidized programs have expired, I should be a valuable commodity…a qualified customer who is serious about driving a new car. I’ll be treated like a queen.

More like a peasant with the plague.

This past weekend I pull in to a local dealership. (I’d love to name them, but I’m going to restrain myself) I’m driving a 4 year old mid-level sedan…it was even clean; I’m nicely dressed…for a weekend; My hair is combed and I have make-up on. There isn’t much more I could have done to appear “legitimate”.

Five salespeople were sitting in a circle shooting the “breeze”. I stood in the showroom for nearly ten minutes before anyone came near me. When someone did, I momentarily thought I had wandered into Cabela’s: The person was wearing one of those hats like you see in the movies on the head of the crazy husband who murders his wife and puts her body through a chipper. 

I spent the next ten minutes trying to convince the salesperson that one of the models I was serious about acquiring was what he had on the showroom floor. I opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat, studied the dashboard display, even asked a somewhat intelligent question about whether it had 17” wheels. Still nothing.

Out of sheer frustration at my continuing inspection of the car, the woodsman took me to his sales manager who was perched high on a dais. Peering over the edge, like a judge at a recalcitrant criminal, the manager asked me how much I was willing to spend. The answer didn’t seem to please him and he told me that he had just sold a similar car to a very elderly couple; I knew I should have bought that skin tightening cream, and they had paid $100 a month more than my price range.

As hard as it is to believe, in this economy, or at any time for that matter, I was allowed to walk out of that showroom without ever having been asked my name or  how to contact me, without being presented a business card, and with no offer of follow-up.

Just as soon as I have a new car from a dealer who values my business, I’m going to reprise that scene in Pretty Woman where, after having spent a fortune on clothes in another store, Julia Roberts walks back in to the Rodeo Drive boutique that wouldn’t serve her the day before, and says to them, “You work on commission, right?” I was in here before and you wouldn’t serve me. Big mistake.”