Iâ€™m about to enter the dreaded â€œnew car zoneâ€â€¦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 commodityâ€¦a qualified customer who is serious about driving a new car. Iâ€™ll be treated like a queen.
More like a peasant with the plague.
This past weekend I pull in to a local dealership. (Iâ€™d love to name them, but Iâ€™m going to restrain myself) Iâ€™m driving a 4 year old mid-level sedanâ€¦it was even clean; Iâ€™m nicely dressedâ€¦for a weekend; My hair is combed and I have make-up on. There isnâ€™t much more I could have done to appear â€œlegitimateâ€.
Five salespeople were sitting in a circle shooting the â€œbreezeâ€. I stood in the showroom for nearly ten minutes before anyone came near me. When someone did, I momentarily thought I had wandered into Cabelaâ€™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 driverâ€™s seat, studied the dashboard display, even asked a somewhat intelligent question about whether it had 17â€ 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 didnâ€™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, Iâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t serve her the day before, and says to them, â€œYou work on commission, right?â€ I was in here before and you wouldnâ€™t serve me. Big mistake.â€