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.”

8 thoughts on “What Recession? Go Away, You’re Bothering Us”

  1. Hi Pam,

    Welcome back! After reading your blog above I am sorry to say that I am not surprised. I recently leased a new car and had mixed results whilst shopping for it. After I nailed down what I wanted I spoke with my sister who works for a large dealer about 40 miles or so away. She had someone (the brand manager) contact me and ask what I was interested in. When he finally had someone get back to me it was with a nearly full price offer and they had not listened to me regarding how I wanted my trade handled. Needless to say, I bought locally and was mostly pleased with the service I received. My sister was upset with how I was treated by her dealer and expressed her thoughts to the owner since they are always asking for family business.

    I often thought that I should go into retail/sales consulting. It would be fun being a secret shopper and letting management know how their people are really performing. There is a new TV show on CBS I believe Undercover Boss. You should check it out sometime, it is very eye opening.

    Bob

    P.S. I still recommend my dealership for a less expensive model if you want to consider an import.

  2. Bob,

    Isn’t it amazing that we both had such negative experiences. You’re right, we should go in to the sales training business. This group that I wrote about should all be fired.

    I did contact the dealership you recommended, by phone, and they were very helpful. So thanks for the lead.

  3. Klem Kadiddlehopper

    Be sure to check out fitzmall.com. Their closest shop is in Maryland, but even if you prefer to buy local, you can see excellent pricing that accounts for all incentives and includes the dreaded “Destination” charges. And, if you do inquire of them, they will definitely call you back.

    Also don’t even bring up trade – if they ask, tell them you’re keeping it – until you get an acceptable cash offer. Good luck.

    1. “Klem”

      Thanks for the tip; I never heard of fitzmall.com, but after spending time on the phone today looking for deals, I’m even more frustrated. I’m going to definitely check them out. Appreciate the tip. And about mentioning the trade…not to worry, I know better.

  4. Maria Montero Hoppes

    Pam…
    I am about to enter the buy and insure my own car world for the first time in almost seven years..sounds fun. I guess your post answers my questions about my pondering on whether I should wear a suit or not 😉

    1. Maria,

      I highly recommend getting all “dolled up”, as my mother used to say. Good luck. Let me know what you end up with and I’ll do the same.

  5. Pam,

    Just last week I bought a 2010 Chevy Silverado. I had the same thoughts that you did that in this economy the salespeople would be all over me. I absolutely detest the whole car buying sales game and the standard BS. To the standard question you got asked “how much do you want to spend” I always answer “nothing, I want you to give me the best car on the lot free. Now do you want to get serious or keep playing games?”

    That is why starting 3 cars ago I started to get quotes on Cars.com before I would even talk to a dealer. It has worked well. I ended up buying my truck at Faulkner Chevy in Bethlehem. They were absolutely great. Very responsive and didn’t try to make me play the game.

    Now for the weird part. In addition to Faulkner I asked for quotes from Outten Chevy and Scott Chevy. In both cases I got automated mail responses saying they had my request for quote and would respond. Outten did almost a week later with a bunch of questions which I answered. No further response. Scott never got back to me. I even sent them a reminder and got no response. I guess they are doing so well with their Hummer and Saab business they don’t need to move Chevys?

    Anyhow, I thought it interesting that 2 of 3 dealers gave me pretty much the same reception you got. Amazing.

    1. TJ,

      I meant to use cars.com this time around and forgot. Thanks for the reminder.

      It is truly amazing that two dealerships did not respond to your inquiry, one ignored me in the showroom.
      One of the other posters on the blog suggested we should get together and start a car sales training program.
      I’ll bet the dealerships would say they didn’t need it !

      Good luck with your Silverado: Nice truck.

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