I just love shopping for a new car, don't you? Along with tooth extraction and listening to someone whining about how unfair life is, it is one of my favourite activities. For anyone with even the slightest masochistic tendencies, a full-year's quota of abuse can all be gleaned and celebrated in one visit to an automotive dealership.
We're shopping for a new vehicle for my wife. It's her turn. She knows exactly what she wants. She wants a Plymouth Voyager or Dodge Caravan van, Inferno Red in colour. She doesn't want leather seats, mag wheels, extended wheelbase, stowaway seating, captain's chairs or any other frippery. Just the basic package, thank you very much, as long as it is Inferno Red. The colour is very important.
So, we go to a dealer on the weekend. We point to a van in the showroom that is almost exactly what we want (it has a few cosmetic extras that aren't really necessary but that aren't entirely unwelcome either) and say to the salesman: "Give us your absolute best price on the vehicle and if it is acceptable to us, compared to quotes we have from other dealers, we will buy it within 30 days. Cash deal, no trade."
"Well, how much would you like to pay?"
"We'd like the pay the absolute best price you can give us, if that price is lower than anyone else's."
"Would you like to take the van for a test drive?"
"No. All we want is the absolute best price you can give us for that van and if it is lower than any other dealer's, we will buy it from you."
The salesman pulls out some sort of offer form and, pen in hand, asks my wife who, so far, has been doing all the talking: "OK. What is your name?"
I'm getting really testy at this point: "Why do you want her name? All we want is the best possible price for that van. We don't want to test drive it. We don't want to make an offer. We don't want you to take an offer to your manager for approval. We don't want to go through any of the usual crap that car buyers have to deal with when shopping for a car. All we want is for you to tell us the best possible price for that van. We have already been here, talking to you, fifteen minutes longer than was necessary."
I don't know exactly what transpired next. I excused myself to go outside for some much-needed fresh air. I waited in front of the showroom for a few minutes, expecting my wife to arrive shortly, with the best possible price for the Inferno Red Dodge Caravan van in the showroom scribbled on the back of the salesman's business card. I waited and waited and waited. Finally, I decided to go back to my own vehicle and listen to some music.
When I got to my car, I realized that I had given the keys to my son and he was in the showroom with my wife. So, unable to get into my car and unwilling to return to the showroom, I stood outside in the fresh air and waited.
And waited and waited and waited.
Finally, my wife and son appeared. My wife had a strange look on her face. I couldn't wait to hear about her further adventures in trying to get a quote for the best possible price for the Inferno Red Dodge Caravan in the showroom.
"He's still not back," my wife exclaimed.
"What do you mean, he's still not back?" I asked. "Where did he go?"
"He went to speak with the manager. He is still with her, in her office."
"He went to speak with the manager? And just left you standing there in the showroom for fifteen minutes?"
"Well, we can either leave, or out of morbid curiosity you can go back to see just how much more incompetence and inconsiderate behaviour they will show you. It's up to you."
"OK. I'll go back in. I'm curious to see what will happen next."
So, back in she went, our son in tow for moral support. No way was I going back inside. I have a very low tolerance level for idiocy.
I waited and waited and waited.
Finally, my wife and son reappeared. The salesman hadn't even noticed that she had left. He was still with his manager. My wife waited for a while in the showroom, and finally even she had had enough. Rather than go to the manager's office, where the two were playing their game of abuse the customer, she went to the front desk in the showroom and had the salesman paged.
That worked. Out he came, accompanied by the manager. The price clearly displayed on the front of the van, the manager said, was too low. It was for another model of the van and was used in error. However, they really wanted my wife's business and here was the best possible price for the van, as configured. My wife took the piece of paper proffered, bid the two adieu and left.
Total time expended, about 50 minutes. Total time the exercise should have taken, about 5 minutes. Chances of our buying the van at that dealership: ZERO.
Why a zero chance? Not because of the price. The price that was finally quoted wasn't that unrealistic for the van, configured as it was. No, we won't purchase there because of the incompetence displayed and the utter disdain for the customer's wishes and comfort.
If my idea of a good time was to be gagged and blindfolded, then flogged with a cat-o-nine-tails by a latex-clad dominatrix, this dealership might have appealed to me. Since that is not my 'thing,' we will buy our van elsewhere.