Several years ago, my brother-in-law nagged us into believing that we really needed a minivan to accommodate our growing family. And each time, we would leave one car dealership after another, mentally exhausted, pissed off and my husband (John) yelling, “I’m never, ever buying anything from those goddamn Shysters”. I felt his anger. I understood his frustrations. In fact, I completely agreed with him all the way… or so I thought, until the ad below, in our local Sunday paper caught my attention:
“BRAND NEW DODGE CARAVAN $16, 900
Automatic, Dual air bags, Dual-zone air conditioning (with separate controls for the rear) Six-cylinder -engine, power door locks; windows and mirrors…”
Wow! I couldn’t believe it. Somewhere on the other side of Alligator Alley, a Dodge Dealership had Minivans for sale at a “too good to be true” price.Hairs needed to be brushed. Diapers needed to be changed. I didn’t care; there was no time to waste! I grabbed my checkbook and ordered everyone to get in the car.
Our trip from Fort Myers to Fairbanks Dodge at Sawgrass Mills in Broward County, took approximately two hours. Yet, no one complained. Not even my two-year-old daughter. We were all too excited. We were busy daydreaming about the feel and smell of our brand new minivan. The children were already staking their claims on window, aisle or back seats.
As soon as we pulled up in their parking lot, a well-manicured salesman named Scott was assigned to assist us.
“Today is your lucky day” I joked.
“Everyday is my lucky day; especially when I wake up in the morning and realize I’m still breathing.” Scott replied, smiling. He reached out his hand to shake John’s and mine. “What can we do for you guys?” He asked. As if he didn’t already know.
“We need to get a car today,” I answered. I pointed to our Dodge Stratus and added, “We’re not heading back home in that thing over there.”
I showed him the ad and he wasted no time. We spotted a playroom and instructed the kids to hang tight while we followed Scott to check things out. He ushered us into an elevator that took us directly to the “roof top” floor. We tagged along right behind him as he inspected one Dodge Caravan after another. After a few minutes, I asked to know what he was doing. I was starting to lose patience. He claimed he was looking for the advertised model.
“Look,” John began, “If you guys don’t have any more in stock…”
“Here we are” Scott interrupted as he quickly unlocked the sliding door and invited us to take it for a test drive. I whipped out the newspaper clipping once again, and handed it to him.
“Take a good look,” I snapped. “We want what you advertised and not a bare minimum base model.”
“Well, we had plenty of them earlier, but they are all gone”
“Really?” I sneered as I flashed him a mean look.
“Yep.” Then he steered us toward other models with tempting bells and whistles. But the price tags were astronomical. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the upgrades were nice, but I could do without them. Why would I want to pay some computerized memory chip to open and close my door when there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my hands? Do you know how much hair extensions I could buy with such luxury if I wore hair extensions? I told Scott that his available inventory was way out of our price range.
“Would you guys be interested in that base model if I could convince my boss to knock the price down some”? He asked. I flashed John a look and he understood the signal. “Look, we’re going to go grab some lunch and talk this over,” John replied. But Scott would not go down quietly. He was unto us. He definitely knew what time it was. Those invisible antennas embedded behind his ears were on high alert. They were tuned into our psychological frequency; ready to push some nasty buttons. They warned Scott that if we walked, chances of us breezing back in were slim to zilch.
“I’ll be right back.” He announced. “Let me go talk to my Manager,” he added, as he dashed off.
We were aware of what would come next. John and I had traveled down this path a few times. The trick of their shady trade was about to unfold again and it would pan out like this…
- He’d make us wait while he darts back and forth to speak with his alleged Boss
- Each time, he’d return and offer us a slightly reduced price quote with a catch
- He’d make us feel like he’s handing us the deal of the century on a sterling silver platter
- He’d wear us down physically and mentally until we throw our hands up in the air from sheer frustration.
John and I were not about to sit still for another re-run of their infamous cat and mouse game. Not this time around.Not ever again! To avoid running into Scott in the elevator, we took the stairs back down. We grabbed our children and scurried right out of Fairbanks Dodge Dealership.
A few weeks later, armed with ample experience, our newly acquired patience and negotiation skills, we purchased a privately owned, well-maintained Mazda MPV with very low mileage. The transaction was a win-win for all of us. The seller urgently needed the cash. We patiently wanted the van.
I am no expert in the art of wheels and deals; however, should you someday find yourself in the market for a new ride, here are a few words of caution…
Figure out precisely what type of vehicle you want. Know how much you are willing to dish out. Familiarize yourself with price ranges and discrepancies. Compare rebates and total cost at several Dealerships in your local area. Stand your ground; be prepared to walk away if they try to put the squeeze on you.
Don’t be bashful; take a hike the minute a salesman blurts, “let me go check with my manager.” Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true…Ruuuuuuuun!