Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Parable of the Water Buffalo - Kids and Cars

Yesterday I took my 21-year-old out to buy her first car. At this stage of the game I have arm wrestled some of the best car thieves in New England. I remember going to buy my first new car-- man they had me signing a contract so fast, I don't even remember what color the car was. Being a little melancholy, I got buyers remorse before I got home. Honestly, I had expected it to be a fun experience. I lost control of the exchange pretty fast, almost feeling guilty about not buying a car that I liked OK, but didn't really want. It took another year before I tried it again.

Now that the economy is limping along, I thought they would be begging us to come in. And I was partially right. They offered me real coffee, with real half and half. They sat us down at a table in the middle of the show room-- no cubes and no desks in this place.

My daughter is a typical kid and somewhat typical of a female car buyer. "I like the gray one," she says.

I took my opportunity to put on the fake macho act. "Don't you care how many horses she's got under the hood?"

"No!" she fired back sarcastically.

"Well, it won't beat my Mustang." I said smiling.

"Hey look, it gets 37 MPG." she said, not really listening to me.

"It only gets that kind of mileage with a tailwind going down an icy mountain road."

She roles her eyes.

The salesman sat down at the table with a fresh coffee, and started asking questions. "What options do you need?" he said looking at my daughter.

"Automatic." She said, looking to me for approval.

"That's all?" he said looking across the table.

"She needs a plug for the iPod and brakes-- brakes are good." I added.

He look a little annoyed... now I had him! "She needs the payment to be $200 per month or less." She nods in approval.

The salesman leaves the table to go see what he can do. I get a second cup of coffee. He comes back with a Toyota Yaris. No matter how you spell it, I am thinking yak or water buffalo - mine is fat, and yours is slow. We get ready to saddle up with the dealer plate and take a ride. The daughter is going to navigate country roads without shoulders while the salesman and I try not to give her too many instructions. Who taught this kid how to drive? Oh right.

Ron, our cruise director, better known as "Cowboy," looks and sounds nothing like Julie. But hey, this isn't the Love Boat anyway. We're trekking the Serengeti on a yak. The daughter catches a vine on my rear view mirror at about 35, and snaps it against the side window -- just as he is explaining the side impact air bags. NOT FUNNY! Our cowboy starts talking faster and faster about the features-- apparently covering his nervousness. I guess he hasn't been to a rodeo.

She finds a parking space back at the dealership, and we unbuckle and head back to the 360 degree table. This is my favorite part-- my destiny-- kind of like cage fighting. We're going to make a deal or not.

I grab another cup of coffee-- this time black. In view of everyone, I drink it in one gulp and crushing the paper cup with one hand; with a well placed hook shot I land it in the trash can from my seat.

Ron brings the good news back to the table. "You're approved!"

My daughter is like "cool."

"We need the VIN for the insurance company to get a quote." I said.

My daughter is like "What?" I motion her to be quiet.

"Call the insurance agent and get a quote." I said.

I hear the conversation degrading with the agent. I ask my daughter for the phone. Right there at the table with the salesman and his sales manager, I start telling the agent to sharpen her pencil or she is going to blow the deal. Subliminally I am preparing the dealership team for a ride much worse than the test drive we just took!

Our man Flint drops the lease rates on the table like we're supposed to be impressed. It's $32 per month over our budget, and they know we just just got whacked with the insurance which was $1,926 per year and after a little sparring was now at $1,684.

I look at my daughter, "hey, sorry kiddo, let's grab lunch." I look at them, and we shake hands and start walking away. Our boy was pretty shocked, but he grabs the sales manger, apparently to come say good bye to us too.

An hour later they call her with a different deal-- it's starting to smell like water buffalo. With a few more jabs and a left hook, it all turns into the payment we want and a free oil change-- the kid signs up and writes a check.

A few hours later they decide they want a co-signer-- but I'm out of a job. I get on the phone, the kid is in tears and I am in protect mode. "You better make this work I tell the finance woman.

"Well Mr. J-"

"Make it work and call us back." I jabbed my thumb right through the LCD screen on my kids cell phone. I am so freakin' Christan sometimes, I can't stand it!

My poor princess, she is so disappointed, but I have another plan! I have her apply for a loan at my bank-- where I know the manager. Well, it's not like we are friends, I owe him a half a million bucks. In the morning, she gets the loan-- now we have the upper hand! We don't need them, they need us.

I decide that this time we're going to play good cop-bad cop. I have sweetness call and ask the salesman what his best price on the car is. I actually wrote her a little, but very whiny, script about her disappointment, and the fact that she now had a loan. "I just need your best price for the bank-- I am borderline, but at the right price, I can do this," she says with a glowing eye pointed in my direction. After she hung up, we were high-fivin' like a high school basketball team.

That's good cop.

An hour later the phone rings, and oh my, she is mysteriously approved by there bank. Amazing. "Well I have to go to work, can I call you tomorrow?" she said.

"Is everything OK,?" says the voice on the other end of the phone.

"I just have to be to work, I'll call you tomorrow."

Did you hear the car dealer hit the mat like a ton of bricks? I did.

They haven't talked to the bad cop yet... and we've got the water buffalo by the horns.


Jot said...


Tevet said...

Very, very funny!
I am a little skeptical of the "I grab another cup of coffee-- this time black. In view of everyone, I drink it in one gulp and crush the paper cup with one hand; with a well placed hook shot I land it in the trash can from my seat." but it does paint a very great visual. Think of how intimidated the entire dealership would have been if you crushed the coffee cup on the forehead of the sales manager.

Nikki T said...

Very Funny! I hope Dave learns a few lessons from this!

Tony C said...

You should have watched the episode of Seinfeld when Jerry goes to buy a car just to get in the right frame of mind...'We're walking baby!'

Ripping your shirt off before crushing the cup would have been a nice touch too.

Smart move going money in hand...very smart.

photogr said...

Quite a funny story.

Amazing what the salespeople can do to get a deal signed. Usually if they come back out from the sales managers office pretty quick, you can probably get a better deal by haggling some more.

Although the profit margin of the car is pretty low, the gravy money usually is in the finance companies kick backs to the dealer if they can get a sale from the buyer at a certain higher interest rate.

It is not a good idea to allow the sales person to ask what you want to pay per month. You should ask them how much is the car ( bottom price) and what is the finance charges or rates ( then haggle for a lower rate).

Usually the dealership will always come back to the table with the highest interest rate which will allow the highest kick back and commisssion to the sales person.

Sadly many do go for that kind of deal not knowing they can haggle for a better interest rate and a better price for the car.

Used to work for a dealership when I was going to college way back then.

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