In preparation for my move back to Chicago, I made the decision that having a car in the city, and especially during the winter, would be too wonderful to do without again. I’ve been through four winters in Chicago now, all carless and all bleak. But, as time went on and more friends brought their cars, the less bleak it got. On my last visit, I borrowed my grandmother’s car, and it was hard to miss the leaps and bounds in quality of life I experienced by having such a luxurious mobility. Having a car there permanently would allow me to freely roam (provided I learned a few tricks about finding parking places) more than the CTA allows. Though I intend primarily to continue using a bike, the car would do what the bike cannot: let me leave the city when its urban confines begin to induce claustrophobia. Yes, I am certain buying a car is the right course.
And so, over the last few weeks I’ve been obsessively car shopping. I’ve learned quite a few things in the process. I began by looking at a sight my dad introduced me to called Edmunds.com. It proved an invaluable resource. It is helpful and entertaining. Check out the essay series entitled “Confessions of a Car Salesman,” in which a writer describes his undercover work in the car sales industry. His discoveries are illuminating and oh so helpful as the naïve shopper begins negotiations with these goons. Reading that essay series was probably one of the best things I could have done in preparation for this purchase, because it increased my awareness of the things that motivate car salesmen and the ways in which they try, in some cases, to pull some shenanigans. I almost laughed at some of the stereotypes I’ve come across—they fit the author’s descriptions so well it seemed comical. The white shirts, the firm handshakes, the expensive watches, the ways in which they try to milk more money out of you by telling you how low your monthly bill will be…it was all there!
Mind you, not all the dealerships fit the stereotypes the author describes. Even he writes that not all dealerships are like that. Just today I visited a dealership where the salesmen did not work on commission, and the change was drastic and refreshing. But the reason I found today’s experience so comforting was because I had something to compare it to. Car salesmen are characters. How does one ever say to himself, “Hey, I’m pushy. I’d make a great car salesman,” I wonder?
For one thing, they all had interesting names. One guy had the last name Dragon. I asked him if that were his real name. I doubted it because Dragon seemed like a name a salesman would conjure up to make himself simultaneously more memorable and intimidating. He swore it was his real surname. Another guy’s first name was Luciano. He had a thick European accent and clearly tried to appeal to the wealthier side of the Westchester public. He wore shiny shoes and fluffy hair. He donned a fancy sporty jacket that clearly cost way too much at outdoor apparel store. I wondered if he had different jackets he would put on to make the buyer think that he had similar interests and tastes i.e. since I was buying an athletic car, he put on an athletic jacket; were I buying an Audi or BMW perhaps he would have put on something made of leather or goat hair. I couldn’t help but feel like I couldn’t trust him from the beginning; he fit that snobbish Euro-chique stereotype so well. Then, by contrast, there was the guy at the Bronx Honda dealership. I won’t use his full name, but it was very similar to Michael Michaelson. Now HE should have gone with Dragon. He needed something to spiff up his act, because he was just dropping a bunch of lines all over the place in hopes of making a quicker sale. For instance, when I said I needed to think about it, he said, “What’s there to think about? Someone else might buy the car in the meantime.” When I pointed out how that particular car had been on their lot for months already, he made up some BS like, “Well, it’s a funny thing. Once one person looks at a car, a whole bunch of other people do too.” I still wanted to go think about it (I wonder why). Then he said, as many of the others had done, that he would go talk to his manager. I had told him that I needed to finance the car if I bought it because I was on such a tight budget, going into ministry and all. He originally didn’t think that the banks would do that since the car was older than 2004. But when he came out of his manager’s office, he said, “You’re going into ministry? Well someone must be looking out for you because we found a bank which will finance you.” Nice.
I still have this gut feeling that I will bump into someone who is selling their car real cheap. Now I’m hoping for this even more so I don’t have to deal with any more of this.