I have two primary fears: sharks and car salesmen. I truly don’t know which I fear more. Sharks are sharp-toothed instruments of death and car salesmen are slick, cheesy orators built to outlast your every argument until you buy more car than you can afford just so you can leave the lot. Terrifying!
But we needed a car. Okay, so we don’t need another car but my daughter, Kendall’s trusty Jeep died and she prefers not to hoof the two miles from her apartment to campus every day. I’ll be honest, faced with the prospect of buying a car I considered getting her a good pair of shoes.
I made her come with me, though. The least she could do is be chum should the salesman get aggressive, right?
Car shopping has changed because WE now have access to information like never before. Autotrader shows available cars within a certain radius, Kelly Blue Book gives us their relative value, and Carfax tells us if they’ve been wrecked! God bless Carfax.
We didn’t have this info when I turned 16… of course, the internet was just a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye then. I remember my first car shopping experience. The dusty lot surrounded with multi-colored flags and open bulbs. The business trailer in the back radiated the opposite of professional enterprise. But out in front sat a burnt-orange 1969 Karmann Ghia. She was beautiful and I had to have her. Written on the windshield was $900. When my father took me to buy it, he was determined to pay less than sticker price. In a tactical error, he neglected to tell me about the fake walk-out ploy. He pleaded for a discount and finally said, “Nope, that’s too much.”
As he turned to go, I wailed, “BUT I WANT THAT CAR!!!!!” I think I actually latched onto his ankles as he stormed from the lot.
We paid exactly $900.
Times have changed. Armed with information, I found a couple of lots nearby that seemed to have inventory in our price range and off we went. I warned Kendall about these pavement sharks and their evil ways. But I never could have foreseen Quando.
The quintessential salesman scoped us out as we arrived. Dressed like Herb Tarlick, he tried to joke with Kendall as if he could be relevant to a shy 20-year-old. Heck, I can’t even do that and I don’t wear four variations of polyester plaid. We got right down to business and he asked me my price range.
“I’d like to stay under $5000,” I replied.
Crestfallen, he held up a finger and said, “let me go get Quando.”
I had no idea what that meant, but we were soon joined by an odd little fellow with dark hair plastered tightly to his head. His gaze was fixed, but I have no idea where. I kept trying to track his eyes and could never figure it out. There was a long, uncomfortable silence while he stood before us mechanically.
Unable to handle it any longer, I said nervously, “What have you got for us? Tell me Quando, Quando, Quando.”
Not a smile, if he were actually capable of such. Maybe he’s heard that one before. It did jumpstart the conversation because he became a cheesy robot spouting used-car rhetoric from the fifties.
“I wouldn’t think twice about putting my sister in this car.”
“At this price, I’m paying you to take this beauty.”
“She rides ides like a glass sled in a field of butter.”
As he cheesed, Quando led us to a Volkswagen that we test drove. Every time we stopped parts hit the pavement so I didn’t think it was the one. We tried a few more but nothing piqued our interest so we left poor Quando talking to the wind. After a few more stops we found a Honda Accord in excellent shape and made the deal. It had a clean Carfax and was in the right Blue Book price range.
I thought my car buying adventure was over.
I forgot one thing, however: I had to give my phone number to test drive. Every night Quando calls me with a few pitches:
“This baby will treat you better than your wife in the early years.”
“Red cars never depreciate.”
And now I’m considering buying another car just to make it stop.