COUNTY AGENT GUY
My wife and I endure the experience, whether we want to or not, every few years or so. We bravely go through it even though it’s a royal pain in the patoot.
No, I don’t mean colonoscopies. I’m talking about trading cars.
We live out in the boondocks and thus depend heavily on our car. Having reliable transportation is as important to us as a dependable parachute is to a skydiver.
Car shopping was much simpler when I first started driving as there were only three automobile manufacturers from which to choose. Come to think of it, there were also only three TV channels back then. Coincidence? Perhaps not.
I have yet to buy a car and not drive away feeling like I got attached to a wall by a sharp-pointed metal pin that has raised helical threads running around it.
My wife, by contrast, is a tough negotiator. She could make Attila the Hun cry.
Buying a car is a weird process. A person would never stroll up to the checkout counter at a supermarket, plunk down a bag of potatoes and say, “I’ll give you two bucks for these spuds.”
“Sorry,” says the clerk, “But the MSRP on those pomme de terre is three dollars. I could maybe let you have them for $2.75.”
“I’ll give you $2.25 and not a penny more,” you reply.
“Lemme talk to my sales manager,” says the clerk as he scurries off.
Upon returning half an hour later, the clerk soberly intones, “My manager says that $2.73 is the best we can do. Did you know that those potatoes received five stars from the American Spud Society?”
Feeling like a toad who’s hopping across a buzzing superhighway, you frantically strive to negotiate a better price. The clerk holds firm. The ordeal has left you emotionally drained and you just want it to be over, so you at last dejectedly mutter, “Fine. You’ve got a deal.”
“Great,” beams the salesclerk as he pulls out a sheaf of papers. “Let’s get started on the paperwork. Are you going to finance those potatoes? And I can’t let you take them home without telling you about our extended warranty.”
The Information Age has reshaped car shopping more than Detroit has reshaped cars. Thanks to the internet, we can sift through an infinite number of choices and agonize infinitely over each choice.
My wife and I require that our car have seat heaters, otherwise known as bun warmers. Few things are worse than climbing into a car on a frigid winter morning and plopping down onto a block of ice.
We don’t have a garage, so a remote starter is another must. Remotely starting your car on a below-zero morning is like having a pal who says, “Here, let me do that. You stay inside where it’s cozy and I’ll defrost the windshield and fire up the bun warmers.”
My wife and I recently motored to a nearby dealership to snoop around. There were more attractive models on display than at a Miss Universe pageant. We were intrigued by a particular car, so we stopped a salesman and asked a few questions. A mistake.
Like Brer Rabbit, we quickly became mired in the Tar-Baby of the car sales process. We were enticed into taking a seat in the salesguy’s cubicle and plied with coffee and donuts.
After some friendly banter, we began to discuss the value of our aging sedan. The salesman called over an appraiser guy to take a look at our trusty steed. I suddenly felt at a huge disadvantage.
After all, it’s not like we have our own personal car appraiser. I could feel the screw begin to turn.
The salesguy eventually shot us a number. My wife made a counteroffer and the salesguy – naturally – said that he needed to speak with his sales manager.
We waited in his cube for a long while. It seemed like he’d forgotten about us, so I pulled out my phone and began to surf.
“The car we’re looking at got top ratings from the Guys Who Write Nice Things About Cars website,” I said to my wife. “But maybe we should consider other choices.”
“Let’s just see what happens,” she replied stoically.
The salesguy came back with a counteroffer to our counteroffer. “Nope, not good enough,” said my wife as she gathered up her purse. You know it’s over when she gathers up her purse.
We climbed into our sturdy old car and drove away. Minutes later, my wife’s cell phone rang. She let it go to voicemail.
We waited until evening to listen to the message. It was the salesguy calling to say that he would accept our counteroffer. It sounded like he’d been crying.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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