Shopping For Ripoffs
We were looking for a car for Raina and got an ad in the mail for a huge clearance extravaganza at a local dealer who shall remain nameless. Not that I want to avoid prosecution for libel but because, based on anecdotal evidence, they're all the same. The ad promised $99 cars and others for zero down, $79 per month. The ad had a $3000 coupon towards the purchase of a car. Amazing stuff, right? Yvette and I decided to spend a fun afternoon together.
So we pull into the dealership. We walk on in and chat with the salesman. The salesman was a woman, but I'm not going to be obviously gender-specific by saying she was a salesperson. We asked to see the $99 car. She said we didn't want to do that. So we didn't see it.
Upon reflection, I think I would have wanted to see that car. I mean, how awful must it have been for a dealership to offer it up for only $99? Heck, I'd pay a buck to see the $99 car and ooh and aah over how messed up it was. Anyway, the small print in the ad said it was a 1993 Saturn with a lot number 16709568A. With that $3000 coupon, sure, we could get a '93 Saturn for $99.
She takes us out into the lot. There, right up at the front, is a 1993 Saturn. The lot number? 16709586A. Wow. What were the odds they'd have TWO '93 Saturns with nearly identical lot numbers? As we hold the ad, checking the numbers, the salesman asks if she can show the ad to her manager. Why not? It's not like it's our only bit of information for us to use in calling them on any scam they may be trying to run. It's just the only piece we brought with us that day.
But that's cool. We get a test drive, right? We're still interested in the little old car from '93, so we get the key and go for a spin.
I suggest we drive home, pull up a CarFax on the VIN and check to see what other people sell their '93 Saturns for. So we test drive it home, pull up the info, and test drive it back to the dealer.
The CarFax noted the vehicle hadn't been involved in any wrecks. It also had the same number on the odometer as we had. In fact, the odometer didn't budge a millimeter as we drove it. That would make computing miles per gallon difficult. It had a slight pull to the right and damage to the interior surfaces, but, hey, for a '93, a lot more could be wrong with it. Other people were selling theirs for $1500-$2000, so we decided to open our bidding at $995-$1195 and come up from there.
We get back, walk back into the dealer, CarFax printout in hand, and show how the odometer didn't budge. We mention others were selling their '93 Saturns for around $1500, but with the damages, we'd think $995 would be more appropriate. She gets the "Clearance Manager" to come talk to us.
In our research, we also found the image of the vehicle on the dealer's website and had printed it off to see if there were any obvious defects on the exterior. It also had a sticker in the window for $2980. That was too high, we weren't going to pay that. We weren't going to go over $1500 for that car, in fact, but we hadn't told them that in so many words. Anyway, hotshot takes the picture and explains how that's a price on the vehicle for the pre-clearance sale and it wasn't a real price and it shouldn't have been there and we're sorry it misled you.
So I was misled by a used car dealership? Shocking.
He then goes on to say that the bank owns that car for $9760. "I know you'll find this hard to believe, but, yeah, that's the price." Yvette and I did our best not to laugh out loud, but it was clear we were dealing with a lying snake. We weren't going to buy a car that day, obviously, so everything else was for entertainment and education only. "Now, we can come down from that with the coupon to $6760. If you can't pay that in cash, we can finance it for you today."
Ha, I say.
I said there that was way over. I had no idea how the bank had that much money on it, but, yeah, that's a sad story, buddy, and I'm sorry you're stuck with a $1000 car with a $10,000 sticker on it. Life is hard. We can't go over $1500 for the car we're looking for and that one ain't even worth that. It's in need of repairs and $995 is a fair price on it.
"What if we can get it down to the price in the window?"
"That's still too much. We'll just try the police auction on Monday."
The "Clearance Manager" and the salesman both went and talked with other managers and when we said to one what the other told us, we got informed the chain of authority around there was rather entangled. Reminded me of reading in Chester Karrass' book, Give and Take about how having limited authority can be a great negotiating tool. By the way, you should definitely read that book. It's amazing. I own two copies of it, one for home and one for where I teach at school. We're firm on our $995-$1495 window.
Salesman then says she's got a car slightly out of our range and asks if we'd consider it. Suuuuuuuuuuuure. It's a crapped-out Nissan Quest with completely custom-stained interiors, a hood that doesn't quite open or shut, and doesn't even start when we turn the key. The paint job screamed "Danger, Will Robinson!" and we decided not to take it for a spin.
Would we consider spending a little bit more to get a better car? No. We would consider going to the police auction to get a better car.
After we got home with our prize for coming in that day, a $5 gift card at Wal-Mart, we found www.nadaguides.com, where we could look up the Blue Book values on any car for free. Blue Book on a '93 Saturn? In near-perfect condition, $2000.
We checked out the values on the cars at the police auction so we wouldn't overbid on anything. We'll see how that goes tomorrow.
by Dean Webb