I hate cars, but they are a necessity (for me), like brushing my teeth (which I also hate). In 2002 I bought a Camry and turned it over to my daughter when she and her husband were looking for a low mileage car that had been lightly driven and was still in excellent cosmetic shape.
It only had 220,000 miles on it and the cracked bumpers and scrapes along both sides gave it a lot of character. They were grateful to be driving in such style and added another 60k commuting from Hollywood to the South Bay for a couple of years in light morning and light evening traffic on the 110 and the 101.
In 2007 I bought a Prius. It has been a great car and we have not driven it hardly at all. I think we only just turned over 180,000 miles which is not all that much. Cosmetically it has a lot of character from bike racing. There are these avant-garde chain paintings throughout the interior that remind me a lot of Kandinsky or Rothko.
Then last week the Camry had a “life event” that involved the thing that does the whatchamacallit and the doodad broke down, too. I am a firm believer in car maintenance and had religiously changed the oil every 30,000 miles whether it needed it or not, so I was surprised to hear from my daughter that the recommended fix was “Get this smoking hunk of shit out of my shop and cart it off to the junkyard.”
I guess they don’t make Toyotas like they used to.
So we figured we would pass on the Prius to the kids since it was practically new and still has a good 10-15 years of life left in it, more if they are regular with the oil like I was with the Camry, but then that put us in the situation of having to get a new car for ourselves.
“Actually we don’t need a car,” I said to Mrs. WM.
“We better be gettin onna new car,” she said.
“You can get a bike and we can commute and walk. It will be great.”
“You can get onna new Prius and not have divorcin’ papers,” she said.
So I called up Derek who is a great bike racer and perfect for helping me buy a new car.
“Yo,” I said. “I need a new car. Can you help me buy one?”
“Sure,” he said. “What kind of car do you want?”
“What kind of car do you have?”
“A Chevy Volt.”
“Then I want a Chevy Volt.”
He paused. “You do? Why?”
“It’s good enough for you, it ought to be good enough for me.”
“You know, our families are kind of different and you might think about …”
I cut him off. “Look, I’m terrible at car buying. You’re great at car buying. I bet you got a smoking deal on your Volt.”
“So I’d rather get your smoking deal on a car that no one can drive than pay double the MSRP on something that everyone loves.”
“Why not figure out what car you actually want and then do a deal?”
“Cars are the enemy,” I said. “The only good car is a dead car.”
“Like the Camry?”
“Like the Camry.”
Derek’s plan was ruthless and simple. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “The worst car salesperson negotiates more deals in a week than you have negotiated your entire life. You will lose. You’re a Cat 6 and they’re stage winners in the Tour. Plus, you’ll be going through their Internet sales department which is a shark tank. They will inhale you. Remember the Rule of Poker.”
“I don’t play poker.”
“If you sit down at the table and can’t immediately identify the sucker, you’re the sucker.”
“This role I know.”
“So you have to turn your ignorance to your advantage. First, log into the Chevy Volt online forum. Read the last several days from the forum dedicated to recent purchases and you will get a good feel for the best prices out there that people are getting. But be careful.”
“Lots of the posters are lying through their teeth. Read enough of the posts to get a feel for rock bottom v. bloviating bullshit.”
“I’m great at identifying bullshit.”
“You of all people should be.”
“Then get your Costco discount.”
“Your Costco discount.”
“I’m not a Costco member. That’s a total scam. $55 to save thousands on groceries? Total ripoff.”
“Well, once you join you can request a quote through their car buying program. It will be a couple thousand off whatever the ‘deal’ is that you would get walking in off the street.”
“Really. You pay $55 and save thousands off your car price.”
I did the math, slowly, and it seemed to work. “Then what?”
“Then you take that offer into the dealer who Costco hooks you up with, and you shoot for a couple thousand below that.”
“Shoot for? I always shoot for cheap prices. But I always miss.”
“Exactly. That’s where you play your ‘sucker’ card. You go to the dealer, take a photo of the window sticker and text it to me. I’ll look at all the options–and you want leather seats, no question–and I’ll text you your offering price.”
“And then by the time they sell me the rustproofing and the million mile extended warranty and the fluffy thing that hangs from the rearview mirror it’ll be several thousand dollars higher.”
“No it won’t.”
“Because you’re going in to make a deal and you’re not moving off your price. You’re going to go in and say ‘I don’t want to waste your time and if you can’t do this I totally understand but this is all I can do and if you can make money off that then let’s do a deal but if not I totally understand and you leave.”
“Have you ever done this?”
“Every car I’ve ever bought.”
“And it works?”
“100% of the time, it works 100% of the time.”
I took a breath. “Okay.”
Sure enough, the Volt forum was filled with lies of the worst kind, but also with some numbers that looked good. Then I swallowed hard, joined Costco, filled out the car request, and within minutes had an offer for two 2017 Volts, one cloth and one leather:
Then the nice lady called me immediately. “When would you like to come in and test drive your Volt?”
“Monday,” I said, figuring that Monday morning would be slow and they’d be readier to deal than on a Saturday or Sunday.
Before heading in I spoke with Derek. “Remember two things, Wanky,” he said.
“1. Leather. 2. Don’t budge.”
Steeled and confident, I strode into the dealer at 11:00 AM. It was cemetery dead. The nice lady came down and whisked me off into the Leather Volt, which she had conveniently parked by the front door in anticipation of my visit. I clandestinely shot the window sticker and sent it to Derek. He immediately pinged me back. “$29,500. Not one penny more. LEATHER ONLY.”
Then things went off the rails because now we were driving. I had thought we’d begin talking pricing and I could give my little speech but nope. Now I was behind the wheel of this very new car and was overwhelmed with its leatherness. As the nice lady went on about how I could use my iPhone and check text messages and do all manner of distracted driving that was impossible in the Prius, I panicked.
“So how do you like it?” she asked.
“I love it,” I blurted out. “It’s freaking awesome.” There, you went and ruined it, I said to myself. Might as well give her your checkbook. Just tell her not one penny over MSRP.
“Oh, yes, it’s a wonderful car. What car are you driving now?”
I had parked the Prius three block away because I was afraid if they saw it they would conclude I was an indigent who couldn’t possibly afford a new car. “A Prius,” I said.
A shadow of concern crossed her face, and in an instant I realized that for a Leather Volt seller, Prius was kryptonite. “How do you like the Prius?”
“Our Prius?” I said. “I hate it.” Dogdammit! I cursed myself again as she regained her calm. The only two cards I had and I’d not only shown them, I’d given them to her.
“Well you will love this Volt,” she said. “When are you going to buy?”
“Today,” I said, totally giving up. Even I knew that you never tell the Leatherperson you’re hot to buy today.
“Well, we can certainly do that.”
But just as the whole thing slipped from my grasp, I had an idea. “Yeah,” I said, “I’m dying to buy a Volt today. In fact that’s kind of the deal I made with my wife.”
“Oh?” Now she was on full alert because the only thing that brings more kryptonite to a deal than the name of the biggest competitor are the words “my wife.”
“Yeah,” I said. “My wife is Japanese and she loves our Prius. That’s kind of our marital problem,” I confided. “She loves that stupid car and I’m sick of it.”
The nice lady sensed something bad was about to happen. “Oh?”
“Yeah. I mean it’s been real solid, 250,000 miles and still on the original battery, real dependable and super cheap to run. We hardly ever put gas in it. But I’m so sick of it so I told my wife ‘Honey, I’m going to go buy a Chevy Volt today,’ and we had a long discussion about the price and stuff and we struck a deal.”
“I told her that if I could get that Leather Volt at the price we agreed on then I was gonna buy today. But if we couldn’t then we’d go to the Toyota dealership and check out the Priuses. Of course I told her that even if we can’t do a deal today I was still leaning towards the Leather Volt because I want a Leather Volt, but I’d at least do my due diligence and see what they had in the Leather Prius and such.”
There was a moment of silence. It was all so unplanned and natural that it sounded true, and the nice lady, who had great confidence in her ability to close a deal, also had great confidence in Toyota of Torrance’s ability to close a deal because that’s where I’d bought the Prius. She also knew that no deal happens without the wife. “So your wife really likes the Prius?” she tried to sound cheerful.
“Oh, she’s nuts about it. She’s Japanese,” I added for the fourth time, “and it’s kind of a national thing. Pretty weird. She loves anything made by Toyota or Sony. But me, I’m a red-blooded American and I’m ready for a Chevy even though all I’ve ever owned are Toyotas.”
The conversation was pretty desultory all the way back to the dealer. We parked and went in and sat down at the guillotine, a place where in past car purchases by this time I had already stretched and offered my neck to the blade. “Let me get you some numbers,” she said, having regained all her enthusiasm. “We’re going to get you into a Volt today.”
She got up. “Hang on,” I said. “I really appreciate the test drive and I love that car but I don’t want to waste any more of your time. My wife has set a price and it’s my price to do a deal today. I totally understand if you can’t do it and I sure don’t expect you to lose money on the deal. So if you can’t do it just tell me and I’ll save you the aggravation of going back and forth. I’ll probably be back even if we can’t do a deal today anyway. I can’t imagine a Leather Prius feels as nice as that Leather Volt.”
The kryptonite was strong. “What’s the price?”
She looked at me. “I might be able to do that in cloth, maybe a little more but it’s not out of the question.”
“I’m really sorry,” I said. “$29,500, leather.”
“I can’t do that.”
“I totally understand.”
“But let me check with my sales manager.”
She walked off and left me there to discharge big puddles of sweat into my shoes.
She came back smiling. “We can do it,” she said.
“Yes. $29,999 leather.”
“That’s great!” I said.
“I knew you’d be happy.”
“Can you put that in writing?”
“Of course.” She wrote it down on the sheet.
I stood up. “I’ll see you later this week, hopefully.”
“What do you mean? I thought we were going to do a deal today?”
“Me, too. But I told you my number was $29,500. I mean, $29,999 is so close. I doubt Torrance of Toyota can beat that, especially with the $1,500 state rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit I’ll get with the Volt. Unless they also offer it with the plug-in Prius.”
“I can’t do $29,500 leather.” She was crestfallen.
“Thanks for working so hard.”
I turned and headed for the door. Just before my feet crossed the plane of the goal line the sales manager came flying out of his office, tackled me at the knees, slammed my head to the ground, and flipped me over. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“Torrance of Toyota,” I said.
“We can do $29,500,” he said.
“Leather?” I asked.
“Leather,” he said.
And we did.
I was pretty happy when I got back home. I parked the Volt in our space, happily thinking about how much money I wasn’t ever going to spend on gasoline again. I hopped out of the car and pulled the charging thingy out of the back, plugged it into the car and uncoiled the cord. The awesome thing about the Leather Volt is that it plugs in a normal electrical socket, same as you’d use for a hair dryer or toaster oven.
That’s when I noticed that we didn’t have an electrical outlet.
After the first few seconds of shock subsided, I immediately began making plans for leaving the state under cover of night, as there was no way I’d ever be able to face Derek, much less Mrs. WM, having bought a plug-in car without first making sure I had a plug.
When it became obvious that even a late night escape wouldn’t work, I called up Alfredo. Alfredo can fix anything. “Yo, Alfredo,” I said. “I bought a car.”
“That’s terrible,” he consoled me. “What kind?”
“A leather plug-in.”
“Volt? Or Prius?”
“That’s awesome. You’ll never buy gas again.”
“Yeah, but I have a problem.”
“I don’t have a socket.”
“You bought the car without first checking to see if you have a place to plug in your plug-in vehicle?”
He whistled. “Man, you are a complete moron.”
“So I’ll buy the car from you for fifty bucks.”
“Is that my only option?”
“It’s probably your best one. Other option is that I come over tonight around 2:00 AM and do some electrical work in your complex’s parking garage.”
I thought about it. Couple of beers for Alfredo to get the car working or relocation to Alaska. “Deal,” I said.
Next morning the car was charged. And thank you. It runs just fine.
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