Why We Don't Haggle, part 2

At the trailer shows when we say hello to people, some say hello back, some may ask us a question, and others just smile as they pass by. Some people may say "hello" but in a tone that implies, "I sure hope there's no follow-up question." Other people start walking faster or turn their heads away slightly to avoid eye contact and ensure they don't get caught in the dreaded "salesperson conversation".

These reactions don't offend us in the least because we understand why people feel the way they do about car or RV salespeople. The disdain many people feel towards dealerships and salespeople in general is oftentimes well-earned. Truthfully, we feel the same way about many dealerships and that's why we strive to be different from what the auto and RV industries are (unfortunately) known for.

Will Someone Please Tell Me How Much This Car Costs?!

At a certain dealership in the north Metro area I (Mark) found a car I liked and asked the saleswoman what the price was. She said we could go to the office and talk about it. I told her that I didn't want to go inside, I just wanted to know the price of the car.

Her response--I am not joking--was, "I can't tell you the price here."

"What? Why not?"

"We have to discuss the price inside."

"Why can't you just tell me the price right here?"

"Well, if I tell you the price you might take that quote to another dealership and have them match it."

Notwithstanding the highly cynical nature of that comment, it got me thinking: what--exactly--is in "the office" that would prevent me from learning the price, leaving, and then having a different dealership match it anyway? Do I get handcuffed to the desk until I sign a contract? Do they have a hypnotist in there? How many people with baseball bats are waiting for me if I don't accept their price on the spot?

I asked the saleswoman, "How in the world can I buy this car if you won't tell me how much it costs?"

She persisted: "We can talk about the price inside."

I gave up. "No thanks," I shrugged as I turned to leave.

The saleswoman called after me, "Hang on, let's talk about this!" Too late; goodbye.

I never did learn the price of that car. But I learned something else: the seeds of mistrust take about 0.2 seconds to plant and only a few seconds longer to grow into a situation that turns "I'd like to buy a car. From you. Today." into "I'd never buy a car from this place if it was the last dealership on earth." How can that ever be a better policy than simply being straight-forward and honest?

The Closer

My wife and I (Mark again) were looking for the proverbial Big Safe Vehicle to carry our soon-to-arrive newborn so we went to a local dealership with this goal in mind. We knew the type of car and options we wanted so the salesman just needed to check if there was such a vehicle in stock. He returned from the computer with news that a car with the exact equipment we required was available but that it was in Cheyenne and he would need a few days to have it shipped to Denver.

We agreed to this and were promptly ushered in to the office of "the closer." The pleasant experience started to sour as we waited twenty minutes for the person who finalizes the transaction to arrive. Finally the gentleman appeared--obviously fresh from a smoke break*--and began offering all sorts of extended warranties and service plans. We declined each one.

After these numerous attempts to add extra fees to the contract failed the closer blurted out--almost as an aside: "Eh, that's okay, we'll make more money off you servicing the thing anyway."

Um, okay. Now that statement could be entirely true, but it seems like a particularly harsh truth to face when signing a dotted line for many, many of our hard-earned dollars. My wife and I actually stepped out of the office for a moment to talk things over. Ultimately we decided to go forward with the purchase despite our irritation.

Well, that irritation was renewed the first time the car needed service. We did not want to take the car back to where we purchased it (lest the closer "make more money off us servicing the thing") so we located a nearby dealership and took the car there.

When the new dealership looked up the car's information we were informed that the car was originally from that dealership's inventory; it was not from a dealership in Cheyenne. The other dealership (it rhymes with "bed-head") lied to us. They probably thought that if we knew the car was just 5 miles away--and not 100 miles away--we might go to that dealership directly instead of waiting for a transfer. But we never had the choice to do that or to just stay with the dealership that was already helping us because of their "Cheyenne" fabrication.

If they had been up-front about the situation we would have stayed with them anyway (the due date was still a few months away and we appreciated the minimal help they had already provided) and the monetary result would have been the same for them. But as is, how can we view that dealership with anything but disappointment?

Buying a big-ticket item should be a special event. Whether it's a car, camper, boat, or house the experience should be fun and exciting. It's difficult to have fun when you learn a company values money more than it values honesty (though I guess the closer was simply being overly honest).

I don't have much of a conclusion except to say that these stories are only two out of many we've either heard through the years or that we've experienced that hopefully illustrate we understand what it's like to deal with dealers. I also hope that if we have an opportunity to meet you'll agree we're not like many dealers out there. In fact, if we leave you thinking, "I've never experienced a dealership like that before," we'll take it as a compliment.

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*To clarify, I make no judgment about this person's personal habits; the point is that my wife and I waited in an office for over twenty minutes while the gentleman took a break. Being in a family business, I may be naive to how larger dealerships handle break time but this seemed highly inappropriate given the situation. 'Nuff said.