oooohhh that smell (longest blog ever – seriously)

New car smell. Never had it, but I’ve smelled it in other people’s vehicles. It’s weird. Anyway, after 3.5 years of driving a two-seater with a fabric top, I decided to get something completely different. Wrote about this maybe six months ago in my blog, but it took me until today to make it happen. Some things I do on a whim, others take more time. Especially a big purchase like this.

I tend to keep cars for a long time (Miata excluded), so I wanted to get something that would be multi-purpose. My life sometimes takes tangents. I wanted a vehicle that would handle tangents AND road trips. Today, I ordered a 2008 Mazda 3 hatchback. It’s a great little car with quite a bit of room to haul shit. What kind of shit? I don’t know, but now I can haul it. Or, I will be able to haul it when the car arrives in a few months.

This was not an easy purchase for me on many levels. I’m still paying off the Miata, and the new car payments will not be much higher than where I’ve been. So that’s good. I don’t put a lot of miles on my vehicles (that 3-mile drive to work helps keep the mileage low), so this needed to be a car I wouldn’t get tired of very quickly. Break-ins aside, I really love my convertible. Especially in the fall/winter/spring season. The season we have that isn’t hot. Plus, I tend to develop almost crazy emotional connections to the car I drive, so this is a bit like a break up. A break up that almost happened this weekend.

I’m all about driving stick. Snicker. And there were no 5-speed 3 hatchbacks in Houston. None. In any trim level. So I had to go to Austin Saturday to maybe buy the ONE that Mazda South had on its lot. I had talked to this chick (let’s call her Alicia, since that’s her name) over the phone on the 4th, and she gave me a pretty decent price. Decent enough to get me to drive out there. If there is one phobia I have (and, seriously, I have like eighty), it’s that someone is going to make me feel like a dumbass. So I did my homework. Arrived there with a whole packet of shit I’d printed up from various car research sites (I wrote about this in a fairly extensive and boring manner in Dilettante). Also, I brought my secret weapon – Steve Jackson. Those of you who know my dad get it. Those of you who don’t, let me tell you how he described me once to one of his clients, “Yeah, Crystal’s a lot like me, only with big tits.” You see where I get it.

So we get to the dealer, and Alicia looks like an ex-professional softball player. She seems nice. We go for a test drive. Before we’ve even reached the car in the parking lot, Dad notices a big fucking DENT in what is my potential new car. Much like seeing a huge pimple on your prom date, I’m not to thrilled with this development. She sees me begin to retreat from the car and assures me they’ll be able to take $300 off the car. Having arrived in full negotiation mode, I immediately think that I can turn that $300 into a $500 discount, and I am guessing it will only cost about $100 to get fixed (I just had a dent popped out of the Miata to up its resale value). So we go on our test drive, and the chick has me go down this road that has all these weird intersections. I can’t figure out where she wants me to go, and I find myself having to ask her at every fucking stop sign. It distracts me from the business at hand.

We get back to the dealership, and Dad lets me know that he could even see the dent from inside the showroom when I returned from the test drive. UGH! This is my first new car, so I’m not too thrilled. But I can get over it for the right discount. I give her the keys to the Miata so they can do their appraisal, and we get down to brass tacks. She claims that she can’t go any lower than the price she quoted me over the phone. I tell her of the problem I had with the main Mazda website – they are offering a $300 rebate, but they never emailed me the certificate. In case it was my over-zealous pop up blocker or something, I asked Dad to try from Industry. No dice. Then Mason. Nope. So obviously if we three incredibly intelligent (and attractive) people can’t do it, there’s a problem.

You would think that my car SALESperson would apologize for the inconvenience and suggest an alternative so I can get my $300 off. $300 that will be paid by Mazda, not her dealership. Nope. She says that “plenty of other people here today had no trouble getting the certificate so I don’t know what to tell you.” She then continues (and this is rich) to suggest we go to the business across the street and she will use their computer to do it for us. AS IF WE WERE TOO FUCKING STUPID TO FILL OUT A FORM THAT, LITERALLY, REQUIRED NOTHING MORE THAN YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS. What a dumbass. Talk about not reading your customer. So we explain to her that the form was not the issue and perhaps she could talk to “Mazda” about it. She says that is not an option. For me, this is the moment the deal went sour. I was willing to forgive the dent (assuming the discount made it worth my while), but this bullshit was too much.

So we continue. I’m starting to get red at this point (and yes, David, there was slight movement in my eyelid). I say, “Okay, so how much are you taking off for the dent?” She says, “I can’t take this price any lower. This is already less than the dealer paid for the car.”

Steve had been pretty silent up to this point. He was sitting next to me, laid back in his chair with his sunglasses on and letting me do my thing. He sits a bit more upright at her comment and says, “Come on, Alicia.” She starts to get agitated and says (and this was the death of her and the final killer of the deal), “Are you calling me a LIAR?” Ree-fucking-dick-you-luss. So Dad takes off his sunglasses, leans forward just inches from her reddening face, and says, “How long have you been selling cars, Alicia?” “Thirteen years.” “Well, I’ve been buying cars for thirty, and I know for a fact that you have not quoted us a price that is LOWER than what you paid for the car.” She FREAKS. Seriously. I played out many scenarios prior to going to Austin, but this was in no way predicted. She starts trying to move money around and tells me they can give me more for my trade (duh – they way undervalued the Miata – I know this because I got it appraised at CarMax and had done my homework). She comes up with some bullshit price and I tell her we need to discuss it. Alone.

She leaves for a bit and Dad tells me he wouldn’t really want to continue working with her but it’s up to me. I say fuck it. Let’s roll. She comes back and I tell her we’re going to discuss it over lunch. She asks if she can recommend something. I tell her no, that we’re meeting my brother who lives in Austin. In other words, we’re not in uncharted territory. Austin’s not that far from Houston. So we leave to meet Mom, Mason and Taylor at Guerro’s. Have fun telling the story over some really strong margaritas.

Let me back up. Before having my first drink, Alicia calls. I answer, and Mason motions to me to go outside and take my time with the conversation. She starts throwing all these numbers at me and asks if that is what I wanted. I tell her that actually I’m still thinking about the way things went down at the dealership. I let her know that I’m amazed at what transpired. She says that, yes, things got out of hand, and she’s a big enough person to apologize when she’s wrong.

When someone tells you what a big person they are for apologizing when THEY fucked up, they’re not really apologizing. So I explain to her that she was working for me and had no business losing her cool like that. She tells me that I arrived at the dealership with a “chip” on my shoulder. I tell her that if I did, it’s because this is a huge purchase for me and everyone knows when they buy a new car they’re going to get fucked. She says they are not in the business to screw anybody and that she is moving my car request over to some manager at the dealership. I remind her that these negotiations are part of her job and that most people who are buying cars do that like every three years at most. In other words, if anyone is going to lose their cool during negotiations, it should be the car buyer who has much less information than the salesperson. Whatever. They could have offered to sell me the car for five dollars at that point and it wouldn’t have made a diff. I was through.

On my drive back to Houston, I had a lot of time to replay the whole thing in my mind. I thought about the guy I talked to at Jeff Haas the night before. I wanted to make sure that this Houston dealer wasn’t going to get some end-of-the-model-year delivery that would include the car I wanted. He told me they would not, so I shared with him that I was going to Austin the next day. Told him the details of the deal, and he said that he thought I was getting a good price and should go for it. He also directed me to the $300 coupon (which I already knew about, but still). So as I was nearing home and approaching that dealership, I decided to pop in and look at the four-doors they had in stock.

The dealership was about to close, but Bob took me out to look at a car. In the rain. I told him the story about the Austin dealer, and he was amazed. He said that almost everyone had been having trouble with the coupon, and he’d told his customers to print it up later and mail it to him. So Alicia had more options than just telling me I was shit outta luck. I liked Bob. So I considered getting a four-door. He gave me a great price with pretty much no haggling. I think he’s pretty above-board, and I also think he got the deal with where I’m at. A crucial ingredient in a good salesperson. Before going to the dealer today to (perhaps) complete the deal on the four-door, I noticed on the dealer invoice that the car had been on the lot since last year. That seemed fairly weird to me and to Dad. We wondered why a car would be on the lot that long. I started imagining hail damage or flood issues.

Bob assured me that nothing was wrong with the car as we were on our test drive (the car only had five miles on it), but he didn’t poo-poo my fears. He didn’t try the hard sell. So I decided on that drive that I would just order a 2008 and get exactly what I want. As I said, I’d like to get something I can keep for a long time and I think the hatchback is a better bet. Again, no pressure from him. So I ordered a new car, put down a small deposit and was on my way. I feel great about the price I got and the way I was treated.

So there you go.