Tuesday, July 15, 2008


On Saturday I took The Flatmate out car hunting, and we were both disturbed by the treatment we got at various car yards large and small around the city. Possibly it’s a form of reverse psychology, but they seemed uniformly disinterested in selling us cars.

The classic used car salesman was an oily fellow who sidled up to you and tried to make you think that he was your friend. The used car salesmen we met, however, gave every indication of considering us to be a thorn in their collective side.

At the first car yard we visited, the salesman refused to let The Flatmate take a car for a test drive because it was up at the back of the lot and he’d need to move half a dozen cars to get it out. This might have been understandable if it was a cheap little rustbox The Flatmate wanted, but it was a $25,000 Saab convertible. He gave us the distinct impression that unless we wanted to just give him a big wad of cash and take whichever car happened to be closest to the exit, we were being more trouble than we were worth.

At the second car yard, I saw a car I liked and asked the salesman what he'd give me for a trade-in on my Golf. He told me he wasn't interested. Not that there was anything wrong with my Golf, which he thought to be a lovely example of its kind, but apparently he believed that it wouldn't be worth his time when there were plenty of people who could turn up and simply pay cash.

At the third car yard, we actually managed to convince the salesmen to let us take a test drive… and they gave us a car than ran out of petrol less than five minutes into the drive. We had to walk three blocks back to the yard. When we got there and the salesmen had a choice between a) apologising profusely for the inconvenience and b) giving us suspicious glares, they chose b).

In all of these cases, you’d think that it would be an excellent opportunity for us to say, “Well, we'll take our business elsewhere then!”, but unfortunately all we’d receive would be a shrug that suggests they're happy to see the back of us.

I get the impression that they all want the big score and nothing less. They expect every single customer to be a dim-witted mining company employee flush with cash who'll walk in, slap the asking price on the table, and then tuck a spare hundred into the salesman's pocket to buy a little something pretty for his wife. No one seems to want to deal with ordinary people who might "um" and "ah" and haggle and then only offer a modest profit on a deal.

No doubt well-heeled splurgers exist, but surely there can’t be that many of them? Not enough to base a business model for an entire industry?

At the end of the day all I really know is that it’s more than a little galling to be considered beneath the attention of a used car salesman. It’s like having your ethics questioned by a journalist.


Anonymous TroyG said...

"It’s like having your ethics questioned by a journalist."

... by a journalist from the Fox Network.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Cookster said...

Bland - we bought a $16K car from Prestige Honda and the salesman was extremely helpful. Moved about six cars out of the way so we could have a test drive and was happy to throw in a few added extras... nothing was too hard.

4:08 PM  

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