Journal Entry: July 8, 2009

You know that old Chinese saying/proverb/curse about living in interesting times? If I had to put Western words to it today, I’d say happiness usually exists in direct proportion to the dullness of blog posts.

So, yeah, I’ve got a story to tell.

I drove my boss’s spare BMW home from work yesterday, worked out briefly, and then took my wife out to dinner while my friend D– stayed home with AB. We went to Wendy’s (romantic) because T– wanted a Frosty and I was very slightly curious about their new boneless buffalo wings (and exactly how they would differ from their timeworn chicken nuggets). Unfortunately business was slow and the staff was either stoned or sleepy, because they managed to get every aspect of our order wrong.

The buffalo wings come in one of three flavors, and when I tried to tell him which one I wanted, he said I could have the “bold buffalo” sauce. I didn’t ask for bold buffalo sauce, he just told me with a baffling confidence that that was what I was going to order, and then he typed it into the machine. Then he gave us our drinks and we found a table to wait for the food. My Dr Pepper tasted a little funny — too much soda, not enough syrup — but that happens sometimes, so I let it go.

Then the guy behind the register called me up to the counter to say, “Hey man, I know you wanted the bold buffalo sauce, but I accidentally put Asian zing sauce on. That okay?” I just stared at him for a moment, trying to formulate an answer, and he said, “These are the last ones we have ready, and it’d take a long time to make some new ones.” I should have thought that all the way through, but instead I told him Asian zing was fine.

T– got a chicken sandwich, so there were a total of about nine pieces of chicken among us at the table, and when our meal showed up, every one of them was scorched beyond reason. The fries were so undercooked as to be soggy, though. I could have just said, “We went to Wendy’s, and it was disappointing,” and nobody alive would’ve been surprised by that statement, but the sheer level to which they failed to fulfill their obligation as a provider of food was quite astonishing.

Halfway through our dinner (yes, we ate it), T– said, “This is not a very promising start to our evening.”

It wasn’t meant to be a date night, so much as we left AB with D– so we could go car shopping. I’d spent a significant portion of the day shopping online, and found a really great deal on a low-end 2007 Saturn Vue at Hudiburg Chevrolet in Midwest City. That’s a big forty-minute drive for us, but that’s also precisely the car T– wants, and the price was right, so it was worth checking out. We thought we would give it a look over in person, maybe see how comfortable it was inside, then drive up to Edmond to check out the used cars on the lot where they’re working on our Honda. There’s a couple used lots near there, so we could get in some good browsing, but we wanted to check out that Vue as a baseline.

So after our disappointing dinner we got on the highway, and took it to another highway, and finally ended up at the dealership around seven. We rolled around the lot a bit, spotted a couple Vues (a 2008 and a 2007, just like I’d seen in the online inventory), so we parked and walked over to the ’07 to check it out. It wasn’t the one we’d seen online, though. 3,000 fewer miles on it, and $5,000 more on the list price.

Before we’d totally figured that out, though, the salesman snagged us. He showed us the car, pulled it out and cajoled us into taking a test drive, and he did a good job pointing out all the great things about the car, but nearly all of them were amenities and options that we didn’t need (and which explained why the same year, same model, was so much more expensive than the one we’d come to see). We asked him a couple times if he could show us the cheaper one, because we couldn’t find it, but he’d just say, “Well, we’ll see what we can do for you.”

So we got back from the test drive and he had us park next to the office building, then took us in and sat us down at his desk. At this point we’ve looked at exactly one vehicle, and it’s out of our price range. We knew this, and we’d made sure he knew this. That was a pretty poor showing for the half hour we’d already spent at the lot, but once he had us in the chairs in his office, that was the end of our night.

He went through the whole song and dance, striking up friendly conversation, getting to know us, learning AB’s name and asking about her, telling us all about his fiance, so that we felt like there was a real connection there (so we’d feel bad about walking out on him). He burned up time, spending forty minutes to fill out a one-page form while he chatted casually, so we’d feel like we had a real time investment in this purchase. He asked me what monthly payment we were looking for, discarding out of hand any discussion of total price (and total new debt that came with it). Unfortunately I didn’t come prepared with a monthly rate, so I had to name something on the spot. I said $200 to $250, and he didn’t even try to get close. He didn’t even take anything off the sticker price. Just came back with a calculation on the $17,000 that it would cost us either $350 or $300 a month, depending whether we could put a thousand down.

We told him no, that was way, way more than the number I’d given him (which turned out to be too big a number anyway), and that this car really probably wasn’t the right one for us. He said, “Nah, nah, give me a minute, I’ll see what I can do.” And went back in the room and pantomimed an argument with his manager for us and came back with a thousand bucks off the sticker price. We told him no again, and we had to get home because the babysitter was ready to leave, and he said, “Well, just give me a minute, I’ll see what I can do.” And came back with a lower monthly payment on the same total price (so he was just extending our term by a few more years), and when we told him no that time, he said, “All right, I’ve just got to get some paperwork taken care of.”

Then he brought out his manager who was all set to put us through the same charade again. He started into a spiel about 80- and 90-month car loans, and I told him outright, “We are not walking out of here with more than $13,000 of new debt.” We’d actually showed up hoping to talk the $11,200 car we’d seen online down to around $9,000, but this one was a nicer vehicle. By a lot. If he’d come down to thirteen, I probably would have caved.

He just shook his head and said, “That car will never be less than 13. I can get your monthly payments down to $225….”

And that’s when T– said, “Sorry, we’ve got to go. We have a babysitter waiting for us.” And we left.

We got back to the house at nine o’clock. That was our entire evening — one-sided haggling over a car we kept insisting we weren’t interested in. T– had to drop me off and then drive up to Edmond anyway, because she had an errand to run. We’d planned to take care of that while shopping the lots in Edmond, but we never got to do any of that.

It was an aggravating evening. Super-friendly salespeople aren’t great for the social anxiety, either, I can tell you.

Anyway, I got home and spent half an hour putting AB to bed, then sort of just vegged out on the couch while T– watched Flight of the Conchords.

Oh! I did put some finishing touches on my Memory Game (the one Toby helped me write), and it’s now available for testing if any of your are interested. Feedback is required (and tips are welcome).

Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.

One Reply to “Journal Entry: July 8, 2009”

  1. I hate to say I hate anybody…..but I really do loathe salespeople who cling unconditionally to their spiel and refuse to let the customer take things where the customer wants them to go. You and T displayed a lot more patience than I would have been able to muster!

    I’m sorry you’re living in such “interesting” times.

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