Monday, January 28, 2008
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said "That which does not kill me makes me stronger," which I find a highly unrealistic view of life. According to the philosopher with every major event in my life I am either doomed to die or arise Phoenix-like with greater strength. This particular philosophic adage may hold true for say Sylvester Stallone who developed strength enough from the originals to remake both Rocky and Rambo. He claims he owes this renaissance to human growth hormone which I think should create the corollary to Nietzsche's axiom, "Drugs which do not kill me make me stupid." My experience is somewhat different. I am writing this blog, so obviously nothing has stopped me dead in my tracks, but I certainly have been run over by life a few times and as I creak out of bed each morning I don't feel stronger.
My prime example is buying a car, which we are presently trying to do. I have bought probably 30 cars in my lifetime and I am never prepared for the experience. Robbie found a car on Ebay that he thought would be perfect to replace his 10 year old, 135,000 mile Toyota Rav 4. Those of you who may have read earlier blogs of mine know that I have a six year old Sienna with 183,000 miles on it. The "check engine" light has been on for three years. But it gets us to soccer practice, games, and even trips, so I have decided to try and nurse it along. Plus Robbie is now old enough to do the weekend trips to Chicago, so a safer, more reliable car makes sense – or least that's what he tells me!
This particular car sat on a dealership lot in a north suburb of Chicago, so we decided to go visit them rather than attempt to bid. We also found the same car listed on Auto Traders, Car Soup, Used Cars, etc. So we figured the dealership was motivated to sell. The price was clearly listed and since they were attempting to sell it on Ebay, we figured that they had a reserve which had to be lower than the advertised price. There had been no bids on it on Ebay, so we also thought they would appreciate a bird in the hand. I did my research. The car was listed at $24,997. I got the Kelly Blue Book for the car and found four others like it on the internet with retail prices of $23,000 to $23,500. I figured we could offer $1000 lower than that and reach a good deal. I was going to trade in the Rav 4 with a trade-in value in fair condition of $2600 and pay cash for the balance.
Here's where the "not stronger" part comes in. I don't know why I thought this dealership would be any different from the two dozen or more I have dealt with over the years, but it was worse and I wasn't up to the battle despite being a car buying veteran. The first thing the salesman did was add $890 to the price of the used car for "shipping." Apparently, according to the dealership, it wasn't fair to pass on the full cost of shipping a used car they had bought in Florida onto one buyer when another buyer might be purchasing a car that hadn't been shipped. So their reasoning was to average the cost and charge all used car buyers this fee. Since my car was local I was now being asked to subsidize someone who had the unfortunate taste to select a car that the dealership had crossed state lines to acquire.
This fee added onto the published retail price made the total cost $3000 over Kelly Blue Book. From that point forward things just disintegrated. No matter what my offer, the total price of the car in dealer math ended up being the same, $26,000. I made an offer, they lowered the value of the trade-in and viola! $26,000. I refused the extended warranty (worth $2000), they took that off the offer and amazingly my total out of pocket remained the same, $26,000. No matter the permutation, I would be paying $26,000 for the car.
It was voodoo economics, which now required an additional economist. Joining the salesman was some backroom guy who "only had my best interests at heart." Amazingly, even though the cost of the automobile never fluctuated, this new guy begged me to come up with "just a few hundred more" and we could reach a deal. A few hundred more would have made the price of the car $3000 and a "few hundred more" over the price of KBB. He thrust a sheet of paper at me with some typing on it that indicated he had paid $26,000 for the car. Since he had foolishly paid $3000 more than the retail price of the car according to a half dozen other reliable sources, I guess I was expected to bail him out of that situation. Either I had to question the business acumen of the dealership or I had to hand it to them for chutzpah.
As my dejected son watched this circus, I summoned the strength to walk out with the words of the backroom guy still echoing behind me, "Susan we're only $600 a part – what's $600?" That may have been my Nietzsche moment. "Only $600? Perfect. . .you take $600 off the total price of the car and we can still negotiate." He looked at me like I spinach in my teeth. We drove home in the old car.
Am I stronger for that experience? We'll find out in about four hours when I toddle down to another dealership to start the process all over. At least the price of the car we are looking at is listed just under Kelly Blue Book. So I am hopeful that things will go well. Right! Just listen to me . . . I haven't learned a thing!