816 Opinion

October 8, 2013

In these shark-filled waters, I have a secret defense

I don’t leave my wife at home when hunting for a car.

It’s been a long time since I felt so vulnerable and exposed.

But then, it’s been a long time since I strolled onto a car dealer’s lot.

Stepping from my car, I had the overwhelming sense of being watched intently. I felt the same sense of impending dread that a boater must feel upon falling into shark-infested waters.

Within seconds the salesman made his move. The theme from “Jaws” played in my head at his approach.

Fortunately I was with my wife.

I am weak-willed and easily distracted by shiny objects —veritable chum in the water for a crafty salesman.

She, on the other hand, is a savvy and well-informed shopper. She had spent hours researching every economic and mechanical facet of the specific models we were looking for before we ventured out to do car-buying battle. I would bet money she knew more about the car we came to look at than the sales guy.

We were in car-shopping mode because my ancient ride had finally gone to that great salvage yard in the sky.

Which fact, my wife informed me, is not to be shared with those seeking to make a sale. Nor was I to seem too impressed with a particular vehicle’s features. It’s best to not seem too eager.

The next dealer we visited turned out to be a classic example of how once they get you in the door, they pull out all the stops to keep you from leaving. Asking junior salesman for his card as you prepare to leave, draws the attention of senior salesman, who keeps you occupied with his personable and friendly banter until junior salesman, who left to get you his card, returns with the sales manager.

My wife later told me that statistically only a very small percentage of potential car customers come back once they leave that door. I told you she does her homework.

There was a whole different vibe at another dealership where we went to check out one specific vehicle. The sales guy didn’t try to steer us to other models that needed to be moved off the lot. His approach was low key, and when we left, we took his card, and he said I might call you tomorrow and harass you.

I appreciated it.

I know it’s unfair to compare car salesmen to sharks. I’m sure some people feel the same trepidation about dealing with journalists.

We all have to feed our families, so I don’t begrudge anybody doing their best to earn a living.

I just don’t feel comfortable engaging in the kind of gamesmanship that comes with car shopping. But when you feel, rightly or not, that someone is trying to take advantage of you, you tend to get defensive and cautious.

But since I don’t have the kind of money to just say here’s what I want, hand me the keys, it’s a necessary evil I must endure.

I’m fortunate to have a wing man who, when all is said and done, will make sure we get a good deal on a good car.

And more than likely, some salesperson will be left feeling like they are the chewed-up shark bait.

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