I wrote a check this week. It isn’t the largest one ever, or anything like that, but for me it was a lot of money. The car dealership is holding the check until my car is delivered, likely on Monday. I hadn’t wanted to go the “financing” route, thus I bought a car I could pay for outright.
The sales guy was good. He was truly a people-oriented human being, and he wanted me to have a good experience…and to get the car I needed with as much of what I wanted as I could afford. It’s the last week of the fiscal year, and the dealership was just hopping with customers. The dealership offered “financing” twice. They had me sign for a credit check (given that I was writing a personal check, I guess I’d have done the same.) They needed to locate the vehicle I wanted. It’s at another dealership and they’ll deliver it.
So…deal made. I had to wait for over an hour for the financial portion of the sale to commence, in the little room with the glass door where I met the Finance Guy. By this point, it was after 9PM and I’d been at the dealership since before 6PM. The dealership team had been very solicitous: offering coffee, tea, water, granola bars, fruit …dog biscuits. I settled for water: what I wanted was to go home, eat smoked trout on rye crackers and read a book. Then the moment had come: The Finance Guy came to call me into his office….felt a bit like going to see the headmaster, were the headmaster a decade or more younger than I am. He began his spiel by shaking my hand and calling me by a fairly logical but really unwelcome diminutive of my first name.
Next, he started what amounted to a word salad. He prefaced his pitch with “People tell me a speak really fast, so if you need me to repeat something just tell me.” He proceeded to try his damnedest with fast speech, flashing papers in front of me, repeating himself in slightly different slant, not making sense, and, most alarming, not letting me see and hold the papers with these fees and recommendations. He told me there was no warranty, and I ought to buy one…and “this is the most economical over the long-term…”
He recommended a clearcoat (Jay Leno uses this same product on his cars(!)) He recommended key fob insurance. There were other items…but I can’t recall them : he wouldn’t give me the print out.
He tried as hard as he could to sell me more than half again as much as I was spending on the entire car, in these “extras”. “This is your chance for extended coverage and a bumper to bumper warranty!” he said. One extra was finally revealed as a line item that was just fee the dealership added, and not part of the licensing fee as it was portrayed on the sales agreement, and I tried to strike it. Finance Guy said “It makes the insurance cheaper….and blah blah blah.” He ignored my requests for copies “You can see them when the car’s delivered.”
I’d had it by then, but I do need the car…. I pulled out my checkbook. He said to me “I can fill the check out for you. It’s a lot of words.” (what the hell?) I did not respond to that “offer”and I wrote my own check. Soon as we were done, I fled the little room with the glass door. So glad to go home. Felt good that refused all these “warranties and protections.” Almost. I still had that line item dealer’s fee in the total.
I dined on smoked trout and buyer’s remorse. This morning I called the US headquarters of the manufacturer. Talked to a delightfully honest man who explained that the car has upon my purchase a 3 year warranty, and if I wished to extend it, I can do that any time before the end of the manufacturer’s warranty. He said the other “protections” are all third-party offers–and it’s all stuff Finance Guy gets commissions on. The guy at the HQ was very blunt. Finance Guy makes his money and keeps his job by selling this stuff, so he’ll do anything to make a sale. I said I felt blind-sided. He said “It was time. Time to just add dirt, and stir. Muddy the waters and people have no idea what they’re consenting to.”
This guy from HQ will be sending me a rebate after I get the title to my car. He emailed me a form as soon as we got off the phone. He reminded me that I can demand that line item mentioned above is struck and I can write a fresh check.
He closed his email:
“I will follow up with you on Thursday if I do not hear back from you.
Please be careful in the finance office.”
And I will be.
Update, 2 days later: Received vehicle. I was careful in the finance office. I did demand the line item be struck and I did write a fresh check. Satisfied, though not enchanted, which is a fine enough position.