I bought a Santa Fe over the weekend. No, not the city (though with the poor US economy, there are a few cities for sale). I bought the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV.
Don't worry, this isn't a commercial about how wonderful this SUV is, or how wonderful Hyundai is. This is a story about the wonderful sales people at car dealerships (he says with a sarcastic sneer). Actually, the sales person I dealt with wasn't too bad all things considered. In general, I find any sort of sales experience amusing, and certainly buying a car qualifies as one of them.
The Santa Fe had already been identified as the likely candidate for purchase beforehand. Of course, the sales person didn't know this, but the whole point was really to go to the dealership; test drive the Santa Fe; make an offer...and go home.
Walking through the door of the dealership is always a fun moment, isn't it? You're faced with a group of sad-faced salespeople, facing the door, waiting in anticipation like a dog does looking out the window waiting for his owner to come home. In fact, I'd swear I saw a couple of them wag their butts as I approached the sales staff.
One of them got up and introduced himself like he was seeing a long-lost relative for the first time. I almost thought he was going to give me a hug. At this point, I knew his attempt at winning Best Actor was about to start.
I indicated I was interested in the Santa Fe, to which the salesperson told me I'd made a "wise decision" and almost literally bowed as if I had seen through the haze and falsities of other car brands and had made the wisest choice of all time.
He began to explain the various features of the Santa Fe, which is fine since that's what he's supposed to do anyways. Everything was wonderful and nothing was bad, of course. He also adopted the cliche approach of trying to be my friend. On occasion, he'd lean in and whisper something that was allegedly of extreme value or importance, always starting off with lines like "...between you and me..." or "...to be honest with you..." Of course, none of the information was between me and him, and if he's being honest with me at that moment, it doesn't say much about the other things he said to me.
Then came the test drive. I've always felt badly for the salesperson when they go on a test drive. They never know how good or bad the driver is, and it's an awkward situation. It's not like they can grab the wheel and insist on returning back to the dealership. It's like they've volunteered to be kidnapped by total strangers: "Here, let me sit in the backseat while you do the driving. By the way, what's your name again?"
The test drive went well and it came down to getting a quote. This is the part I hate with car-buying. I know that you can bargain from the sticker price. The salesperson knows that too. And he knows I know. Yet, they still put on this charade of how big of a deal it is to ask for the price to be dropped. They have to sign forms, ask the sales manager, give up their first born son, and ask for a review committee to sign off on the deal.
This was exactly what I experienced as well. I gave a "range" of what I was willing to pay -- I say "range" in quotes because they only care about the maximum amount -- and after much thought, protest, and meetings, he came back with a number $6 over my maximum and said that was as far as he could drop things. After I pointed out he'd only dropped $300 off the sticker price (he seemed shocked I could do math), he disappeared again for minutes at a time to return with the miraculous amount of exactly what my maximum was. Imagine that?
What was most amusing is when I was about to walk over this $6 difference. His hands were literally shaking as he asked what he needed to do to "keep my business." What a stupid question to ask. What did he think I was going to say? "Can you sing me a love song from West Side Story?" I looked at him and said "Drop the price." He looked back at me like I had insulted his mother before he sighed and went back to the sales manager.
The next portion of this exercise was even more interesting. Now that I've agreed to a price and he's told wonderful the SUV is and how my life will never be the same, he then proceeded to tell me how the SUV will fall apart. It'll rust, the wheels will come off, the transmission will fail -- all after the warranty expires, so it's important that I buy an extended warranty and rust-proof protection.
Obviously, it's an exaggeration, but it's something I love hearing when buying electronics, cars, or other expensive items. "You'll love it! This is a wonderful choice! You should buy it because of the quality." After I say ok: "It sucks! It won't last 3 years. It'll blow up. You need our extended warranty for another $2,000, and then it won't suck anymore." Uh-huh.
To make a long story not much longer, I ultimately bought the car (without the extended warranty, the rust proofing, etc, etc). I found it amazing how the entire dealership congratulated me as I walked out the door -- like I'd won a medal or given birth. I just gave them $40,000 -- that's not something that requires me to celebrate -- it requires them to celebrate.
The salesperson was nice, and helpful, but he'll lose Best Actor to the guy trying to sell cheap gas rates.