Well, I leased a car recently, and, boy, did I get ripped off.
We have two cars, one owned and one leased, and I got ripped off on both of them. In fact, I’ve been buying and leasing cars for over 40 years, and I’ve never managed to do it without getting ripped off. I bought my first car-a shiny new American Motors Gremlin with an FM radio–in 1972 for $2,602 and I’m sure I got ripped off then, too.
I don’t know how I get ripped off, or for how much. I just know I do. Every time.
It doesn’t matter how much research I do online before going to the dealership. I’ll go in knowing exactly which model I want, with which equipment, and what the dealer invoice is. And the salesman will look at his computer, and find the exact model, with exactly that equipment, and he’ll type in a lot of stuff, and he’ll get up and disappear into the back somewhere and come out a half hour later with another guy who’ll tell me what a good time this is to be leasing, what with all the incentives and everything.
Then he’ll give me a price, and I’ll say “That’s a little high” because I’m ready to drive a hard bargain, damn it, and he’ll say, “Really, what were you thinking?” and, really, I wasn’t thinking much of anything except how much I hate car dealerships, but I give him a figure, and he’ll say, “Let me crunch some numbers,” which I thought was what he was doing when the salesman first went back there, but off they go again, leaving me and my wife Barbara, who would dearly like to be almost anywhere else, but who I drag along with me because, really, she does most of the driving so she should test drive it, which scares the hell out of her because what if she gets into an accident?
Plus she’s never gotten over the trauma of a test drive we took decades ago during which we ran out of gas.
So we wander around the showroom, sitting in all the cars, and I consider getting behind the wheel of the tiny convertible they have sitting there for the sole purpose of giving guys like me something to fantasize about while the sales guys are in the back “crunching numbers.” I briefly imagine how awesome I’d look zipping down the highway in this highly-impractical yet undoubtedly cool vehicle which doesn’t even have a back seat and which I would never in reality drive with the top down out of fear of sudden downpours. There in the showroom, however, it is clear that I could never own such an automobile, since I can’t even get low enough to the floor to get into the thing, which is just as well, because they’d probably need the jaws of life to get me out of it.
Meanwhile, Barb is going from one model to another saying, “I like that color,” “I don’t like that color,” and so forth.
And now the salesman and the other guy are back, looking like they just worked really hard at something. They’re almost out of breath, as if they had to pull the price out of a stone. “Okay,” here’s what we can do,” says the non-salesman guy, who, of course, really is the salesman guy, actually the salesman guy, and he’ll start talking about rebates and residual values and payments at inception and the technology package I’m getting that I don’t want because, as it is, I can barely figure out how to turn on the wipers in these cars so who needs more technology, but I’ve tuned him out because I already know that, whatever price he says, I’ll accept it, because I’m exhausted from the whole process and I just want to go home and take a nap.
And even as I give him a deposit, I know I’m being ripped off yet again because this is a car dealership and they would not let me have the car if it was not to their advantage to do so. Within the next few weeks, possibly that very day, I’ll run into somebody who has just leased the same vehicle for fifty dollars less a month.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not a fighter. Maybe I don’t want it enough. Maybe I’m not willing to dig down deep for the deal, to drive around to every dealer within a 100 mile radius and talk to the salesman and the non-salesman guy in each one of them, and play one against the other.
And even if I did, I’m convinced they all talk to each other. That’s what they’re doing back there for a half hour at a time, calling each other and scheming against me. “Oh yeah, he was here this morning,” one will say to the other. “Give him a price on one with an entirely different option package and let him try to figure out which is the better deal.” (Hint: neither of them is.)
Anyway, like I said, I’m sure I just got ripped off again. I feel ripped off just going into a car dealership, even if I don’t get a car there. Every time they go into that back room, they steal a half hour of my life that I’ll never get back, even at the end of the lease, at which time, of course, they’ll hit me for “excess wear and tear” unless I paid extra for that at the beginning, or I lease a new car from them, in which case, they’ll forgive the quarter-size scratch that otherwise would have cost me $700.
But what about the wear and tear on me? Who’s going to pay for that?
See you soon.