Sunday, May 27, 2012

Car Shopping 101

Image borrowed from

A car dealership is no place for children... which is exactly why Hubby and I took our angels with us car shopping yesterday.

If you have ever been on a car lot, then you know that one of a salesperson's best tactics is to make nice with your kids (if you are crazy enough to bring your kids).  You see said salesperson kissing up to being sweet with your kiddies and you are supposed to instantly trust him.  My kids seem to throw a wrench into this plan.  When they were smaller, their constant crying warded off the sales team.  These days, their crazy clothes, unkempt hair, the stuffies both girls bring that they are obviously conversing with, and Princess's willful avoidance of eye contact when spoken to by strangers (aka car salesmen), all add up to a very hassle-free car shopping experience for Hubby and me.  It probably also helped that, prior to our little visit, we let the girls play with water guns for two hours (making them very tired), loaded them up with chocolate chip cookies, and then told them we would only be staying a "few minutes" at the dealership before we went toy shopping.  I don't know for certain if this had an effect, but call it a hunch.

Okay, now I should probably give a little background info.  Before we had kids, my husband and I developed a pretty effective plan for car shopping and buying.  First of all, we always do our homework about the vehicle we are interested in.  At home.  On the internet.  Without salesmen.  We know the MSRPs, the add-on package prices for the features we want, which features are a must for the vehicle we like, how long the vehicle we are looking at has been on the dealer's lot, what to expect as a trade-in value for our current vehicle, and the absolute highest price we are willing to pay for the vehicle-- and we know this before we ever speak to a salesperson.  By doing this, we make sure that the new car smell and the shiny chrome and the vented seats and the slick-talking salesperson are unable to affect our decision-making ability at the dealership.  Once we get to the lot, we tag team the sales team.  Typically, my husband plays the easy-going, reasonable but informed customer.  I play his demanding, obstinate, nit-picky, over-informed wife.  (Neither of us feel too terribly far out of our comfort zones in these "roles", as I am sure you could guess.)  Hubby then enumerates the positives of the vehicle, while I interject complaints, dislikes, worries, and demands for what the vehicle would have to have for me to consider owning it.  Somewhere along the way, the salesman begins to feel such intense pity for my husband, and such an overwhelming desire to be done with me, that he strikes a (pretty damn good) deal with us.  I have to admit, though, the kids make the process much easier.  I find I am no longer acting when I am demanding, obstinate, nit-picky, and over-informed-- I am just being Mom.

We can't wait to go toy shopping!!!
So as I mentioned before, we revved up mentally prepared our little angels for a quick trip to the dealership and arrived on the scene about 4:30 Saturday afternoon.  We walked over to look at the vehicle we came to drive (which we had looked at previously when the dealership was closed).  As we walked back toward our parked car, we were swooped upon by a salesperson and Hubby expressed an interest in driving the "used vehicle he saw on the internet".  Mr. Salesman looked over our little motley crew, went into the office area, and returned with the vehicle key and a tag.  He looked our little crew over again and decided that he'd let us "do the test drive as a family" (as in, without him).  "That way," he told us, "you can talk openly together about the vehicle."  Conveniently, he wouldn't be trapped in the car with my loud children, either.  Woo hoo!  So far so good.  

I'm glad Mr. Salesman didn't join us.  He would have pestered the crap out of us after listening to Birdie swoon over the "individual ventilation controls and heated second row seats."  Princess was also excited by the ride because it has a "built in seat in the door for her stuffy", which to me looked an awful lot like an extra cup holder, but whatever.  Either way, their gushing would have left homeboy feeling like he had a slam dunk on his hands, and we couldn't have that.

When we returned from the test drive 20 minutes later, Hubby went to talk to Mr. Salesman while I corralled Princess and Birdie in a different part of the sales office.  While the girls and I waited through the first round of negotiations, we sat at an abandoned sales desk near a window looking out at the parking lot.  The girls' loud voices and general grumpiness kept the other employees in the office from trying to make nice with us.  If those weren't good enough reasons to leave us alone, the tongue lashing Princess gave her reflection in the mirror (for copying her, wearing the same clothes as her, carrying the same stuffy as her, and for pointing rudely at her-- yeah, that last one is awesome if you think it through) sealed the deal.

When Hubby came to talk things over with me after Round 1 of negotiations concluded, Mr. Salesman stayed a safe distance away.  The sales manager offered exactly what I told Hubby-- in private, I assumed-- I felt was acceptable for our trade-in.  I swear car dealerships are bugged!  He also agreed to all our requests (which I am willing to bet Hubby said were mostly my demands), like new tires, an oil change, new wiper blades, and a tow hitch.  I suspect this agreeableness was, in part, because he didn't want all four of us packed into that tiny little room, haggling over $1000 bucks worth of gimmes that I "couldn't live without".

Round 2 of negotiations-- the round you spend talking to the bank-- was even longer than the first.  By this time, the girls had migrated to the middle of the showroom floor, and were demonstrating their dance moves to an office full of people that wished it was time to go home.  Seeing how the girls dance moves in no way reflected the twangy country music playing over the PA, some of the "audience" seemed a bit perplexed by the show.  The performance was very much like a train wreck-- you didn't want to watch, but you just couldn't look away.  It was-- well, I have no words to describe it, which speaks volumes as to its uniqueness.

By the time the public spectacle dance performance ended, we had been at the dealership for nearly two hours.  This was apparently long enough for Birdie to feel right at home with all the good folks at the auto mall.  One fellow that worked there was walking by on his way to another part of the building, and stopped to see if I needed anything.  Birdie thought he was asking her and proceeded to barrage the poor man with all the questions she'd been dying to ask.  "Why do you sell these cars?  Oh, and why are they so expensive?  What is that on your desk?  Are those bottles of water for anyone?  Why do you have that car on a ramp?-- It looks dangerous up there."  I don't recall her stopping to take a breath, although I know she must have.  Either way, the poor guy-- who was just trying to be nice-- suddenly got a call from Mother Nature.  And I was left answering all the questions.

As the paperwork was being finalized, I briefly distracted the girls by taking them outside.  We looked for four-leaf clovers in the patch of grass by the front door of the dealership.  After finding several "lucky charms", the girls felt the need to distribute the luck to all the employs.  Fortunately for the sales staff, that was just long enough for me to sign the final papers and help Hubby clean out the old car.

stock photo
It was a good thing the whole ordeal ended when it did.  All the signs that we were approaching critical mass were beginning to appear.  Both girls had stopped speaking English and had lapsed into "Whine-ese".  Their heads were thrown back, shoulders slumped, every step was a stomp, and the answer to every question was a scowl.  None of this bothered Hubby one bit, though.  Thanks to his "interesting" children and his demanding, obstinate, nit-picky, over-informed wife, Hubby was driving home the vehicle he'd been drooling over for a long, long time, and he got it at the price he was willing to pay.


  1. Too funny :) I haven't had to go car shopping since my two kids were very young, I can imagine they would be wild the whole time now! New follower from bloggy moms, I look forward to your future posts!

  2. Strange. I just went car shopping too. I didn't think of the possible positive aspects of bringing the children. I wish I had read this before...if only...

  3. LOVE your story! Alas, none of my crew have the stomach to do the kind of car shopping I do: I'm _very_ patient, and tend to wear down salespeople. They'd rather give me the extra $1000 than have to deal with me for another half afternoon. Also, I was able to milk a sob story about CelloPlayer being so sad about giving up the old car; the heartstrings probably added some to the trade-in price. Enjoy your new car!