Good-Bye, Pork-Pie Hat

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Last week, I realized that a dreaded moment was impending. My car lease was about to expire. Not that I hate tooling around in new cars, trying them out to see how they suit my driving style. I enjoy it. And this car turnover occasion offered more potential enjoyment than customary, because I finally realized that paying what I’ve been paying for a ride that sits in either my garage or the Minneapolis airport garage most of its life is a poor use of funds that could otherwise go towards feeding my wine habit, including the highly rational practice of buying age-worthy stuff that won’t fully mature before I kick the bucket. So this really did have the potential to be fun, looking for a hidden gem without a gem-like price-tag.

But the sales people. Oh, the sales people. How they can ruin a guy’s fun.

Only this time they didn’t. Instead of the customary cowdung slingers with dollar sign eyes and wallet-shaped heads – I test drove cars with a half-dozen nice folks, ranging from a retired insurance agency owner whose wife couldn’t stand him being home to a former junior college star football player not quite good enough to make the cut at a major college to an entrepreneur using his car sales income to fund a start-up Asian-Indian grocery store. Nice guys, all of them.

So what the hell happened since the last round of car shopping, four years ago?

As I pondered that while waiting for one of these fine folks to pull around another car to drive, I saw the answer. It was in my portfolio. The one with downloaded Edmunds.com pricing reports very conspicuously (and deliberately) showing out the side. Plus the “Consumer Reports” downloads with reliability ratings for each car I planned to drive. Hey, these guys could forget the hustle because I knew the facts – right down to true dealer cost and whether they were receiving hidden dealer incentives in what amount on these cars.

Retail car sales had a culture that had successfully resisted all attempts at change – until it was finally brought to its kness by, of course, the Internet. Wonder where the old culture slicksaters have gone? Probably back to the same saloons they were recruited from in the first place. Either that, or they’re selling CRM software for a few firms I won’t name.

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