I bought a BMW.
It’s a white convertible that screams “Midlife crisis!” from the highest rooftops.
Of course, when I bought it two years ago, I didn’t think I was having a midlife crisis. I just thought I liked the car. Although, I don’t think most men in their fifties, who buy totally impractical sports cars, are rushing to their therapists with a self-diagnosed midlife crisis.
Now, I’m doing what most middle-aged men do with impractical sports cars – I’m selling it.
I love the car. I bathe it regularly and rub it with a diaper. It’s immaculate. But I haven’t driven it that much and I won’t drive it in the rain, snow or cold. That leaves me with a pretty limited window for travel.
All of this has me now preparing for the most awkward of consumer dances – the car salesman/chump-car-buyer tango.
Buying a car is one of the few business transactions in which you’re pretty sure going in that you’re going to get fleeced but believe when you leave that you’ve gotten a “great deal.” You even tell your friends. “Yeah, I just bought this. Got a great deal.” In reality, the dealer got the great deal. You got the car. And yet, we’re all OK with this arrangement because we keep buying cars.
I’m not good at this dance. I find that whenever I walk into a car dealer, no matter how much I’ve psyched myself up or what I say when I get there, the salesman hears, “I’m looking for a car and I am prepared to pay absolutely anything. So, what do I have to do to get you to put me in this car today?”
The most curious part of this transaction is the deferral to the manager.
“I have to check with my manager,” the salesman says, and disappears. Where does he go? Why is it taking so long? The Treaty of Versailles took less time to hammer out. I always wonder if he’s really talking to his manager or, for that matter, if there even is a manager. Maybe he’s in the bathroom or sitting on the edge of a desk in the breakroom eating Skittles, just waiting me out until I start second-guessing my offer.
It’s an effective strategy because when he comes out, I’m willing to do whatever he says.
Then, there’s the math.
Every car salesman I’ve met must have been the inspiration for the movie, “A Beautiful Mind.” He can weave a tapestry of numbers and mathematical formulas that not only trigger a migraine but ultimately leave me convinced that I’m getting this car for free.
And why is the car I’m considering always “rare”?
“Oh, you won’t find one like this. We don’t see many of these on the lot.” Meanwhile, the automaker is cranking out about 5,000 versions of this very model every 30 minutes. I just saw five of them on my way to the dealership.
“Not in this color you didn’t.”
My history of car buying is spotty at best. There was the unfortunate VW Beetle that had a nasty habit of stalling on the highway; a 1986 Pontiac Le Mans – there’s a reason you never saw many on the road – and now my BMW which my wife has nicknamed, “Precious,” primarily because of my vigilance in keeping her clean and healthy and because sometimes, when referring to the car, I use the female pronoun – like a ship.
I must say, nothing beats the fine handling and acceleration. So what if I have to take it to the dealer for maintenance and a routine oil change is $250? And they always manage to find something else.
“Yeah, your Zungenbrecher gasket needs replacing. The part is about five bucks but the labor is $3.000.00. We have to take the car apart and send half of it to Stuttgart.”
Still, look at how it corners!
OK, it was a dumb purchase and now I’m about to get my comeuppance from a car salesman who not only can recite every element of the “Sport Package” but is also an expert in psychological warfare.
Before I show up, I’ll say what I always say. “We have to be prepared to walk!” But I rarely do.
I’ve read that the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined following a bank robbery in Sweden in 1973. The hostages were apparently brainwashed by their captor and refused to testify against him.
I heard the same thing happened at the Volvo dealership.
Copyright 2020 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at [email protected]