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There are times that I really do feel like The Little Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe. I even call our little house "The Shoe". I am a stay at home mom. I do really think that was my calling. My kids are 13, 10, 10, (yes they are twins) and 5. Our life is an adventure, most times it really is a beautiful adventure.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Buying Our New Van--- UGGGG

    Our old Freestar van was beginning to show signs that it needed replaced.  It was 6 years old and slowly we were investing more and more money to keep it on the road.  It added up to a little here, a little there, but it was adding up.  Christopher and I had to sit down and decide whether we should keep throwing money into a bucket filled with holes, or should we bite the bullet and buy a new van.  We have never ever owned a "new" car.  It always seemed so beyond our reach.  We thought that we should do as we always have and buy a used vehicle around three years old.
    Last month Christopher and I began to look around for used vehicles.  We had time on our side, our van still ran, there was no real urgency, we had time to really look around and get our best deal.  We began our van search at the dealership most known for their quality vans.  This company is always on the top for van quality and safety.  We pulled into the dealership, and the kids all spilled out.  The woman salesperson looked at us like we'd stepped in doggie doo.  We told her that we were looking for a used mini van.  She took us over to the new mini-vans.  They were very nice.  They were roomy, not unattractive, but extremely expensive.  There was no hard sell, but then again there was no sell at all, she seemed like she really didn't care, like she thought that we couldn't afford to buy one of her vans and we were wasting her time.  That left a bad taste in my mouth.
    Dealership number two... another import company.  These vans boasted lots of room, oh and another high price tag.  The sales person reminded me of Stephen Merchant, both physically and of his character in the BBC comedy series "Extras".  He told us that he was a father of five children himself (it was obvious that we shared a bond), oh and about 'his wife's car'.  He told us all of the various places he had worked (an electronics store, another car dealership, nothing it seemed for any length of time).  He took us out to the lot and showed us an SUV (we told him that we wanted to see their mini-vans).  He began speaking to Christopher, like I wasn't there, talking about "What if your wife was out on a slippery road, wouldn't you feel better knowing she had traction control?" (Like Christopher's  wife is so stupid she doesn't know how to drive, and needs an extra help from a car, because she's so stupid).  He then asked who would be the primary driver, and when Christopher told him "My Wife", he stopped talking to Christopher and only spoke to me (suddenly I was not longer that 'stupid woman').  Turns out they didn't have any mini vans on their lot, maybe we would like to buy an SUV (regardless that it would not fit our family of 6).  He then took us into his office to show us information about the mini van we actually wanted to buy.  He told us about his great love of computers, and how sometimes he went to customers homes and helped them with their computers.  I couldn't help but notice that on his desk was a picture of "two" little girls, not five children (maybe those are the only two he likes, or attractive enough to be photographed, or they came with the picture frame, who's to say).  He then talked about his "roommate".  Now I'm no marital expert, but I never refer to my husband as "my roommate", very curious.  He then looked at us and wondered if maybe he had gone to school with one of our kids... the guy was bald and in his late thirties, oh buddy you just lost a sale.  Did I mention yet the cautionary tale he told us?  A buddy of his was out looking for a new car.  They looked at his car company, but it was too expensive, he didn't even think about all of the safety features, or that his car didn't depreciate in value as quickly as the other guy's.  This buddy's wife loved Chrysler, and so they spent less, and went with the Chrysler.  Well a few months later he found out that this buddy's wife had been killed in a car accident, she was thrown from the car.  Well this other buddy of his said to this grieving widower, maybe you should have spent the extra money for the safety features, now he thought that was a terrible thing to say, but... well, his crass buddy was right.  Meanwhile I'm thinking that no amount of awesome safety features would automatically buckle up your seat belt, pretty much the only way I can think of that anyone would be thrown from a car.  We left the dealership shaking our heads.  I wasn't even sure if the guy had told us the truth about his name.  Christopher's comment "At least he was better than that woman who didn't want to sell us a vehicle."
    Dealership number three, a smallish local dealership.  The sales person knew Christopher by name, nice older gentleman.  He wanted to sell us a car.  He handed us car keys and asked if we wanted to test drive.  There was no need to see driver's licenses, or ID, he knew who Christopher was.  Nice guy, but he 'only' wanted to show us used vans.  It was nice, no pressure.  He showed us some nice vehicles, but the price tags seemed a little out of line.  It really made us rethink buying "used".  Why would we spend that amount of money, only to have to turn around and spend it again in three years?  It cost a small fortune, but maybe we should consider buying new.  We sat forever in this tiny little glass office while we waited for our sales person to finish finding out some numbers for us.
    The more that we considered "new",  the more appealing it became.  We have never owned a new car.  We've always bought what we could afford.  Imagine being able to pick your own colour!  Imagine being the only person to ever drive that vehicle.  I began to feel dizzy with the power.  I was so excited at the prospect of owning a brand new mini van.  I spent hours on the computer researching.  What are the top safety picks?  Which van does the best for gas mileage?  How much was the same van at different dealerships?  We had decided on the make, now just to find the right price.  The hunt was on.
    Dealership number four, the city dealership.  It was fancy and new.  Christopher had been a few days before to take a peek at what they had, and prices.  He had liked the salesman that he had dealt with, but didn't have much time to spend at the dealership.  A few days later Christopher found himself with the day off and we returned to dealership number four.  Christopher told the salesman the top dollar that we were willing to spend for a new vehicle.  We went out and I fell in love with this blue van.  That van screamed Tristan!  It was bold, but dependable.  I wanted that van!  We found out that it had towing capacity, but did not feature the built in dvd player that we wanted, nor did it have power doors like our old van.  Although it didn't have all of the features that we wanted, we decided that was our van.  We went into the cubicle office to make a deal.  I tried to bring my "I don't really care" face (don't let them see how much you want it).  We sat down to talk numbers.  Christopher once again told our salesman what the maximum amount he would like to pay was, and if we could have that blue van for that amount, we would be willing to drive out of there that day.  "What will you give us for a trade in?"  Christopher asked.  Our salesman went to the back and spoke to some people and came back, and with a completely straight face told us that they would give us ... get ready for this... $500.00.  Our van in good shape is worth $5000.00 on all of the car dealership sites.  Each time Christopher would tell him what we would be willing to pay for that car, our salesman would have to go off and talk to someone.  It got to the point that I was beginning to wonder if buddy was just walking back to a back office and waiting a believable amount of time.  No, they could not sell us that van for that price "you wouldn't go into Canadian Tire and try to dicker price" we were told.  What he said is absolutely true, you wouldn't do that.  Here's the big difference... nothing that I would ever buy at Canadian Tire would ever add up to $30 000.00.  I know that when I walk into Canadian Tire that that item will always cost the same amount unless there is a sale.  I know that no one is trying to get me to spend more money than I should.  I shouldn't have to try to dicker for the best deal, it should be the best deal.  I should be able to go to any dealership look at the same model of van, and get the same price... but I don't.  It was at this point that my husband thanked our salesman for his time, and told him that we weren't in dire need of a van.  We then got up to walk out.  "Oh just a minute" our salesman said.  He was gone for a few minutes and came back in.   In the parking lot he had brought out a white mini van.  It was a base model, but it was in our budget.  "Not interested in white." I told him.  The whole point of buying a new vehicle was so that we had choice!  Soon the owner's son came out to see us.  "We've just purchased this mini-van at auction.  It has all the things you want, and is just $600.00 over your maximum budget."  Why wasn't this van offered up earlier I wondered.  Honestly we couldn't say no to the price.  It featured pretty much everything that we wanted, but it was black.  Black... the universe really wants us to drive a black van ... the colour of mourning.  When the owner's son came to the cubicle our salesman left, I felt like we were playing good cop / bad cop.  Honestly I wanted to walk away, we had been in that dealership around 2 and a half hours, way too much time.  I felt like I was being duped, but at the same time this new van deal was just too good to refuse.  We gave them a cheque for $500.00 to hold the van.
    We drove home from the dealership in silence.  Finally I said to Christopher, "I should feel excited about the new van, but I just feel used and raw."  He nodded his head "Me too".  We both felt robbed.  There was too much slight of hand, too much time, too much.  We rode home feeling robbed and dejected.  This was our first "new" vehicle, it was supposed to be euphoric, wasn't it?   "At least we'll have the new car for our trip to Cape Cod?"  We didn't.  There were delays.  We didn't end up vacationing in Cape Cod.
    Yesterday afternoon we went to pick up the new van.  We drove there feeling flat.  Both of us wondered why we weren't excited, but we weren't.  We sat in the dealership for another two hours while we did paper work (I will never get that time back).  The time droned on and on.  Finally we were all finished.  We drove away in our new van.  We weren't really sure what to expect because many of the details had been sketchy.  We had thought he said there would be two DVD players, but there was one.  We thought he had said it had automatic doors, but it didn't.  Still we were the first people to drive this vehicle... right, right?  The van drives nicely, it feels like it's floating.  It's a nice van, but we still feel flat, we still feel robbed.
    Buying a new vehicle is the largest single purchase most people will make after the purchase of their home.  It's a large chunk of change.  I'm not sure why the price of vehicles vary so much from dealership to dealership.  Shouldn't the base cost for the vehicle be the same for all dealerships?  Why can't purchasing a vehicle be easier and less time consuming?  Honestly we are happy to have a new vehicle, but the whole thing left a really bad taste in my mouth.

    To anyone out there who owns a car dealership / is a car salesman, here is what I would suggest for you....

1.  People are coming to see you because they are in the market for a vehicle, treat them like that.  Treat every person like a potential customer, even if they have a hundred children and look like they just rolled out of bed.  Don't tell them what you think that they want to hear, tell them what they want to know.  Know your vehicles, listen to what that potential customer wants, and what they need.  Tell them what vehicle fits them and their lifestyle.  Don't lie to them, and try to make a bond, we know that you are lying, and if you lie about who you are, we know that we can't trust what you say about the vehicles that you are trying to sell us!
2.  If someone purchases a vehicle from you, act like you appreciate it!  Go the extra mile to make those  people feel like their business is important to you, because without them, you're on the unemployment line!  If they have ordered a vehicle and are waiting for it, give them a call if things have been delayed.  For you it's no big deal, for them it is!  Even if you have no idea when that vehicle is coming in, give them a call and say,  "I am so sorry (even if you aren't).  There have been delays with your vehicle.  I've made some calls (even if you haven't) and no one can give me a firm arrival date, but I promise you that I am on top of this and will let you know when I know."  When you don't do this, your customer will maybe not love that their vehicle has been delayed, but they will appreciate your honesty, and the fact that you care about them and their business (even if you don't).
3.  Just because someone has purchased a vehicle from you this time (because the price was too good to refuse), doesn't mean that they will in the future if you left them with a bad taste in their mouth.  You need to make each customer feel valued.  They have just sunk down more money than they may ever in their entire lives spend at one time again, make them feel like you appreciate it!  By making your customer feel like you went above and beyond to make them happy you have secured a loyal customer, and you will have secured word of mouth advertising.
4.    When you have fudged up your customer service, it's not to late to fix it.  If your customer has to repeatedly call you to get answers, and you are too busy to call back (or just don't feel like it), make it up to them.  Even if you give them a company pen, or promise a free oil change, throw them a bone, make them feel like a valued customer.  I'm sure that there are lots of promotional items that come from your head office that you could give to customers.

    The end of this story is that we are happy driving a new van.  I no longer have to worry when I drive past a construction and smell tar, and worry that there's something wrong with the van.  I no longer have to worry, which is a pretty nice feeling.  I wasn't happy with my mini van buying experience, but I'm happy with my van, and I guess that's what counts.

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