Being in possession of a car I'm not scared to drive (i.e. my parents' car), after work I finally started swinging out to car dealerships. It's been a month since I learned that repairs on my current car would cost as much as what I originally paid for it, so I've been mentally preparing myself for getting a new-to-me car. Financially I'm in pretty good shape, too, but mentally preparing for what would be the biggest purchase of my life so far is the big hurdle. (Other than airline tickets and new tires, the biggest thing I've bought in the last several years is my TV/DVD player!) And I wasn't quite ready to commit to anything last night, though I did test-drive a car that could -- could -- be the one. (I test-drove another car that I knew almost immediately wouldn't be for me: it had too much stuff. It had two DVD screens for the back seats.)
A car salesman has to be such a student of human nature. You're helping people spend a very large amount of money, and a lot of us (like me) are uncomfortable about that, so you look for the commonalities, stuff you and the customer can commiserate about so the customer grows more comfortable. I told the first dealership guy I talked to that my last car lasted me for over 10 years, and he said, "You're one of those people. I'm one of those people." Like me, he said, he drives them not for later resale value, but for the use, the functionality. The next guy I talked to made similar comments. I hope that's true, which is a little cynical of me to say, but I think it's a protective kind of cynicism. (Car-shopping in '97, I had a particular sales guy who didn't really "get" me, and tried to sell me an overly sporty car for more extreme driving. Had he actually used the word "extreme," I'd've stopped the car, gotten out right there, and walked back to the dealership.)
All of the guys I talked to at the dealerships last night were nice guys, but near the end while crunching numbers about that one potential car, I started feeling a Glengarry Glen Ross Al Pacino-and-Jonathan Pryce-in-the-diner vibe. And better critics than me have talked about how that scene is kind of a courtship/seduction scene; I even realized I was adopting some of Pryce's body language. I steadied myself a little better, got a little more assertive (but still a little tongue-tied), and told the dealership guy I wasn't ready yet, but that I'd keep it in mind. I assured him if I come back, I'll ask for him. Commission sales and all that. Oy; I could never work on commission.
Still, I didn't reach 100% satisfaction last night, but I feel closer to it. I will find another car, and it will be a good one.
And finally, a legitimate question: Is it a good/allowed idea to tip a car salesman? I almost felt like I should. I pictured discreetly handing him a hundred. My visualization skills must be good: I almost never have a hundred on me...