Sunday, November 21, 2010


Ever had a bad experience with some part of the car industry (sales, service, and insurance)? Most can answer yes. I will apologize right now to those I know that work in some sector of the business as this may offend you. I often wonder if all industries are as slimy as the automobile business; perhaps our experiences are more frequent due to Americans dependence on the car. It seems as if the automobile industry realizes the quandary of our situation and knows we need their services. Whether buying a car or getting it serviced, if not vigilant about getting a "good deal", most will take the opportunity to help themselves to your wallet. Why am I so bitter you ask? 2010 required a car switch-up for the Armstrong family in addition to the usual car maintenance. Let me start with my recent experience.

We purchased a Toyota Sienna all-wheel drive (AWD) minivan earlier this year as a compromise to hauling our brood of children and the ability to transport them in the Utah snow. The AWD isn't nearly as effective without snow tires to give grip so I decided to purchase snow tires. Knowing that tire dealers can be sleazy, I did my homework, calling around to find the best tire price before making the trip to a tire shop. I was turned off by one shop before entering the store since they failed to mention additional shipping charges for tires when agreeing to price match over the phone. Lucky for me, I requested a detailed quote when the tires arrived the following week and found their hidden cost. After this "oversight", I moved on to another dealer.

Dealer #2 had the best price I could find in town without any price match and had the tires in stock. I took the van to them early the next morning and walked in the store to seal the deal. I did mention my call to them the day prior but didn't mention the price quoted. Oddly enough the total price quoted in the store was over $100 what I was told over the phone. The customer that doesn't do their homework knows no better and opens their wallet for the thieves to loot. Interesting that a $50 rebate mentioned the day prior wasn't included with their in-store quote. Once I mentioned my prior call and brought my notebook out with the person I spoke to and the price quoted, I was given the lesser price quoted. Already feeling the filth, I wanted to walk out the door at that moment. However, I knew this was the best deal around town and the forecast of snow that afternoon pushed me to complete the purchase.

And again back to my point of being too dependent on the automobile, thus easily taken by dishonest businesses. I left the van and got a call two hours later from the shop. The alignment was out a few degrees and should be corrected to ensure the longest life. Funny how these things aren't mentioned up front. I understand that alignment may not always be required but how often do they tell someone putting on new tires that they don't require alignment. After some haggling on my part, I got the price down to $50 and agreed to the service. I went to retrieve the van a while later and paid for the service. Upon reviewing the bill, I realized they threw in an additional $50 for a tire protection plan. What the F^%# is that I asked. Oh, that's in the event of catastrophic damage to a tire, they will replace it for no charge. For a tire (run flat) on a minivan that is only rated for 20k miles to begin with? If I'm driving a jeep wrangler off road, this insurance might make sense. But I think I will take my chances that Sarah won't gash the sidewall while driving in the next year and a half.

My experience buying the car wasn't any better, requiring endless haggling and head games to complete the sale. Sarah was ready to divorce me (not really) over the purchase cause I didn't back down with the used car salesmen tactics. Let's just say that we walked out of the dealership once and it still took three hours to finalize the deal upon returning. All this after half-assed repairs were completed, though different things were promised before the paper signing. I've yet to see the second set of keys that allegedly existed for the car before we signed. Keep in mind that a new "smart" key costs at least $100. Need I mention the dead battery experiences one week after receiving the car? Shouldn't "Toyota certified" include a check of the battery and the ability to see that it was near death?

Are all businesses run like this? There are many other industries where prices changes depending on how many questions are asked and the amount of pressure applied. Though if I were a man with no kids or lived in a warmer climate, you better believe I would ditch the automobile and rely on my legs (bicycle). It would be one less thing I have to spend time researching before making a purchase. Tired of my automobile industry rant? Me too.

Just be sure that the next time you plunk down money on this "need", you do your homework before walking in their door. If you don't, go ahead and walk in with your wallet open cause chances are you just put a smile on a salesperson's face and fattened their paycheck.

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