It’s amazing the hassle Bruce went through trying to buy a Jeep with $24,000 cash. Even though he’s ready to buy the car outright, the car salesman almost convinces him to finance because that way you get $1,500 back. Total cost of the loan: $31,732…they wanted him to spend an extra $7,132 to “save” $1500. Luckily his mom steps in and saves him from getting taken for a ride. His journey doesn’t stop there, nor does it end with a successful Jeep purchase. They can’t even sell a car to a guy who shows up with cash in hand ready to buy… no wonder they needed a bailout. Full story inside…
As the economy suffers, I am extremely lucky and grateful to have a job. Many friends and colleagues have been fired or laid off and watching the news or reading the daily paper leads me to believe that doomsday is approaching. America is a country with an amazing history and home to people of great pride and resiliency. We will overcome, no doubt. Now that my optimism and I are on the same page I am ready to partake in one of the greatest American luxuries… buying my first new car!
I began the search for my first new car in late 2008 and I became serious about making the purchase this past weekend. I, a responsible consumer, really did my homework and surveyed dozens of makes and models, choosing a car based on four key criteria: American, under thirty thousand dollars, four wheel drive and room for my hockey equipment. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited satisfied my requirements and I had heard good things about the quality of Jeep vehicles. I was at peace with my decision and now onto the easy part; spending my money.
My first step was going to http://www.jeep.com and using the “Build My Own” feature that is prominently displayed on their website. I went through the checklist and chose the most basic features and was surprised to see that this vehicle would only cost about $24,000. Chrysler is offering employee pricing this month along with many other incentives. The stars were aligning and I was very excited and ready to make my purchase. I printed a copy of the Wrangler Unlimited that I just “built” and set out for a dealership.
My normal work schedule is 9-5:30, Monday through Friday. I wanted to visit my first dealership on a Thursday night to lay the groundwork for completing a purchase by the coming weekend. I searched the Greater New York area and the first dealership I targeted was a Chrysler Jeep Dodge located in the Bronx. I arrived at the dealership at about 7 o’clock, and it was empty. I approached the doors, with $2,500 in cash, like I was Captain America, ready to do my part in resurrecting this great country. I was instantly approached by a man who identified himself as the manager and he started talking business. He asked what I was looking for, I explained my situation and he was anxious to get the ball rolling. He sat me down with one of his sales associates, from this point on he will be known as Dr. Doom (for all you non-comic book fans, Dr. Doom is an arch nemesis to Captain America, me), and we began discussing what I was looking for. After 15 minutes of small talk and feature choosing, we were ready. I explained to Dr. Doom that I was prepared to write a check for the full price of the car I “built”, which was $24,000. Or so says http://www.jeep.com. My loving mother was kind enough to lend me the money…you see, I come from a long line of people who believe in resurrecting the economy; crazy, I know. So here I am thinking, cue the rose petals, pop the champagne…we have a young man ready to fork over $24,000 up front. Have the Gods sent him to us in our time of need? Maybe there’s hope in this dang economy yet! But nay, there would be no rose petals, no bubbly…a glass of lukewarm water would have been a stretch. After 20 minutes of car-salesman-lingo-slinging, Dr. Doom had convinced me that financing the vehicle would be my best option. Huh? You…you don’t WANT me to just give you the whole thing right now and call it a day? Hold on a second, you’re telling me that I don’t get any incentives if I put a guaranteed $24,000 in your pocket? I didn’t know that car salesmen were so humorous…or is he serious? You’ve captured my attention, Dr. Doom…please proceed. Apparently, Chrysler financial only offers the $1,500 cash back on the car if I finance. I found this odd but nevertheless I agreed. After going through the subsequent paperwork (giving him my social security number, monthly income, age and place of residence) we were ready to go. Next, Dr. Doom uttered a phrase that I would come to know well over the next three days, “Let’s get you into YOUR car.”
Dr. Doom ran my credit and explained that my score would not allow me to get 0% financing. Let me take a moment to advise all of you college-aged readers; credit cards do not equal free money, but I digress. Regardless of this small setback, Dr. Doom still encouraged me to pursue the financing route. I still didn’t understand why. If I could pay the car in full, Chrysler would have a guaranteed $24,000 in their pocket and I would have a car, isn’t that what we both want at the end of the day? Nevertheless I trusted Dr. Doom and decided to ask my mother to co-sign a loan with me; at least this would “guarantee” the car I wanted with 0% financing. Dr. Doom’s finance manager/ evil henchmen, let’s call him Flag-Smasher, said I could get the loan and pay it off in full after 2 months. I thought that was great, now I can get the car I want for even cheaper then I had thought. I left the dealership with a semi-positive attitude and was prepared to bring my mother back on Friday night to complete the purchase. I got back into my 1991 Volvo wagon, affectionately named Steve, and sputtered up Boston Post Road towards my house and then it hit me: I was never given a price on the car. Oh but that’s right, I “built my own” Wrangler straight off of the Jeep website. Whew, that was a close one.
I left work a few minutes early on Friday so I could pick up my mother and get to the dealership before they closed. Steve, my mother and I pull into the parking lot of the dealership at 6:45 pm and upon opening my car door I was met by Dr. Doom. Had he been waiting outside for me all day? Did he propel off of the roof to greet me? You are a wily one Dr. Doom. Regardless of his method of appearance, he escorted us in and offered us bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches. An odd but intriguing selling tool Dr. Doom, however we politely declined. He proceeded to run my mother’s credit with such enthusiasm all the while asking if I wanted to take home the car tonight. “Wow, this is really going to happen and I get to take it home tonight,” I thought to myself as we were invited into the finance office. Wait a tick, Dr. Doom didn’t even ask what color I wanted, and he still didn’t say how much he was charging me for this transaction. I suppose Flag-Smasher would explain everything to me. The three of us talked for a few minutes and finally Dr. Doom presented us with a sheet of paper documenting my new vehicle. Flag-Smasher readily appeared, picked up the phone and wished us luck as he began dialing Chrysler financial; the call was abruptly cut short by my mother. Dr. Doom must have sprayed me with some kind of mind fog (new car scent, if I had to wager a guess); I was applying for a loan, the amount unknown. My mother, utilizing the common sense that I had been robbed of, asked the most simple of questions: “how much of a loan are we applying for?” The disappointment on the face of Flag-Smasher was unmistakable. Was I so anxious to get a car that I never asked for a price? Was the price of the car I so caringly “built” on the Jeep website nothing but a phony ploy to get me in the door? And then I remembered something, something I had heard many times before: Car salesmen are liars. I had simply forgotten that the website is nothing but an electronic car salesman, an e-liar. The number on that sheet of paper in Flag-Smasher’s greedy little hand, displayed in minuscule font, destroyed all faith I had in the rejuvenation of American car companies. $31,732! Didn’t the government just give Chrysler 4 billion dollars? This number shattered my dream of owning a car. I felt betrayed by Dr. Doom and decided to leave on the spot.
I was awoken at 8:43 am on Saturday morning by Flag-Smasher calling my cell phone and asking me to come in for a test drive. I was perplexed, I thought that walking out the night before was an adequate signal of my disinterest. Apparently they were looking at the wrong car and gave us the wrong price, honest mistake. Re-energized and reassured I picked up some cappuccino and Steve, my mother and I headed back to the dealership to seal the deal. Dr. Doom was so happy to see me, I had made his day. After a few minutes of small talk we took the Wrangler for a test drive. Great ride, by the way…I really loved the car. Anyway, we were back at the bargaining table and ready to finalize the deal. Flag-Smasher sat us down and gave us the new number, 29,970. Unbelievable, I politely explained that he had just wasted our time and stormed out of his office. I was so eager to get that car, MY car, that I probably would have considered $28,000 even though http://www.jeep.com had told me that I could buy the car for less. However, on principle, I gave up and decided that they would certainly not get my business.
Stupidly or optimistically, I dragged my girlfriend and her brother to a Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Westchester County. Her brother had purchased a Jeep Cherokee a few months ago. Talk about having the upper hand; $25,000 (I added $1,000 for good measure) in cash and someone who just bought a car at that dealership. Done deal, I couldn’t wait to drive my car home. We were greeted by the same salesmen that had sold my girlfriend’s bother his car. He’ll be Grim Reaper in my little saga, another enemy of Captain America characterized as one who must suck the life out of a human every 24 hours in order to survive. Grim Reaper was with a fellow sucker, I mean consumer, and had us wait for 45 minutes. Just the hospitality and attention my $25,000 demands. Grim Reaper finally came over and told us that he would need an extra fifteen minutes and introduced us to a man that I swear was the old guy from The Mighty Ducks movies, Hans. Anyway, Hans didn’t really know anything about cars but he was assigned the task of showing us the Wranglers that were currently in stock. I was finally reunited with the car that I had fallen in love with on my four and half minute test drive. Hans awkwardly stumbled through a few questions supplied by my girlfriend and then shuffled us back inside.
Hans walked us back into the dealership to meet with Grim Reaper again. He was just finishing up his last meal, I mean deal. He sat us down and offered us coffee and made small talk. Next came business, Grim Reaper said “let’s get you into YOUR car.” It had the same effect as when Dr. Doom said it, my exuberance was undeniable. Jeep, take my money, please. We ironed out some details: hard top, power windows and four wheel drive. I had to endure yet another 20 minutes of Grim Reaper trying to persuade me to finance the car. Oh, remember what I said earlier – about why they want me to finance? Turns out that since the big bail out Chrysler Jeep no longer “needs the money”. I kid you not; this is what I’m being told as I’m trying to force $25,000 onto this man. Regardless, I politely declined financing, explained that this option was not appealing and assured him that I had $25,000 ready to go. Grim Reaper was disappointed but continued to talk business. Again, just like Dr. Doom he shied away from getting into details about the final price until we hammered out all of the “features”.
Initially I was set on purchasing the vehicle in Red Rock Crystal, a nice rugged maroon color. He explained that the only color he had in stock was black, but for an extra fee he could find the color I was looking for. I cringed and accepted black; after all it would get me the deal I was looking for. I wanted Sirius satellite radio; alas the in-stock car was without said feature…but then again for an extra fee…Ok, so no Sirius. I was barely able to squeeze power locks and windows into the deal and then finally, the moment of truth arrived. Grim Reaper had spoken to his superior and the price had been laid out, $28,300. Again, I was crushed. To reiterate, I began my search with $24,000, I knew the exact color and features that I wanted, I priced everything out online at the Jeep website and thought it would be nothing more than walking into the dealership and ordering up my car. Reality: I came up with an extra thousand dollars, accepted a color I didn’t want and just barely escaped a lifelong affliction of carpal tunnel from hand-cranking non-power windows. There must be room for negotiation, right?
After privately meeting with my girlfriend ( she explained that she could no longer handle being lied to and would sit out the remainder of the negotiations) and her brother we decided that I would pay as much as $27,000 for the car. I stormed into Grim Reaper’s office like former President Bush into Iraq (was my persistence as foolish as his?) We battled for another 10 minutes and Grim Reaper got the price down to $27,770 with a remote starter “included” – don’t mistake my words and assume he included it for free; he included it in the price. I was so worn down and prepared to take the offer and run. I called my mother and she knocked some sense into me, “Bruce, you realize that you’re almost $4,000 over the price Jeep themselves quoted you, not getting the car that you want and are paying extra for basic features?” Well when you put it like that…I left with $25,000 burning a hole in my pocket, without a car and with feelings that can only be described as a mixture of defeat (you may have won this round Grim Reaper!) and the disappointment of a kid on Christmas waiting for his parents to surprise him with that puppy he so badly wants.
This has easily been the single worst buying experiences of my life. America, I assure you I am trying to do my part to stimulate the economy. Jeep, I desperately want to give you my money. Did I mention that my 2500 dollars was a tax refund from Uncle Sam?! Jeep, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mail me if you want $25,000 though. I can have a check ready as early as this Wednesday.
By the way, Grim Reaper called yesterday and offered me $94 off of the price, I respectfully declined.