A while back I posted about taking my oldest son out car shopping so that he could experience the different types of sales techniques that are used. We encountered several good dealerships, a few bad ones and may just somewhere in the middle. I didn’t always used to be so cynical nor savvy when it comes to buying vehicles, as will show in this story, featuring Mrs. TPoP!
So it is winter on 1991. We were living in Bridgeview at the time and my wife had to drive down the Tri-State tollway to get to work each morning. At the time we had a fairly new car we just bought for her, a 1991 Hyundai Excell. Think one step above a Yugo for the time. So on one lovely winters day, she was approaching one of the toll booths when all of a sudden a truck in front of her jack-knifes and is now facing her! She and the truck collide and the end result was a totally smashed up Excell. I mean the engineers did a great job on designing the crumple zones as they were ALL crumpled. Hood bent up, each quarter panel bowed out, doors messed up, the whole thing. And I don’t mean that as a sleight. The car did it’s job and sacrificed itself for my wife, who emerged with some slightly bruised boobs from the seat belt (pre-air bags), and that’s it.
The only downside was we were now without a car. We owed way more on that car than it was worth, and there was very little to get out of the truck that caused the accident, so we were lucky to get the loan paid off. However that left us back to square one with no car, and not much money to get another one. Our credit as well as income situation was a little bit better so we decided to go back car shopping. We still couldn’t afford a lot, but maybe at least one step up? We’ll see.
So we spend the next part of the week looking at various cars. Many were going to strain us quite a bit but there were a few that were within reason. One saving grace was my father had offered to write us a check for the full amount of whatever we bought and would just have us pay him the car payments. It made dealing a little bit easier (for us) as we just focused on the final price. Of course they weren’t too happy learning that they weren’t getting any financing, but oh well. One of the cars she liked was a Chevy Cavalier that we saw. It was about as base a model as you can get. Manual transmission and a rear window defogger. That’s it. But Mrs. TPoP liked it and it fit in our range so we made the offer.
They would have to order the car for us, as all the ones they had were loaded with options. ‘It will be here in 2 days’, they said. 2 days came and no car. ‘Oh the truck just got delayed because it wasn’t full yet so it will be here tomorrow’, we hear. Tomorrow comes and goes, no car. While I can’t remember the specifics, it came down to they felt like we were still searching for cars and since we haven’t paid for it yet they didn’t want to get stuck ordering it if we backed out. They wanted the cashiers check I had for the car. I had it made out as a 2 party check, myself and the dealer, so I said sure, if it makes you feel better you can hold it, but I am not signing it until we get the car. Two more days, they say, and the wife gets her new chariot.
As you guessed, two days came and went with no car in sight. So here we are, about 6 PM sitting at the sales guy’s desk. This dealer was an older style building where most of the building was a big dome. You can hear conversations all over the place as sound carried well. So we sit down with the guy and he gives us yet another runaround about the delivery of the car. I look at the wife and we had decided earlier to just ask for the check back and go somewhere else. So I tell him just that, give us the check and we’ll just part ways. ‘Well I can’t do that’, he says. Now I was somewhat naive so I am wondering why? They should have the check somewhere, just give it back to me. So I say just that and he again says that he can’t. Mrs. TPoP then chimes in ‘Get us the manager here, now. During most of this time she has barely spoken 10 words, and now she chimed in with a venom in her voice that sent chills up MY spine. I can just imagine what this guy was thinking as he got up to get the manager.
The manager comes over and before I go any further I need to tell you his last name. His last name was Putz. Yeah, Putz. So Mr. Putz comes up and tries to get us to reconsider to which we say no. You have been giving us bogus dates for over a week now, we need a car. Just give us our check and we’ll go. It was then that he says ‘OK, we’ll mail you a check in 2-3 weeks’. I look at the wife and say “I need our check now, just return it!”. I made sure to say it pretty loud so others can hear it. He then tells us that they can’t return it because THEY CASHED IT! WFT! If that happened now I would be calling the police and have them arrested for forgery and whatever else I could, but back then I was kind of dumbfounded. Then it happened…
Mrs. TPoP pushes her chair back and VERY LOUDLY states “Look here, you PUTZ, if we don’t have our check back now we are going to the police as well as telling every and anybody that will listen what a crook you and this dealership is! Quit being a PUTZ and get OUR check, now!” Holy shit! I just sat down in awe and fear and what I just witnessed. I think I was also a little bit turned on, but the other things were kind of front and center. I don’t think I EVER want that directed at me. The look in Mr. Putz’s eyes was a weird mix of fear and embarrassment, with a little bit of anger at having had the 20 or so people in the building at that time hear that exchange. There was silence for about 30 seconds (although it sure felt like a lot longer) when he just turned to the salesman and said ‘Tell Jim (the finance guy) to write them a check now’ and then turned around and went back to his office.
I looked around the building and could see everyone staring at us. A few couples left, so they probably lost a sale somewhere there. A few people were smiling. 10 minutes later I was still in awe as we got a check. Now we still needed a car. During our wait the salesman apologized and I don’t think he had anything to do with the check directly. We made small talk and stuff while we were there. Once we had check in hand, I pulled Mrs. TPoP to the side and we talked in private. We then turned around to the sales guy and said that if they sold us the car that we test drove, which was about $1000 higher than the one we were trying to purchase, so the exact amount of this check in our hands, we would do the deal now this moment. He jumped at that, as did Mr. Putz. Within 40 minutes we were out of there with a brand new car. It was still a base with manual trans, but at least this one had air conditioning and a radio. Woo hoo!