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Yesterday my friend Tina called to say, “It’s Time.” I immediately knew what she meant. Her car has more than 185,000 miles and the winter had been a nightmare for her with the car either in the shop or needing to go to the shop. She was worn out with the constant stress of trying to get to where she needed to go. The car had overheated, yet again, and she just didn’t have the energy to go through another round of issues.

I picked her up in the parking lot where she’d let the car cool off and we went car shopping. Fortunately she’d been preparing for this eventuality and knew what make and model she wanted, and, even better, had saved a substantial down payment and would need to finance very little.

While she waited for me to get there she used her phone to search for the car she wanted. There was one at a dealership not far from where we were so off we went.

The Upsell.

At the first dealership she told the salesman what she was looking for and he showed her something much more expensive. He described all the benefits of the top of the line features and insisted that was what she needed. As he spent time with her I walked down the line of cars on the lot reading the sticker on each and learning to understand the price differential for each of the models. I rejoined the two of them and asked if we could see the less expensive model. When he said he didn’t have any on the lot I pointed one out and he acquiesced and we at least got to look at it.

We quickly moved on to the next dealership.

Bait and Switch.

We browsed the lot at the second dealership for some time before seeking help since the car that had been advertised on-line was nowhere to be seen. Our salesman said that since there was no picture perhaps the car was still being certified. We asked if we could look at it anyway and he disappeared to check. He returned back sometime later saying he couldn’t find it and that they’d probably bought it at auction and it hadn’t been delivered yet.

Unexpected Fees.

We suspected we’d been lured in by a ‘bait and switch’ but she’d seen another car she liked, so we went for a test drive. She loved it so we had the salesman write it up. We reviewed the offer, found a $467 dealer preparation charge, and asked what it was for. We were told that was the charge for the dealer getting the car ready for sale and when we asked why it wasn’t included in the sales price weren’t offered a clear explanation.

Intimidation.

At that point the salesman asked what he would have to do to earn the sale. We responded that we needed $1,500 off the sales price. He said he might be able to get $750 so we waited while he went to speak with his sales manager.

After a long wait he returned with his sales manager who launched into a tirade as to why he couldn’t reduce the price of a car advertised on the Internet by that much. We stood up and left the dealership.

The Real Price of that Sale.

We did go back the next day and buy the car, but not from that salesman. We made certain to let the manager know how unhappy we were with the process and that we would be contacting the Better Business Bureau and our local watchdogs.

They made the sale, but lost the customer. More than that … you can be sure every time someone admires that car and asks my friend where she bought it, she’ll be certain to tell them the story.