Three Mikes

Muri and I put a lot of miles on our cars, particularly in the winter when we’re driving to Phoenix to see our grandkids.   Muri’s car has over 115,000 miles on it and mine is pushing 90,000.   We have always kept our cars well into the hundred thousands of miles but not two at once.  So, this week we decided it was time to replace Muri’s Toyota Camry.   We took several scouting trips to local dealers and decided on a Honda Accord, the 2012 model so we could get an end of year discount.  That was six weeks ago … we don’t jump into things around here.  But this Tuesday, we drove to the local Honda Dealer to make our purchase, which is how we got to meet the Three Mikes.

Mike Number 1 was the cheerful young salesman who walked the lot with us, explained the difference between the LX, SE and EX versions.  Low key, no pressure.   He rode with us on our test drive and led us to his office to fill out some paperwork when we decided we wanted an Alabaster Silver SE.  Auto salesman are uniform in their belief that once you fill out some paperwork, they have you, so it’s nearly impossible to get a price without complying.   Once Mike Number 1 had a satisfactory amount of paperwork in his hot little hands, he went off to work out a price, returning five minutes later with a piece of copy paper on which an assortment of numbers had been scribbled with a think point felt tip marker.  Several numbers were circled or underlined to capture our attention.  Although the interest rate, the price of several recommended options, and the monthly payment were shown, the total price of the car was nowhere to be seen.  Auto salesman believe buyers aren’t worried about anything but the monthly payment.  With a little bit of wheedling, I was able to determine that they were offering us sticker price.   C’mon, Mike, I said.   I know what these cars are selling for.  I’ve done my research.  OK, he said, acting a bit surprised that sticker price didn’t fly.  Do you have a price in mind?  I did, and when I told him, off he went.  And came back with Mike Number 2.

Mike Number 2 was the boss, the closer, the man with authority.   To my amazement, he’d marked up Mike’s original piece of paper with a red felt tip pen, adding a new monthly payment, the invoice price and a dealer incentive.  It took a bit of questioning but it turned out he’d met my price on the basic car.  But those recommended options were still in the monthly payment.  We need a few minutes to talk, I said, and once the Mikes had stepped out of the office, Muri and I agreed we’d buy the car once we’d clarified the price and excluded the recommended options.  But when Mike Number 1 returned, I couldn’t resist lecturing him.  I’ve been in business for forty years, I said.  I have never scribbled a cost proposal on a piece of computer paper and if I did, my customer would throw me out.  Off he went, returning again with Mike Number 2 and … ta-da … a spreadsheet showing everything clearly.  What a freakin’ concept!   We will take the car, we said, at this price and with this option.  That’s it.  We want no surprises on the final priceOK, said Mike Number 2.   The finance department will discuss some options we offer to all our customers but you’re under no obligation.

The finance guy was Mike Number 3, except he was no more a finance guy than I’m an astronaut.   Mike Number 3 was the make-up-the-profit salesman who just happened to print out the loan papers.  Profits are made up by selling over-priced services and accessories like expensive auxiliary alarm systems and special coatings for every inch of the car, inside and out.  Mike Number 3 used glossy presentation materials and even a demonstration of how oil beaded on the special interior sealant.   Cost was always quoted in terms of the change in the monthly payment, as if we were too dumb to multiply by the term of the loan to determine that what he was offering added $3600 to the price of the car.  It took several Nos but we finally signed the paperwork for Muri’s new car.  After all, I was under no obligation.  Two hours had passed.

Almost done.  When Mike Number 1 walked us out to the car, he told us that we’d be getting a call asking about how we were treated by the sales staff.  I’m expected to get all fives (fives being excellent), he said.  I actually laughed because the truth is, I’d rather go to the dentist than deal with these guys.  I might even choose watching a Letterman monologue over spending another two hours with the Three Mikes.  But I’ll probably give Mike Number 1 his fives … he’s only doing what he’s trained to do and I don’t like to put anyone’s employment at risk.  But if I do that, I tell an industry that treats its customers like a bunch of Bozos that it’s all just fine.  So, maybe I’m a Bozo, too.

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4 Comments on “Three Mikes”

  1. Cheryl P. Says:

    I am 100% sure you are NOT one of the Bozos in this story. I would rather have my wisdom teeth pulled rather than buy a car. And just to clarify, I am not fond of dentists. Wayne and I don’t put many miles on our cars because I am the cheapest person on the planet. When we travel any distance at all, I run over to Hertz and finagle a rental for the trip. Currently I have Wayne renting a car for 2 months ($300 a month) because he is doing some contact work which has him driving all over KS and I don’t want our cars racking up miles. We pay cash for our cars and I usually keep them around 7 years which translates into about 60,000 miles on them. Currently our vehicles are covered under 100,000 mile or 10 year warrenties but we have 30,000ish on mine and 9,000 ish on his. They are both 4 years old.

    Now, heres the part that will cause you to lose all respect (if you ever had any for me) and think I have lost my mind. (and there is a chance I have). I went into the Kia dealership with my Limited Ford
    Explorer in late 2007 and said I wanted info on the Sorrento but I wanted the EX loaded and what could I get if for. The 2007 and 2008 were getting great test reviews. Oddly enough, I dealt with two Mikes. Really the sales guy and the finance guy were both Mikes. (I had to deal with finance to fill out the paperwork for the warranties) So he shows me a remaining 2007 that had everything but a built in bathroom and we danced the dance of price. Since it was cash, I knew exactly what I was prepared to spend. After he gave me a price that I thought was a buy, I said, I will buy a 2008 for Wayne if you give me a price I can’t refuse. I shot him a number that was ridiculous. We danced the dance again. He came back with a “not quite ridiculous but nearly” and I bought one for Wayne.

    These both have been perfect and Kia pays for all the oil changes, new belts and I have to pay 7.00 for a disposal fee every 3000 miles. The only real problem is the fact I have to admit I drive a Kia. Well, two actually.

  2. Oh, I feel you pain. I LOATHE car shopping. And I know all about those Three Mikes. TOTAL NIGHT MARE!

    PS: my car currently has 148,936 miles on it. I’m sure I’ll be FORCED to deal with at least one of those Mikes in the near future.

  3. territerri Says:

    I haven’t bought a car since 2004. I see a lot of advertising from local car dealerships offering no-hassle pricing. The bottom-line price is what you see and it’s what you get. No bargaining back and forth. After reading this though, I’m feeling nervous at the prospect of going car shopping again!

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