Saturday, May 30, 2009

Of Spectacles and Costco Cars

Three years ago, I leased a Toyota Tundra in Denver. When I went to the dealer I had a Costco card with which, as a valued member of the BNL store, I would be able to buy or lease whatever I wanted for $100 above dealer invoice. No haggling, no bargaining, no shady salesman. You buy a car at $100 over what the dealer paid. Costco? Such a deal.

Fast forward and I have to return the car I leased in Denver but I live in San Jose now so I am looking at a different dealer who has the option to NOT take the car (in which case I would need to drive it back to Denver). Because of this uncertainty I started a mechanical relationship with Stevens Creek Toyota thinking that, when the time came, they would know the car was in great condition (less than 25,000 miles in three years) and would take it without charging me for every little ding.

This month I brought the car in for its check-up and mentioned I was looking to buy a car. The mechanic introduced me to Tom Wilson, car salesman. I had decided it was best for me to buy a new car from Stevens Creek so they would have to take the Toyota back or lose a sale. When I met Tom, I casually mentioned that the car I liked best is the four door Jeep Wrangler although I had had such a wonderful experience with this truck that I was going to buy Toyota again.

I was looking at the Tacoma, a smaller truck that had grown in size over the past three years. Tom brought me back to his office to crunch the numbers. On the wall, I saw a picture of Frank Zappa and a man - the card read Frank Zappa and Tom Wilson. I asked him about it.

My dad. He was a music producer and worked with Zappa. He was one of the producer's of The Velvet Underground & Nico: Tom Wilson. I'm a Junior.

We talked for a while and I found Tom to be non-disposing with no salesman tics, and working this job in his retirement. Over the next few days I started to lean towards the Toyota FJ Cruiser. I checked Costco for a price and was contacted by Sawyer at Piercy Toyota who told me about a new FJ Cruiser they had cheap. I drove to Sawyer feeling as if I was breaking the Tenth commandment with Tom. (It is the tenth, right?)

I asked Sawyer to drive me around in the car because I wanted to feel it as a passenger although psychologically I wanted to keep the upper hand with this young-looking and skinny man with spectacles, and many salesman tics. When we returned to the showroom, I asked what the car would cost. Sawyer brought me back to his office to crunch the numbers.

I sat in a chair across from him as he did some calculations and took off my sunglasses. I looked at Sawyer as my eyes adjusted to the florescence. I began to formulate a question as I noticed something about Sawyer's eyeglasses. Should I ask him? Oh, why not.

Do you have lenses in those frames?

You don't have lenses in those frames.

For noticing that you have no lenses in those frames you should give me $5000 off whatever price you write down. I bet no one ever notices that.

For noticing that I have no lenses in these frames I should charge you $5000 more, Sawyer replied as he grabbed the offending accessory through the frame hole and dropped it on the desk. I took his business card with the price (which included no glass - or lack thereof - discount) and left. Two days later I get a call from Tom.

You might want to come in and see this 2008 Jeep Wrangler we just got as a trade-in. 6000 miles. Four door. Brand new. You did mention a Jeep once, didn't you?

I threw George in the Tundra and we went to the dealer, test drove the car and within 12 hours, I owned it. Of course, throughout the buying process, I learned the dealer has nothing whatsoever to do with Toyota Financing, the lease company and legal owner of the Tundra which brought me to Stevens Creek Toyota in the first place. The dealer is just the go-between. But ultimately I got the car that I wanted.

One last thing I learned: Costco doesn't sell used cars.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Total Eclipse of the Heart - Literally

Check out this excellent lyrical parody of the Bonnie Tyler video for Jim Steinman's epic now sung by...Persephone Maewyn?