Seeing as this week’s entry is something of a milestone (Blog #150, for those not keeping count – which I suspect is everyone apart from me), I thought I would treat you all to something a little different – an angry rant (yes, that was sarcasm). This week’s entry, is all about the stress of buying a new car.
Why do salesmen, dealerships and – in particular – car supermarkets, all like to pretend they are all making the purchase of your new motor as stress-free as possible, whilst actually making the process extremely stress-ful? I’m a lawyer, and even I think the constant bullshit they come out with is excessive.
Along with moving home, changing jobs, and having a child, buying a new car is right up there on the ‘life’s most stressful experiences’ leaderboard. I have moved house and changed jobs a few times, and have gone through the ordeal of childbirth twice (yes, I know women have childbirth slightly worse than men, blah, blah, blah….); but as it is more than ten years since my last house move or job switch, and the chances of us having any more children are remote at best, the most recurrent life-stress in my foreseeable future is going to be changing cars.
Thinking about it, buying a new car is a little like having a baby:
- The whole process seems to take about nine months;
- When your bundle of joy arrives, you are overcome with love, and want to spend all your time with them;
- They smell really nice at first;
- After a few weeks, the novelty begins to wear off, they start to smell bad, and you realise how fucking expensive they are to maintain;
- It’ll probably be at least a couple of years before you get screwed again.
Having owned my current car for two years, and having witnessed the novelty wear off far sooner than with its predecessors (on account of the fact VWs are largely boring), I planned to upgrade once Christmas was over; but as soon as I started making enquiries, I knew the process was yet again going to be an unhappy one.
First of all, the part-exchange valuations I have been getting are disappointing to say the least (it’s like all the dealerships have met my children, and have – correctly – anticipated the damage they have caused to my car, both inside and out).
I am, however, realistic, and if all of the online valuations had been similar, I would have most likely accepted this, and adjusted my spending limit accordingly. Unfortunately, however, one particularly well-known car supermarket (for reasons which will become clear, I had better not mention Fords of Winsford by name), were quite a bit higher than everyone else, and I stupidly fell for it. What makes this even more irritating, is that it isn’t the first time this particular company have conned me, and I swore last time I would never go back there.
Very much as a last resort, because I appeared to be getting nowhere with other car dealers locally, I searched the selection on Fords of Winsford’s website, and to my amazement the prices weren’t as ridiculous as I had found them in the past. I therefore assumed it would be the part-ex valuation for my car which would be the disappointment, but having completed their online form, I was pleasantly surprised – they were seemingly willing to offer around one thousand pounds more than anyone else.
To ensure this was completely accurate, I ‘modified’ the form, to correct some of the assumptions they had made about my VW: in particular, I told them that the bodywork was not perfect (thanks to a devious little bastard of a concrete pillar at Crewe County Court), that the MOT is due within six months, and that I do have a personalised number plate (although why this devalues my car is a mystery). I even over-inflated the current mileage, so that they couldn’t use this against me by the time I had driven the ten miles or so to their premises. In short, not a single bit of information on that form was anything other than accurate, yet the valuation was still coming out at £7,600 – £8,025. I was happy with that.
So, on Sunday, I braved the icy sleet and hailstones, and drove to Winsford, despite having more than a sneaking suspicion that it was a wasted trip. You see, I have bought two cars from Fords of Winsford in the past, neither was without its problems, and the few occasions I have been back there since, they have tried to screw me on the part-ex valuation. This time, however, I tried to convince myself that their online calculator was more detailed, and because I had been nothing but honest, there was no way they could fail to honour that bracket. Even if they offered me the lower end of the range, which they surely would (I’m not an idiot), it was still higher than every other company I had contacted.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up by looking at the range of Kugas on offer, and falling in love with one (the one advantage that car buying has over childbirth, is that you get to see what they look like before you commit to the deal), so I decided to make certain of the part-exchange before proceeding.
Having approached Grumpy Old Git at the entrance, and having been re-directed to Disinterested Young Girl at the main reception, I was told the waiting time for valuations was about twenty minutes. True to their word (the one time this happened in the entire visit), in just over fifteen minutes I was approached by Fat Salesman, who directed me to his ‘booth’ so that he could take some of my details down. I obliged, despite having already provided everything online that they needed to value my car, and I again made it clear that I had been very honest on their website, and expected the valuation to be within the quoted bracket.
If anything, I explained, their valuation did not take into account the recent improvements I had paid for (new tyres, cambelt, etc.), nor the Parrot phone system I had installed, and would gladly leave in the car (I neglected to mention that it is the single worst phone system ever invented).
Having gone through the motions, Fat Salesman took me over to my car, and explained we would now need to wait for Fat Engineer to come and give me an ‘exact’ valuation.
After another ten minute wait in the freezing cold, Fat Engineer waddled over, and spent a similar period inspecting my car, noting the scuff at the rear, reading the (full) service history, and laughing with Fat Salesman at the Stockport County sticker in the rear window (despite it being perfectly clear that neither had the first fucking clue about football).
Fat Salesman then pointed out to Fat Engineer that I had already received a valuation via their website (following which, the two shared a knowing smile, which did not go unnoticed), and Fat Engineer grimaced slightly – which I assumed was either his way of indicating I should prepare myself for disappointment, or else it was a build up of potentially fatal cholesterol – before wandering off.
Fat Salesman (who either had no concept of personal space, or was drawing me towards him by some kind of gravitational pull), then lead me back into the main showroom. After another ten minute wait for Fat Engineer to upload his valuation into their system – presumably the delay was down to his massive sausage fingers mistyping everything – Fat Salesman finally broke the news: their actual valuation was almost £1,000 lower than the bottom end of the bracket I had received online
I very politely – and slightly more eloquently – offered a ‘what the fuck?’ reaction, explaining for a third time about my honesty when filling in their online form, but all Fat Salesman could offer by way of an explanation, was that the website calculator was merely a guide, and it was Fat Engineer who provided the final figure.
I questioned whether their website valuation was therefore just made-up bullshit, designed to lure poor unsuspecting bastards to their showroom (presumably in the hope that, once they had travelled all the way there, they would reluctantly accept a sizeable deduction in valuation rather than leave empty-handed), but he had no answer to that. I therefore took his silence to mean ‘yes, that’s precisely what we’re doing, I can’t believe you figured us out’.
I was about to storm out, in anger at yet another wasted trip, but decided it was still worthwhile taking a look at some of their stock, if only to narrow down exactly what I wanted for my new car, even though I had no intention of buying it from them.
Having spent a further twenty minutes looking at a few cars (and making sure I trapped a particularly pungent fart in each and every one of them), I returned the keys to Woman-With-A-Face-Like-A-Bulldog-Chewing-A-Wasp, scribbled something offensive in the Stock List handout they had given me, replaced it on the pile, and then stormed out.
My anger hadn’t subsided by the time I got home, so I made myself feel better by leaving as many negative reviews as I could muster (how very British), and was slightly comforted by the fact most of their recent online feedback was very similar.
I have since had a response from Fords of Winsford to one of my reviews, explaining (for the benefit of any potential customers reading it), that they have had some ‘teething trouble’ with their new online valuation service, and they regret my wasted trip, as that was certainly not their intention. All of which looks very reasonable to those reading, except for the fact FOW have done this to me twice in the past, long before their ‘new’ system was introduced. To rub salt into the wound, they have also e-mailed me three times since then (in the space of fourteen minutes), with precisely the same valuation. Yes, I get it, you’re lying fuckers, you don’t need to keep reminding me.
So, now I’m back to square one, hoping that somewhere out there I can find a genuine car salesman, who isn’t trying to screw everyone. After all, I’m a genuine lawyer, so I feel certain that – whilst rare – they must exist.
Either that, or I’ll keep this car forever.