Of all the things to break on my car, it was the driver's side window that put me over the edge. One morning, toward the end of Pauly's last L.A. visit, I tried to roll it down and it just wouldn't budge. Thankfully, the A/C still works, so there weren't any heat issues, but do you know how utterly embarrassing it is to roll into the drive-thru at In-N-Out Burger or whatever and have to open the door to order and then open it again to pay and collect the food?
My green 1993 Saturn wasn't going to make it through another summer hauling through the desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Getting a rental just for the WSOP would be senselessly expensive, so I decided to make the leap and get a two-year lease on a new car. Getting almost 8 years of heavy-traffic use out of the green machine was no less than miraculous, not to mention the three accidents and half a dozen breakdowns it had survived including the infamous "fire on the freeway" incident of 2005 and the "smoking, exploding radiator" ballet in the parking lot of the Rio last July.
I would be getting a new car. The first new car of my life. And I'd get to shop for it. I love shopping.
The good thing about driving a lot of rental cars over the last year is that I'd already significantly narrowed my list of vehicles. No Corollas. They felt so flimsy on the freeway. No Accords. The one Pauly rented last summer was sleek and powerful, but there was no way I needed that much car. And they get stolen a lot in L.A. County. Nothing resembling an SUV. I just watched An Inconvenient Truth. The new Saturn Ions were cute and had good lease terms, but did I really want to go Saturn again when I had so many other choices? After much research and a couple of test drives, I decided that the Honda Civic was the one Cute, nimble, a no-brainer to drive and fantastic gas mileage.
I did the whole "quote over the internet" thing and headed over to a Honda dealership on Washington Blvd. armed with my research.
I guess the first bad sign was when the woman I'd been communicating with over e-mail elected to finish her lunch instead of try to sell me a car. She handed me off to a guy who had only been working there for 2 weeks. He was Jamaican and his name was Hope. He loved to play the slots at Pechanga and once won a $30,000 jackpot. I took another test drive and afterwards we talked over terms. I told him what I was looking to put down and what I wanted to pay per month and that I wanted a 24 month lease. He said they could easily accomodate my price range. I said I wasn't going to sign anything today, but that I'd think about it and call him in a couple of days.
CUT TO: Two days later.
I was ready to sign the papers when I noticed that the lease that was outlined for me was for 36 months.
"This says 36 months. I want 24."
"You want 24?"
"At what point in any of our conversations did I ever mention anything other than a 24 month lease?"
"At what point in any of our e-mails did I ever mention anything other than a 24 month lease?"
"'Never' would be the answer you're struggling for. Yet, this lease says 36 months."
"OK let me see that..."
"What, did you think I wasn't going to read it?"
"Ma'am, I apologize... but this is the lease special we're offering."
"I'm aware of the special. I specifically mentioned the first time you offered me the special that I liked the terms of the special, but wanted a shorter lease term."
"Well, we can't do 24 months. That's a terrible lease."
"I don't care if you think it's a terrible lease. It's the lease I want. And it's the lease you told me I could have. And now you're trying to trick me into something I didn't agree to."
"No one is trying to trick you."
"Well I beg to differ."
He started scribbling frantically and jabbing the buttons on an oversized calculator. "At 24 months your payment is going to be more like 299."
"OK, let's rewind here for a moment just to be clear. I walked onto the lot, shook your hand and asked to test drive a Civic. We tooled around Culver City for a few minutes and you gave me the spiel. I told you I was looking for a 24 month lease, putting $x,xxx down and wanting payments to shake out to around 200 a month. You said 'we can do that.' I said, 'OK, cool. Let's run the numbers. We ran them. It looked like what I was shooting for. I said 'OK let me think about it and come back tomorrow or Saturday.' And now I'm back. And this doesn't resemble anything we talked about."
"Now, if you wanted to go for the Accord SE-V6, I could give you a 24 month lease with $x,xxx down and it would be $210 a month. Now, isn't that exactly what you're looking for? And you get a much better car. How does that sound?"
"How is it that you can give me a better deal on a $25,000 car than a $17,000 car?"
"Well, that's the special we're running..."
"The special, the special...what good does the special do me when I'm going to have to pay over 50% more to insure that car? And what the hell do I need a V-6 for? Sitting on the 405?"
"It's not going to be 50% more to insure an Accord I guarantee you."
"6-month premium on a Civic. $877. 6-month premium on an Accord SE-V6. $1,486. It's actually 59%. I did my homework. I know you have a harder time moving the Accords than the Civics. Everyone wants a freakin' Civic. I wanted one too. But you don't seem to want to work with me here, so I think it's time for me to shake your hand and go."
"Look, don't leave angry. Let me get my manager and we'll all sit down and work this out."
"Your manager was more interested in eating a sandwich last time instead of meeting me. I think I'm done being 'sold.'"
I got back into my dusty green machine and sat there for a minute before driving off the lot. Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. I was back to square one. Goddamn lying scumbag car salesman putting me on tilt.
I called my sister Mandy when I got home and told her what happened.
"Dude... car salesman are always sketchy with women. They think we don't get it."
"Well Honda's off the table now and that was my first choice car. "
"Honda's not off the table. Just try another dealer. And you should try Mazda too. We're driving them on the show and they're pretty nice." (Mandy, all 5'3 of her, is a camera operator on a reality TV show)
I took Mandy's advice and went to another Honda dealer down by LAX the next day. Went through the motions again, got to the negotiating stage. First they gave me shit about wanting a 24 month lease. Then they gave me shit about the payments. Then they gave me shit about my credit and claimed I wouldn't even qualify to lease, but that I could still buy.
As Showcase would say, what a goddamn joke.
I pulled up the Mazda website when I got home. There was a lease special going that almost exactly fit what I was looking for. They were offering a Mazda3 "iSport" for a 24 month lease at $x,xxx down and payments of $189/mo. It must be too good to be true. Then I scrolled through the options on the car and discovered that the "iSport" did not come with air conditioning.
It's always something, isn't it? Never, ever trust the "specials."
The slightly more expensive "iTouring" model came with A/C along with power windows and locks and remote keyless entry and a CD player. I used their little online lease calculator to see if that package fit my price range. According to the computer's math, it did.
The closest Mazda dealer wasn't really all that close-- an 18 mile haul up the 405 to Panorama City in the north end of the San Fernando Valley. I was met by a rotund Latino gentleman in the parking lot. His name was Derek. After proclaiming that his dealership was the largest in the western United States, he gave me the grand tour of the Mazda3 and asked me what color I was looking for.
"What's your second choice color?"
"I don't have a second choice color. The largest dealership in the western United States has to have at least one black one, right?" I smiled sweetly.
We took a quick test drive including a few miles on the freeway. I loved the feel of the car and it was even more comfortable than the Civic. And it had the all-important auxillary jack where you can plug in an iPod.
Back in Derek's office, we ran the numbers. And once again, the payment (307) came out to nowhere NEAR where the handy-dandy internet lease calculator had estimated it to be (209!!) Once again, I was totally ready to die. But without question, this was the car for me and I was determined to work this out.
To make what's becoming a very long story short, I sat in there with him for the next 90 minutes and negotiated that number from 307 down to 235. I found a whole lot of bells and whistles he was trying to include in the price (do I need alloy wheels?) and I stripped them away, still emerging with power windows, power locks and side curtain airbags. I even got him to track down a black one at another dealership in Santa Clarita. He was probably ready to string me up by the time we arrived at a deal, but I got exactly what I wanted.
Annnnnnd.... here she is! Isn't she purty? She's mine for the next 2 years. And all the windows open and close... at the touch of a button.