My Musings

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Where Have The Tube Men Gone?


In my family, we buy a car once every 7 or 8 years, which may be hard to imagine given how pleasant the car-buying experience is. Some people de-stress by doing yoga, or meditating, or engaging in mindfulness, but I prefer to pull into a car dealership in my rusty old Mazda 3 on a Saturday afternoon and let the soothing car buying experience wash over me. The blaring muzak, the smoking grills (who doesn't want to spend an afternoon eating hotdogs at a car dealership?), the helium-balloon archways – these things help to focus my mind and relax me when it's needed most. Alas, all the fun devices that dealerships formerly used to reel in buyers have been stowed away. What used to feel like a carnival now has the ambiance of a wake.

Car buying used to be complicated by the negotiation process, where you haggle over prices, colors, and incentives, but these days there are no cars to buy, so the haggling is over before it has started. Instead, you're told which vehicle you're going to purchase, even though it hasn't been assembled yet let alone shipped from Korea, what features it will have, and how much over MSRP you're going to pay. So much easier and more refreshing than back when MSRP was the most you'd ever pay for a car. Frankly, no one paid MSRP. There were always cash incentives. Back then, after sitting down with a salesman who shamefully compliments your threadbare canvas jacket and gives you the bad news that you're going to be buckling under the weight of backbreaking monthly payments, you say thanks and get to up walk out, whereupon you are tackled by a higher-ranking associate before you can reach the door and are dragged back to learn that the price of the car has suddenly dropped by two grand. This might go on for several tension-relieving hours. 

These days, if you stand up and threaten to walk out without signing on the dotted line, a higher-ranking sales associate jumps up and opens the door for you on the way out. "Good luck out there!" they say.

They know you'll be back, and you'll give them a check for $2,000 to reserve a car you have never seen and will never get to drive until you have pilfered money from your children's college fund and are maneuvering your overpriced purchase off the lot. 

Stop complaining. You have no one to blame but yourself. You knew last year, when interest rates were low, that you were going to need a car soon, but you let gas prices surge and inflation take root before dragging yourself off to enjoy the car-buying experience. Let that be a lesson to you.  

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