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Understanding the set-up and what you can do about it

Sep 07, 2020
You can listen to the audio version of this blog via Spotify.

‘Ullo John, gotta new motor?

Selling and buying cars does not rank very highly on my ‘fun things to do’ list. I find it all very tedious and if I’m honest, stressful. I acknowledge this is not helpful self-talk. My car recently developed a fault. A big fault and because of its age and mileage, it wasn’t worth getting it fixed. Our options – sell it privately but I couldn’t face the tyre kickers, nor someone nice buying it and then something even worse happening to the car. Part-ex with a car dealer isn’t always the best plan either because they just do that thing when they walk round the car appraising it, when they rub their chin, point out the defects and then give with one hand and take with another when you get down to talking turkey.

So, we went to that place where they always buy your car. Having done some research, we think we did quite well as it goes, so that was that bit done and dusted. Now for the buying bit. Eugh.

With three girls, we like quite a roomy family car so searched high and low for what we wanted. We didn’t want brand new, we didn’t want to go for broke. You never make any money on cars anyway so for us, it’s just not what we focus on. We found a fab car at a small dealership not far from where I work, a small business with car selling alongside their garage. Nice guy. Not too salesy. He figured out we knew what we were looking for so let us test drive it and come to our own conclusions. Not much movement on price in these current times but a deal was done, warranty extended. Bosh. Painless. Just how I like it. Happy days.

Car Language

However, we weren’t done there. After much discussion, the age and mileage of my husband’s car was of concern too. We felt we didn’t want to get to the stage when we had lights binging away on that as well and didn’t want to be in the position again of needing to desperately sell it. We thought we’d have a little look about to see what was out there - what was within the budget. Maybe we’d have a bit of fun with this car, the second smaller one that my husband would need for work. He had some ridiculous fanciful ideas and I reminded him that we might be in a position similar to today, where the five of us need to fit in his car (if you’re in the Mindset GameChangers Facebook group you’ll be familiar with the #fivegotowiltshireinaverysmallcar posts!). So, the midlife crisis car idea was shelved, and a halfway point reached.

We went to the main dealership of the car we like (I won’t mention the make of the car as I’m not into mudslinging) and try out three different models. We decide on the fun, nippy, cornering the rails model. We can just about fit the three girls in the back, but they have to stay the exact same size…! Then comes the negotiating bit. Negotiating my ****. The guy from the small garage where I’d bought my car, warned us that main dealers (he has friends who run three different ones) weren’t doing deals on used cars because of COVID-19. Apparently, because they had a surplus of second-hand cars, they want to keep the prices high to recoup some money. That didn’t make sense to me – surely get them shifted. Doesn’t work that way apparently. And he was right.

What is it about main car dealerships when you play this most ridiculous game of do-si-do when the car salesperson goes to talk to ‘the man upstairs’, comes back, a silly ‘compromise’ offer is made, you counter offer, the salesperson goes back upstairs, comes back downstairs, says ‘the man upstairs’ says we can’t move any more on price etc etc?

SEND THE MAN UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS! Oh but wait, he can’t can he?! He would get high-altitude de-acclimatisation syndrome!

By now, I was a fumin’ human. We had been left sitting around for far too long in my opinion as the money man contemplated his navel. We were buying a car – wanting to give them money. ‘What is wrong with these people?!’ I thought.

We employed walkaway power. We said thanks very much but we’re not sure. We’ll think about it. Ha! We thought we’d sit it out and let them sweat. If they’re so desperate to sell their stock, they’ll soon call us. Nope. Not a dicky bird. Nothing. Nada.

Let serenity win every time

So, what do you do? We really liked the car but I found it so frustrating because we were left sitting around waiting for the money man’s decision, my youngest, bored to tears waiting with us, the to-ing and fro-ing with the price. But I really wanted the car. Again, after much research (we don’t sell or buy cars willy-nilly), I knew it was a fairly good deal, as did they. So, did I want to lose a good car which we could be driving for several years, just so I could say I didn’t play their silly game? Or buy the car and put that bit behind us and enjoy driving the new motor…?

Because it’s all part of the set-up isn’t it? When you buy a car from the big dealerships, especially a used car, there’s the set-up. It’s well-established, all part of the training programme. 'The man' sits upstairs whilst the car salesperson has apparently no autonomy whatsoever, and so you play this very silly game of cat and mouse when I think very rarely does the car buyer get the upper hand and if they do, there’s been no compromise – ‘the man upstairs’ has got exactly what he wanted out of the equation and the car buyer thinks they have. So you have a choice, employ that walkaway power and never look back, or get the car you want and dump any resentment because you have the car so enjoy it, and never look back.

Our society operates within a set-up – with rules, regulations, guidelines etc There are laws we abide by or else we face prosecution – civil law, criminal law, financial law, administrative law, commercial law and so forth. Frameworks within which society operates in. If we don’t like them, or if we think there has been an injustice, that something needs to change, we can write to our local Parish Council, Town Council, MP, start a campaign etc. We don’t need to sit and accept something but very often, if it is part of the set-up, it can be challenging to change it.

It’s not about being accepting of it or being passive and lying down in defeat. It’s about knowing what we can and cannot change and managing our thinking around it. For what’s the point in trying to rail against something we cannot change, banging our head against a brick wall? I cannot march into the dealership where we bought our car from and demand a change in its practices. Well, I can but I’m likely to be politely asked to leave… Therefore, I have a choice as to whether I spend my money there or not. There are plenty of other places to buy a car – smaller dealerships, buy privately etc. I can email feedback, or write a review, so in some way I can feel I have done something rather than just moan about the experience.

When we try to rail against the set-up that we cannot inherently change, we are damaging our psyche. The Serenity Prayer is so relevant here:

               God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
               courage to change the things I can,
               and wisdom to know the difference.

 If there is a situation you cannot change and you feel frustrated, disappointed and/or angry, whilst you might not have any control over the set-up, what you can control is the way you choose to think about it. Sometimes, that can feel challenging but it’s knowing that the choice is there.

I chose not to fight the set-up and we bought the nippy ‘runabout’ which I LOVE driving. I won’t forget the buying experience but know that that’s how it all plays out, so I know I need to If 2020 is teaching me anything, it’s that life’s too short to focus energy on the negative things. Instead, hold on to the good stuff and use that energy to propel me forward to more great stuff.

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