consumer reports guaranteed pricing

Buying a New Car in Sacramento is Like Burning in Hell

buying a new car

Bill, one of the closers at Thompson’s Toyota in Placerville, amuses himself.

Buying a new car should be fun and exciting, but my experience yesterday at Thompson’s Toyota in Placerville was like that scene in Breaking Bad where bad guys stranded a woman in the hot desert sun for days after tying her feet and hands to stakes pounded into the desert floor. Like burning in hell, as Catholics imagine. We were at the dealership, held pretty much against our will, for 5 hours. Five horrible hours, cramped in an uncomfortable chair, watching other victims, none of whom smiling, shaking hands, shaking heads and following salesmen around like little puppy dogs. It was a hideous experience I hope never to duplicate, but the truth is I suspect all of the car dealers in Sacramento are like this. They’ve perfected the work-the-customer system and it’s dialed in.

Perhaps my difficulty stems from the expectation that buying a new car should be fun and exciting. If I could just do away with that expectation, like my husband has, I would probably have been happier. Often, it’s simply easier to adjust your own attitude to the situation at hand than to try to change the inevitable. And it’s not that I’m picking on Thompson’s Toyota, it’s just where we happened to be yesterday. We probably could have been at any dealership in Sacramento. My husband’s Prius is almost 10 years old, and he wanted to buy the last model of 2015 because they are changing the model next year.

His philosophy is never buy a first-year model because they haven’t worked out all the inherent problems yet. So that was one of our very first stumbling blocks at the dealership. He had called their internet sales guy, some innocent kid who has been working there a week, and by mistake the kid had directed us to a 2016 Prius, which was not the car my husband wanted. That right there ate up a good 2 hours of our time while a sales guy called other dealers to find a 2015 model that wasn’t seafoam green or a demo. My husband also brought a Consumer Report’s guarantee price for the car. Not every car dealer in Sacramento will honor Consumer Report’s guaranteed pricing, which was another reason we drove from Land Park to Placerville.

When it’s my husband’s car we’re buying, he is welcome to buy it any which he wants. He doesn’t thrive on confrontation and negotiations like this Sacramento Realtor. And that’s OK.

I was able to extract myself from some of the discussions because, during part of our camp-out at Thompson’s, I had to deal with a negotiation for my sellers in Carmichael, followed by a call from a mom who wants to look at homes in East Sacramento to be closer to her work. That meant I could pace in the corners of the dealership with my cell plastered to my head while I stared at the long black insects, which had crawled into the tile edges and attached themselves to the wall. I tried to poke one these hard-shelled critters with the toe of my shoe but it didn’t budge, and I was afraid to squish it. The dealership experience might irritate me, but I am no bug killer.

That wormy thing attached to the wall was the highlight of my experience at the dealership.

The fact the dealer insisted on running a credit report on me compounded the annoyance. Dude asked for my monthly income, and I reluctantly told him. He then tried to divide that number by 12, LOL, which tells me they don’t listen. The Mercedes dealership had asked for that, too, when I ordered my new Mercedes GLA SUV last month, but I declined and they honored it. Not so at Thompson’s Toyota. We paid cash, so a credit check was really unnecessary. Then, once we got into the torture chamber itself — the finance manager’s room to sign paperwork — everything was running along smoothly until the finance manager insisted that I sign the arbitration clause. If he hadn’t insisted that initialing an arbitration clause was required by the state of California, I wouldn’t have been so argumentative but I cannot believe the state of California requires a consumer to waive her legal rights to due process of the law.

I still don’t. But it was fast approaching the dinner hour, pitch black outside, our poor diabetic cat was overdue for his insulin, and the clock had ticked past the 5-hour point that we were at Thompson’s Toyota. There’s gotta be a better way for consumers who are interested in buying a new car in Sacramento to have a better time of it.


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