The Upsell

I’m afraid to go to the car dealership.

I believe in maintaining my automobile. After all, it’s a lethal weapon, and I’m haunted by the seventies, when car trouble was still rampant. That used to be a regular excuse…”I can’t come, my car won’t start.” Heard that this century? Not me. It took autos longer than computers, but at this point, they’re close to foolproof. And just like a computer, beyond self-repair for most people.

And the dealer is not thrilled with this improvement in car quality, because it used to be all the profits were in service. And now that everybody shops on the Internet, it’s hard to make money on new cars. All the profit is now in used cars.

As for service…

Many people jump from the dealership as soon as their warranty expires. They believe the dealer is a rip-off. Not me. I believe the dealer knows my car intimately, he sees it every day, he knows what it needs and can troubleshoot problems. I’m a dealer guy. I’ll pay extra for peace of mind. And I never had a problem with the upsell at BMW. Then again, the repair prices there are insane. But at the Subaru dealer… Every time I go they recommend something else. And I’m a sucker because I don’t want to find myself stranded. The aggravation’s not worth it. It’s kind of like buying insurance.

I was put on notice the first time I went there. The head technician, a brilliant mechanic, told me his customers didn’t do everything he recommended. But I chalked this up to Subaru, believing the owners might be financially-challenged.

Oh, it’s way different at Subaru than BMW. Not only are the prices lower, the people are…from a different economic class. The mother in the waiting room today wouldn’t rent a car, believing she’s not good with them, she always has accidents. And then there was that couple…who didn’t seem to go together. One looked positively north of the border and the other positively south. I was surprised when the conversation was in fluent Spanish.

And I could hear, because I turned off the TV. Well, not completely, but the sound.

I’m waiting for the day when the smartphone eclipses television as the default time-waster. You see it already amongst the younger generation and upscale professionals. They’re addicted to their personal screen. But the aged can stare blankly at the most banal of daytime programming not only in the waiting room at the dealership, but in the waiting room at the medical office too. That’s a big thing in L.A… The doctors have you waiting so long they believe they must entertain you. And it’s always some talk show and it’s always so loud and…

I wasn’t going to sit upstairs in the Subaru dealership with the blaring background noise for ninety minutes, the estimate of my repair, which concerned an oil change and wiper replacement, I wanted to read my book, “The Middlesteins.”

Now that’s addicting. I’m only twenty five percent through, but if you’re Jewish or dating a Jew, read it. Because the characterizations are spot-on. Without the de rigueur humor Jews feel is necessary when writing about their neuroses.

And just when I’m thinking of going downstairs and checking on my machine, the service writer comes up to greet me.


But there is this one thing…

It’s worse than Steve Jobs introducing new products, there’s always one more thing. This time it was the battery.

Now wait a minute, I’m thinking. Assuming I need a new battery, I can probably get one at Sears, or Wal-Mart, I read “Consumer Reports,” I know what’s best, never mind these big boxes are always cheaper. But how much time is that gonna take, how much money am I gonna save? And what if my battery craps out on me, even if AAA gives me a tow, it’s a total pain in the ass.

So I said yes.

Well, I thought how the previous battery only lasted four years. And now it’s four years later. Yes, I keep my cars for a long while. I don’t understand leasing. You overpay to impress people? Meanwhile, driving around fearful you’re gonna get dinged when you return it? Ownership is best. Drive long enough, and the driving’s free!

Then again, if every time you go to the dealer you get the upsell… I can turn down the warranty at the big box electronics store, but at the dealership I just can’t say no, not when there’s safety or drivability involved.

It would just take twenty more minutes. And $159.


But the bill was indecipherable. And I won’t pay anything without understanding.

So I track down the service writer who says… He screwed up. The final bill was closer to $200. But he’d said $159, so he gave me a discount, he was a man of his word.

So I continue to trust the dealership.

And there were those mornings when the car didn’t start on the first crank…

P.S. For those paying close attention, yes, my car is a Saab, not a Subaru. But really, it’s a Subaru, it just says Saab. Oh sure, there’s slightly different sheet metal and some upscale touches, but it’s Subaru inside, through and through, a legacy of when GM owned a slice of Subaru. But now that slice is owned by Toyota, ergo the BRZ and FR-S twins. And the Saab dealers have bitten the dust. They were clueless as to my 9-2X anyway.

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