I need to get rid of a sick car. If you want to know the truth, it was never a car that I felt deeply about.
But now it seems to have reached a certain vulnerability connected to old age. It cries out for repairs at five-minute intervals.So I started looking at cars.
Salt Lake City, it turns out, has no shortage of car dealers. If you don't feel comfortable with one, you can just go down the street another block. So I did. I just kept moving down the block.
I discovered that many car salesmen are no longer the traditional high-pressure stereotype. Instead, many are wholesome, clean-cut-looking young men who are immediately likable but apparently without essential authority. I had good conversations with several and even drove some of their cars. But when I wanted to talk about specifics - such as how much will you give me on a trade-in, or just how much will you accept vs. the sticker price, then the clean-cut youthful salesman mysteriously disappeared.
"Let me just run and get my boss and let HIM talk to you about this."
The new guy was a different type altogether. Much older. A little slippery. With a high-pressure approach familiar to the car-dealer stereotype.
Let me give you one example.
I expressed an interest in one car and an amiable, pleasant young man who had not pressured me at all took me to his desk and said something that seemed strangely out of character.
"Now, Dennis - I want you to understand that if this is the car you want, I can make you an excellent deal on it. I can get you into that car. If it's not the car you want, then that's something else again. But if this is the car for YOU, I can get you in it!"
Startled by the spiel, I said, "OK, will you tell me what kind of a deal you can make me?"
In a flash he was gone. In his place was an older, rather seedy-looking gentleman, wearing a thick leather jacket buttoned to his throat on a beautiful Indian summer day.
He sat down at the same desk where the young man had promised me a deal, and he started over. He acted as if the young man did not exist and asked me the same warmed-over questions.
I said, "What kind of a price can you give me on this car?"
He said, "Dennis, I can make you a deal you'll be happy with. I can make you an offer you can't refuse. If this is the car you want, I can do it. The question I have for you is, what do I need to do to get your bidness?"
I swear to you that this is what he said. I had heard David Letterman use the term bidness in a TV comedy routine. At first I thought I had allowed myself to daydream and had put Letterman's words into this man's mouth.
But this was no daydream. And I had the disquieting impression that I was negotiating a contract with a mafia representative.
I said, "Just tell me first what kind of a price you would accept on this car?"
"Dennis," he said, ignoring my question, "What do I have to do for you in order for me to get your bidness TONIGHT?"
I said, "Nothing. I can't do any business tonight. It is too soon. I'm just curious about price."
"Dennis," he said, "I want you to take this car home tonight and show your wife. Drive it around for a couple of hours. See how it feels."
"Oh, thanks, but I have an appointment tonight."
"Dennis, how soon can you bring your wife back - tomorrow at 8 a.m.?"
"No, I can't do that."
And so it went. I named a specific price - but I could not pin this slippery fellow down.
Frustrated, I politely excused myself while I still could. On the way home I lost interest in the car. It was clear that I desperately wanted to avoid doing bidness with that man.
So life goes on - with no new car in sight - and I have to take my old car in for repair again tonight.
You might say it's "bidness as usual."