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The Rant

Dear salesperson: Leave me alone when I car shop Add to ...

If it wasn’t for the car salesman, I’d have bought a brand new car by now.

I do my homework before I head to the dealership – I lap up the marketing, I read the reviews, I Google recommended prices, reliability and resale value, and I peer into strangers’ cars in parking lots when I think nobody’s looking.

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When I get to the dealer, I’m 90 per cent sold. Sure, I’ll test drive the thing. I’ll gladly sit down and hash out a price.

But before all that, I just want to sit in the car by myself for a minute. It’s the reason I’m there.

I want to see, just for those few seconds, what it would feel like to own it. I’ll spend a good chunk of the next six or seven years in this car – knocking the lid off my cup and sloshing coffee all over the seat every morning and seething at other drivers on the way home every afternoon. Before I commit (to the car and to a loan), I want to push a few buttons.

As I open the driver’s door, there’s a sales guy on his way to tell me what a beauty I’ve chosen. I sputter something about just starting to look and not being serious. Really, I’d buy the damned thing right now if I could just have a minute alone with it. I’ve already been sold by constant, clever ads (in 2011, the car industry spent more on advertising than any other industry).

The guy tells me it won’t hurt to take a few out for a test drive. Now I’m stubborn and wary of being duped. I decide right there to hang on to my old car for a while longer. It’s like those old e-mail forwards warning of pretty girls who buy goofy-looking guys like me drinks in Bangkok bars. I worry I’ll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with car payments I can’t afford.

The sales guy isn’t even cheesy. He’s a kid in a preppy sweater and bow-tie. He tells me he gets a flat rate for every car he sells, so he’s not trying to up-sell or pressure me. But we both know that he’s not standing around at this dealership 40 plus hours a week to answer questions for tire-kickers. If he doesn’t sell cars, he doesn’t make money. It’s the system and it’s lousy for both of us.

I wish dealerships were corporate stores where I could buy directly from the manufacturer. Like the Apple Store, where I eagerly buy expensive stuff I don’t need because, when I’m there, they leave me alone. The ads and reviews have already reeled me in, but there’s the illusion that I’m choosing to spend money of my own free will. Getting to push a few buttons on shiny machines just seals the deal.

Until the car companies let the cars sell themselves, I’ll stay out of the dealerships and risk my luck somewhere that seems a little safer – like Kijiji.

Send your automotive buying, maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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