Thursday, May 8, 2014

No. 28 – Pirates

Performer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Songwriters: Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield
Original Release: Works Volume 1
Year: 1977
Definitive Version: None, although I like the one from Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 1993.

Even though I had the Works album, I didn’t really know this song until Scott and I saw ELP in Cleveland in 1992. They did a spectacular version of this epic song, and I and a few others gave it a standing ovation. When Live at the Royal Albert Hall came out, I played Pirates all the time.

Speaking of pirates, when I headed back to O’Hare Honda after work at the end of June 2007, I drove with the full intention of buying a 2007 Honda Civic LX that day. Originally, as I mentioned, I wanted a Civic DX, but I had been upsold successfully by the folks at O’Hare Honda (good ol’ No. 179). No matter. I had a firm offer of $15,422.11, and I wanted a more luxurious car after all.

Again, like the first time, I asked for my Internet contact Michael but was given Luis. Whatever, I told Luis I was ready to buy. He said he’d start writing me on the car I’d test-driven the previous week. One problem: I didn’t want that car. That was a test-drive car that already had more than 100 miles on it. If I was going to get that car, which wasn’t new as far as I was concerned, I’d need a bit of a price break.

We never got that far with the discussion, because Luis wrote me up starting with the MSRP for the car, which was above $17,000 and went well above $19K by the time he was done adding this, that and the other thing. Well, that’s all fine and well, Luis, but, see, I have an offer here from Michael that’s for $15,4, and I’m not paying any more than that for the car.

When Luis said he needed to speak with his boss, I knew right away that I wasn’t going to be buying a car from them that day. O’Hare Honda successfully had baited-and-switched me again. Oh sure, the “boss” knocked off a few things and got the overall price “down” to $18K then proceeded to give me the hard sell. Now, Will, this is a good deal on a car that’s difficult to keep in stock, blah, blah, blah.

To me it was a simple principle: You gave me THIS offer earlier. Therefore, this is what I’m willing to pay, period. Either you’re going to stand by the offer that lured me to your dealership or I’m walking. Yes, I understand about tax and title and all that crap, but there’s no way I’m paying $18,000, let alone for a test-drive car.

They wouldn’t budge, so recognizing (poor) con artists when I saw them, I thanked them for their time and made for the door. Luis, seeing a commission leaving, chased me out the door. I really want your business, Will. What can I do? You can live up to the terms of the offer made to me in this email I have in my hand. Let me see what I can do. Then he went back inside as I stood next to my Happy Honda, which at 260,000 miles was almost to the point of being undriveable.

I panicked. I was afraid they actually might fold and agree to their own offer. This was bad, because I’d reached the point where I didn’t want to give them a cent of my money. If they met my terms, however, I’d feel obligated to buy. Fortunately, Luis said he couldn’t do anything more, and I drove off happy to be free of their clutches once and for all.

When I got home that night, I found that the mysterious Michael sent another email. It was hilarious for the sheer amount of chutzpah it contained. In it, he noted the small remaining gap in what I wanted to pay vs. what they were offering. He assured me that the deal they offered was a good one, that my car wasn’t worth what they were giving me in trade (a nonconcern) and that their price would be going up in August, so I shouldn’t wait to buy.

My response was the following: “There's no need to hold the offer or make any further offers, because I will be taking my business elsewhere. It's not the gap that's the issue but the apparent inability your dealership has in standing by its word. I was twice led to your dealership by cars or offers that were nonexistent once I arrived. (I'll be happy to send you copies of the emails you sent to me, including the one from yesterday where you said the $15,4 offer on the LX was still valid.) It ended up being a waste of my time, which is something I value highly.”

Michael’s response was a thing of bitter beauty. He even had the stones to note how people at O’Hare Honda actually wasted their time, too, while insisting they did everything they could to give me the best deal … except live up to the deal they offered in the first place, of course. He wished me luck in my bid to purchase elsewhere, all but spitting out the words with a sneer.

And that was that. But what I didn’t tell Michael, or anyone else at O’Hare Honda, is that after the first time I visited and got the vibe that they were a bunch of shysters, I went back to another of the dealerships I originally solicited for an offer, Castle Honda in Morton Grove. I asked them for another offer for an LX. This one, from a Mike (seriously), was $15,931. It was a bit higher than O’Hare Honda’s, but O’Hare Honda’s was a bogus offer, wasn’t it?

After Luis, fortunately, let me go, I drove straight to Castle Honda—my Happy Honda nearly dying once and for all along the way. This is verbatim how the conversation went between me and the dealer I met there (not Mike) after I arrived:

“How can I help?”

“I’m here to buy a Honda Civic. I got this offer.” I showed him the email.

“Yep, that’s our offer. What color do you want?”

What Michael didn’t know when I told him I would take my business elsewhere was that two hours after I left his dealership, I drove home in my new Honda Civic LX—so named The X-Wing Fighter for its window design by Scott. So his bitter entreaty about how difficult it would be for me to find a deal that approached their “generous” one was demonstrably laughable.

At Castle, I picked out the color I wanted. The salesman, Don, gave me $100 trade on my car, and then I took everything out of the Happy Honda while they prepped my new car. As I left it sitting there in the parking lot, I felt a moment of bittersweetness. I loved that car. I’d had so many adventures in it, but it was time to move on.

When I called Laurie and told her I was calling her from my new car, she couldn’t believe it happened that fast. I wasn’t amazed. Things can happen quickly, indeed, when people cut the crap.

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