Friday, May 28, 2010

Undercover Shopper

I am the Queen of Shopping - the Princess of Purchasing. Although I try hard to stay within my budget as a single mom, I love the thrill of the sale, the challenge of finding just the right gift, the satisfaction of checking the last item off my “to do list.” Whether it be shoe shopping, grocery shopping or all things in between, I find my Zen State ……with the exception….of car shopping. Car shopping gives me the hives! I would rather organize my closets, mop my floors and even wash the neighbor’s cat before I embark on a car purchase. Repair bills for my current car may pile up, interior features may fall of, and scratches and dents may accumulate…..and still I procrastinate car shopping.

I have done some soul searching to figure out exactly WHY this is. I grew up in a family full of mechanics and while I am no Mona Lisa Vito, I have a basic grasp of how cars work (well, how cars work circa 1986). The colors are shiny, the prospects are numerous….so what gives?? After doing a little bit of research via Twitter and Facebook in my group of friends/followers, I have come to the conclusion that in general (and as a group), women don’t like to shop for cars. Now, there are some women who are up to the challenge because it IS a challenge…..they go in informed, confident and determined to get the car they want at the best deal. But, quite honestly, that proves my point….it’s not an easy task.

Based on my research, women do not like to shop for cars because (1) they are shown cars that they do not want and do not like, (2) they are spoken to on a kindergarten level, (3) salesmen b.s. them, (4) their questions are brushed off and (5) they feel that they do not get as good of a deal as the men when it comes to final price. BINGO!!! My quirky need to be the best of everything is QUASHED when I shop for cars. In the past, my car buying process went like this:

The X and I go to a car lot where I patiently explain to the salesman exactly what I am looking for - - color, style, price, size. I give him my specifications and also mention that I HATE silver cars. The salesman looks at me like a little girl in pigtails and knee socks, listens to me with a patronizing smile, and then turns to my X for confirmation that I said is correct. He proceeds to take us to the back lot and presents styles of cars that I specifically said I didn’t like AND to top it off, they are ALL silver. On one such outing, the salesman aggressively tried to sell me a car I didn’t like in a color I didn’t like for a price I couldn’t afford. Finally, he gave an exasperated sigh, looked at my X and asked me why I didn’t want to buy that car. I replied, “Because it is ugly.” My X was mortified…why in the world would I tell the man his cars were ugly???? Holy cow, I didn’t say his children were ugly, I said the cars were ugly. We leave the car lot empty handed and unhappy.

After a few such experiences, I found if I took a man as a decoy, I am free to shop at my leisure at the cars I WANT to look at without the pesky salesman trotting me off to look at cars they need to move that month. With my decoy man in tow, I ask important questions through a testosterone translator and have a better overall sales experience. The salesman typically gets sent off to look up a price while my token man and I discuss important strategy. Now, I know that I should be all “woman power” and all that, but for me…it worked like a charm.

At a Tweet-up a couple of months back, I spoke with Chris Theisen at Hare Chevrolet about my car buying strategies. Hare Chevy had formed an alliance with a woman-centered car company and Chris thought I should check out their dealership as an undercover shopper to see if my experience would be any different. Now the opportunity to be undercover (the Sidney Bristow of car shopping) far outweighed any hesitancy on my part about car shopping and I decided I was up for the challenge.

I dolled myself up and even threw on a fabulous Parisian scarf and a pair of 3 inch heels for good measure (no one said I played fair!). I am shopping as a girl, so I was going to be the girliest girl I could be straight-faced. As I drove into Hare Chevrolet, I found my hands quivering at bit….I was nervous. Good grief, Becky….pull yourself together…this isn’t top secret government weaponry, it’s car shopping! I walked around the car lot and over comes my prey….I mean…my salesperson, Reneau. I start off telling him that I am a real estate agent whose powder blue Audi A4 was always in the shop and I was looking for something stylish but not flashy that would be good for my business. (InSpygame , Robert Redford tells Brad Pitt that the secret of good spy work is in telling as much truth as you can in your details). I tell Reneau that I hate silver cars and think that I would make a great undercover agent.

Reneau shows me a couple of Cadillacs--I told him they were too flashy. He showed me a Saab--I told him that my boyfriend said they were unreliable. Reneau began to give me good solid details about cars and the differences between them. His experience in the car industry showed. I asked several elementary questions and even some “what is this do-hicky” questions to see if he would take the stance of “let me help you little Missy,” but he always treated me with respect and gave me loads of information. Reneau walked up to a silver car and I instantly became skeptic, however, much to my surprise, he mentioned the Buick was a good car and he had one across the lot that wasn’t silver. Then…..I see it….I tried to ignore it for the sake of my undercover shopping….but it started calling out to me…..the Camero.

I inched over to the Camero section while looking at select cars in between--trying to look for “work cars” at a budget price. Finally, I could stand it no longer and I asked him about the Cameros. NOW we are shoppin!!! Reneau told me of the three main differences in the Camero. I wanted a sun roof (they don’t come in convertible - booh), an automatic transmission and the sporty package. Although we didn’t find one that was a total match, I was enamored. We went for a test drive. I was able to quiz his knowledge on cars even more and see if he continued to treat me as an equal or as “just a girl.” We spoke price in general terms. I told him that I was not ready to buy today and he was okay with that. He told me to take my time.

In the end, I admit I was pleasantly surprised. My experience with Reneau Simpson and Hare Chevrolet was a good one. I intentionally came to the lot acting ill informed and indecisive. I spent a good hour on the lot and felt no pressure. Although I love Carlito, my high-maintenance Audi, that Camero gave me something to think about!


Chris said...

Becky thanks again for taking the time to help me out. I was fairly confident that whoever was assigned to you would not treat you as you have been previously. Thanks for the interesting read.

Chris Theisen
Director of Digital Communicatioms
Hare Chevrolet

Becky P said...

You are welcome, Chris!! It was indeed a pleasure!!!