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Long travel day, plus more car story

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Today's trip to Madison was largely uneventful. My flight out of SFO was an hour late departing (even though it had said "on time" when I looked at the board shortly before I got on the plane); I think they said this was because of too much traffic at O'Hare, but I later heard one of my fellow passengers say it had something to do with fog at SFO. Who knows. Anyway, my flight out of O'Hare turned out to also be delayed. Which meant I didn't actually need to run most of the way from Concourse C to the far end of Concourse F. But it's just as well that I did, 'cause that gave me time to stop and get some food at a nondescript little dinerish food stand in Concourse F: spanakopita, pita, french fries, and some really delicious tzatziki. Recommended, next time you find yourself down at the far end of O'Hare's Concourse F. (Also, the counter guy was really nice; he pointed out that I could get more food for less money by ordering a combination plate.) And particularly welcome since I hadn't had any food since the bagel and banana I'd had for breakfast eight hours earlier. I had brought a couple of energy bars in my backpack, but it turned out the mouse had gotten to them first, and I wasn't quite hungry enough to risk it.

Anyway. Arrived in Madison, hung out with various folks, found that I'm still tense about groups of people I don't know; am now on the way to bed, but sleepily taking advantage of the hotel's free wireless. Yay, free wireless!

I was planning to write up the car-buying adventure in detail tonight, but I'm too sleepy. So I'll do a quick version for now, and maybe add more in a future entry (or maybe not).

The Internet sales guy at City Toyota, David Franklin, was great to work with. He was friendly and helpful and knowledgeable; he gave me a good price; if you're looking for a Prius in the Bay Area, I recommend him. Turns out before he moved up here, he was the electric-vehicle salesguy to the stars: he sold two or three electric and hybrid cars to Tom Hanks, and subsequently sold other such cars to Michelle Pfeiffer, Tony Shalhoub, and other actors. He has their photos (plus a letter from Hanks, apparently typed on one of his collection of antique typewriters) up on his wall.

There were really only three things I didn't like about the whole experience:

  • The amount of time it took. I was assuming, for no good reason, that it would only take an hour or so. Instead it took well over three hours; for most of the last hour of that, various people were telling me that the car would be ready in just a minute.
  • Apparently, Toyota sends a questionnaire to new customers asking them how their experience was. The dealership guys gave me a photocopy of the questionnaire and told me to take it home and look it over before Toyota sent it to me. Each question had five or six responses: Excellent, Good, Fair, etc. They told me that Excellent is 100% and Good is 75%, and that any salesperson who rates under 80% gets suspended, so it was important that I answer Excellent to all the questions. So if there was anything that was less than excellent, I should call them up and talk with them about it before saying so on the questionnaire, to see if they could fix the problem. On the one hand, if nobody had told me what to put on the questionnaire, I would've said Excellent across the board (except see below); on the other hand, it really rubbed me the wrong way to be told that I was going to get them in trouble if I said anything less than Excellent. And I think it's ridiculous if true; why have five or six responses if anything less than the top response results in a suspension? I'm guessing the 80% figure must be an average across the questionnaire, or maybe across all questionnaires over the course of a month or something.
  • The financing guy pressured me to buy the extended warranty and/or the service option where you pay $1000 upfront and then you don't have to pay for the first several times you take the car in for service (at 5k miles, 10k, etc). I told him I wasn't going to buy either of those that day (I can get a good deal on the extended warranty through priuschat.com, I think, and I was too antsy and distracted to be able to make an informed decision about the service option just then; also, I didn't want to add $1000 to the price of the car right then), and he said the service option was available that day only (which cemented my plan not to buy it; I hate that sales tactic, and pretty much never buy anything where I'm not given time to think about it), and he asked why I didn't want it, and told me it would save me money, and I said I'd told myself I wouldn't buy any extra options that day (which was true), and he asked if there was anything he could do to get me to buy it, and I said no, and then he asked twice more, as I got increasingly agitated. I asked him to stop trying to convince me to take it, and he said he wasn't. (Huh?) Finally he noticed my agitation and got worried that I might give him a bad report (see above), so he asked if he had upset me, and asked what he had done wrong. The whole experience had very much the same tone/feel to it as an unfortunate massage I had a couple weeks ago; odd. Anyway, I told him what he'd done wrong was to push too hard and refuse to take no for an answer, and we moved on to other things.

But those negatives were minor, and were far outweighed by the positives. Overall it was a very positive experience, and I definitely recommend them.

6 Comments

Having just sat through Jessica's buying a car last week, I can totally relate. It always seems like it should take an hour or so and it always ends up taking at least three. Ugh. Next time we may try telling them the day before to write up the contract and then come in to sign it. I suspect that they won't do this, as I am pretty sure that the long wait is designed to soften up your psyche for the finance person, so that he or she can load on the extras.


This reinforces my conviction that I should use Robert Aron when I go buy a car. Lisa found this really great guy when she bought her last car who works in the Boston area as a buyer's broker for buying cars. He runs full interference with the dealership so that you never need to actually speak to a salesman. He also has tons of good advice to offer on every aspect of choosing, buying, and maintaining a car. And because he gets a great price from the dealers (since he may buy a dozen or more cars a year from a dealer), his fee is pretty well offset by the price decrease. (Though you did great on the Prius price.) For me, his fee would be worth it simply to not have to interact with the dealer, because I really hate those sales tactics.


I bought my first new car from an auto broker, who charged a $50 fee; it was great. I don't remember now why I didn't do the same thing when I bought the second one.


The best car buying experience I had was buying our most recent car through priceline.com where for $50 I named the price I wanted to pay. We went to the dealership and picked up our car. No fuss. No "options", etc.

I was sent a questionnaire later. If I had been told that I had to score excellent on all the questions, I would have written on the questionnaire that I had a great experience except when the sales rep told me to write excellent on every question.


Should you ever have to make the connection from C to F at O'Hare again (or vice versa),there's a bus from one end of C over to E (a short walk from F); it's a bit hard to find, but if you know it's there, it's much nicer than walking all that way. Any gate agent should be able to direct you to it.

I've always been shocked how long it takes to buy a car. It seems like it should be a simple transaction the dealer does hundreds of times a month and yet it takes them hours.


Thanks, all.

AndyHat: I had a vague notion that there was some sort of transit option at O'Hare, but since I thought I might have only 15 minutes to get to my flight, I figured running/walking would be faster than finding and waiting for the transit option. But that's a great idea for next time; thank you.

Re car buying: I should have mentioned that the process would've gone faster if I hadn't gone for the test drive and if I had stopped the dealer from describing the car's features to me. That part probably took most of an hour; then the signing things and financing part took about an hour; then there was an hour waiting for the last few bits of detailing to be done. So I probably could've cut the whole time down to an hour and a half if I'd told them I was in a rush at the start; there really wasn't much to do that was particularly time-consuming.


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