Sales Should Not Equal Sleaze

I like to lease automobiles. I could go on at length about the financial pros and cons of leasing versus buying, but I'm not trying to convince anyone here. Just saying that it works for me.

I guess that I should mention that I worked in sales for many years, and have gone through several training programs that ranged from the high-pressure adversarial sales approach to the helpful partnering style that I prefer. So I know enough to recognize when someone is using these tactics against me. And it goes without saying that I strongly dislike when I feel that I'm being played.

My current lease ends this month, and so recently I started shopping around for a new car. Since I don't care about cars beyond the ability to get me around reliably and comfortably, I talked to people I know who are much more knowledgeable about these things, did a little research, and then went to local dealers to test drive the cars. I liked a few models, including one from the dealer that is the focus of this post, so I asked for a quote on how much the lease would run.

Let me pause here to explain that I will not name the vehicle brand, dealers, or sales people that I am discussing in this post. My goal is not to publicly shame them, irrespective of whether they are deserving of such a shaming. If you know me and want details, I would be more than happy to share them with you privately. I will be telling everyone I know in the area who might be considering buying a car to avoid this particular dealership at all costs.

I received the quote for the lease: $179/month! The email said in nice bold letters: "I have great news we have the [vehicle type]  in stock and available and you have been selected to recive [sic] our Lease Special."

Wow! What a great price! It was around $100 less than what I was expecting! Aren't I so lucky!

Yeah, and I was born yesterday. Still, even though I figured that the final price would be higher, I still liked the car, so I went in to iron out the details. Up until then, the sales person had been very pleasant and relaxed; not at all the stereotypically pushy type we all loathe.

All was going well until he brought a purchase agreement for me to sign. It had no numbers filled in, but stated that I was agreeing to purchase the vehicle from that dealer. Up until that point, the only number I had in writing was the $179/month quote from the email, and I was tempted to write that in and sign it, but instead pointed out that I wasn't about to sign a blank commitment. He fumbled with an explanation, but I still refused. At that point he got up to "speak to his manager", and about 10 minutes later returned with that sheet with a figure filled in: $354/month!

Now let me explain: if I had been quoted that price originally, I would still have been interested, even though it was a bit higher than what I would have been paying for one of the other car models I was considering. But the extreme nature of the bait-and-switch tactics employed just really turned me off. I don't mind paying a fair price for things I want, but I absolutely refuse to do business with companies that use these sorts of dishonest tactics in order to trap you into doing something that may not be in your best interest.

After I explained that not only was the price higher than I was willing to pay, but that I felt like I was being duped, he went back to his manager for another 10 minutes or so. I probably should have walked out right then, but I guess I still had some glimmer of hope that they would at least realize that their BS tactics weren't going to work with me, and would instead start dealing with me straight. Instead, he came back with a quote that was a little lower, but still way higher than anywhere else (yes, I checked other dealers before coming in!). The manager even came over to try to close me, but at that point I wasn't having any of it. I got up and left.

I still liked the car, though, and looked online for a dealer over on the other side of town. Their website quoted me $326 for the exact same car with the same features. I contacted them online, and told them that I had just been through Salesman Hell, and was hoping that I could work with them. After a few emails and phone calls to iron out the details, I agreed to lease the car from them. Everyone I dealt with at the new dealership treated me with respect; they realized that I wanted to get a car, and that they wanted to sell their cars, so it was in both of our interests to work together to make that happen.

I feel sorry for businesses that are stuck in the mindset that the only way to get people to do business with them is to trick them. Unfortunately, there are many of these still around, and I just happened to run into one of them.

Cold Weather Sucks

Saturday was the Cystic Fibrosis Cycle For Life, which is a bicycle ride designed to raise money for research into a cure for CF. Last year it was the first distance ride I had ever ridden, and it was a great experience. I was looking forward to doing the ride again this year for several reasons: the chance to help support a worthy cause, and also to experience once again the camaraderie among the cyclists at an event like this.

Last year the ride started with temperatures in the mid-50s (14C), but quickly warmed up into the 70s – nearly ideal. We weren't so lucky this year. A cold front moved into south Texas on Friday, bringing a bunch of wind and rain, and dropping temperatures to the low 40s. I didn't have the right clothing for riding in these temperatures, so I ran around to several stores getting what I needed in the days before the ride. Still, I wasn't looking forward to riding 62 miles in the cold, wet weather, and apparently neither were most other riders, as there were only a few dozen riders who showed up, compared with several hundred last year.

start_of_ride

It was drizzling when we started the ride, and within a couple of miles I lost all sensation in my fingers. I've lived for many years in cold climates, and while I can handle the cold for the most part, my hands were always the most vulnerable. Fortunately, at the first rest stop some kind soul gave me a "HotHands" warmer I could slip into my glove, and slowly regained feeling in my right hand. I switched it to the left glove at the next stop, and my hands were OK for the rest of the ride.

The organizers had decided to eliminate the longer 62-mile course, so everyone did the 32-mile route. That was good, because by the time I finished my feet were numb, and I was chilled to the bone. The warm cup of coffee I had in the tent afterwards felt incredible!

warming_up

Now that it's over, I'm glad I stuck to it and completed the ride, but it only served to confirm why I moved to South Texas in the first place: the warm weather! I can definitely do without another experience like this one.

 

Privilege

I'm privileged. I'm a straight white male. The only possible source of discrimination I face is when people know I'm an atheist, but they only know that if I choose to reveal it to them. So I have it pretty cushy, which is why I think that essays like this one are so important.

Those of us who don't face discrimination daily can't possibly understand what it is like to have to deal not only with the overt stuff, but the insidious and subtle hurdles that are constantly thrown in the path of those who weren't born straight, white, or male. Fortunately there are writers such as Tressie McMillan Cottom who are able to convey some of the reality that they are faced with in their lives, and as a result can open our eyes so that we may understand our fellow human beings better. Read The Logic of Stupid Poor People, and I guarantee that you will see things a little differently.

My First Century

A few weeks ago I told several friends and colleagues that I would be participating in a cycling event to raise money to help fight Multiple Sclerosis. The ride entailed a 70-mile route on the first day, with an option for an additional 30-mile loop to make it a full century. It started in San Antonio, and ended in nearby New Braunfels. The following day would be a 58-mile return ride back to San Antonio.

I committed to doing the full distance, and asked the members of an online community I host to help by donating to this cause. And as usual, this great community responded generously, raising a total of $525! I want to extend my personal thanks to everyone who donated in my name – without your support I couldn't have done this.

The weather threatened to be ugly on Saturday, and as a result the number of people who showed up for the Rackspace team wasn't as high as we had planned, but those of us who did show up had a great time! (I'm the 4th from the right)

racker riders

The ride on Saturday started off well, with a threat of rain giving way to bright sun, and temperatures around 90F/32C. I did manage to complete the full century, but I can't say the same for my phone's battery, which died just before the 88th mile. Here is the record of my progress, using the awesome free app RunKeeper:  http://runkeeper.com/user/edleafe/activity/256143755

The extra 30-mile loop for the century started at about mile 69, with the farthest point out at mile 84. Those 15 miles were killer: lots of up-and-down, as we followed the road along the Guadalupe river. This first half was going upstream, and that meant a net climb of 150 feet. If I had started out here, no problem, but at this point in the day my reserve of energy was seriously depleted. When I finally reached the end of that segment I don't think that I was ever so happy to see a rest stop as I was then! I rested up for a bit, drank a ton of liquids, ate some food, and then started on the return leg. It was definitely easier, but by then I was running on fumes, and every slight upgrade was a challenge. I had to accept the fact that I couldn't climb hills at this point in the ride as aggressively as I had earlier, and had to instead simply pedal as best as my legs could manage. The few extra minutes taken by slowing down were not as important as continuing to make progress, and eventually that paid off. I made it to the finish line, got a big hug from my woman, found the RV that Rackspace rented for the event, and then settled into the air-conditioned bliss in a comfy couch with a cold beer. Ahhh...

A generous Racker who has a big house nearby was our host for the evening, feeding us, supplying more beer, and letting us sleep there overnight. They also had a pair of masseuses there to help soothe our aching muscles, and man, did I need that! It was a relaxing way to end a long day.

The following morning, the plan was to feed us and then take us back to the starting point for the return leg of the ride, but Mother Nature had other ideas. This was what we were greeted with:

IMG_5980

That's just a close-up; there were several lines of storm clouds behind that moving in from the north. With severe lightning, heavy rains, and the threat of spot flooding, the event organizers made the decision to cancel the second day of the ride. Oddly enough, I was very disappointed – you'd think that the morning after completing my first century the last thing I would want to do is ride another 58 miles, but I guess I had psyched myself up for the full two-day experience that it was a let-down not to be able to do the full ride. We ended up packing our bikes and gear into one of our trucks, and drove back to San Antonio.

It was a great experience overall on many levels, even with the pain and exhaustion of those final 30 hilly miles. Most importantly, though, was the satisfaction of reaching a goal I had set for myself a year earlier. Now that I've done a century, though, I think if I ride in next year's event, I might just be content with the 70 mile route!

Great Customer Service

I work for a company for which customer service is the fundamental tenet, so when I see it in other companies, I really appreciate it. So I have to give big props to HomeDepot for their customer service. I'm remodeling my kitchen, and have spent quite a bit of money with them over the past few months, and this ensures that I'll continue to do so in the future.

I bought the cabinets for the kitchen from them, and they were delivered about a month ago. If you know anything about cabinet installation, the base cabinets are installed last, to make it easier to work with the wall cabinets. So over the weekend I unpacked the cabinets, only to find that two of them were broken. One looked like it had been dropped on its corner, and another looks like it had been struck on the side. Both were unusable.

I went back to the store where I had bought them, and explained the situation. My designer, Paul, was very understanding, and told me to bring them back and they would exchange them for new cabinets. I mentioned that that would be difficult to do with my Honda Civic, so he offered to deliver the replacements to my house first thing Monday morning, and pick up the damaged cabinets. And yesterday he did just that. I now have two good cabinets, along with a great deal of gratitude to Home Depot for doing the right thing by me.