Rufus and Dave’s Fortnight of Fun Part 2b: Changes.

I dropped Rufus off at the hairdresser looking like a shaggy black mop. I know when it’s time for him to have a haircut because he pants a lot. In fact, he sounds like a little steam engine. He’s good as gold when we go there; it must be strange for him with all the other dogs there but he’s been going there for most of his life so it’s as familiar is it can be.

Then I set off for the garage and the paperwork-fest that is exchanging cars. It was fairly straight forward. I had packed all the stuff from my car into a small back pack and with Rufus’ blankets and seat protection, it looked like I was going on a trek. The salesman was great, once again, and the process went smoothly. Sinclairs have a preparation room where your car sits waiting for you. I walked straight past it without spotting my car. After all, it’s a fairly non-descript red.

I was just about to drive off when the salesman said ‘have you got enough fuel’? When I checked, they’d brimmed the tank. A nice little touch that I hadn’t asked for and which, in days gone by, formed part of the final haggling over price. My experience of buying a car from Sinclairs has, once again, been excellent.

Of course, the A3 is worlds apart from the Freelander. I drove off hesitantly, conscious that everyone knew I was in a new (to me) car. But I quickly got the hang of the clutch and the fact that I didn’t need to use as much accelerator to get it moving. And it was nice not to see the fuel gauge needle moving as I drove. As I drove through town I found myself looking up at all the traffic around me, and even up at some of the kerbs.

I went back to pick Rufus up, now looking slick and feeling a lot cooler with his new haircut. He couldn’t fail to notice the bright redness of it, but he was more interested in having a wee after his styling, and when I opened the door there was a moment’s hesitation before he stepped in. It’s lower than the Freelander, and where before he would normally take a run and jump, now he could climb in easily.

We set off for Cefn Bryn and the second part of our walk and yes, maybe I did take the long way around to get there. But I have to learn to drive my new toy!

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Red sports car

Selling is a game. The trick is not to let on it’s a game and, if possible, not to let on you’re selling. A good salesman will let you do the work while subtly guiding you in the right direction. In the past two weeks I’ve been visiting car dealers looking for my next car and I’ve come across several salesmen with varying degrees of skill. If I (an amateur car buyer) can see their techniques, then they aren’t working. It’s like a good film or TV programme – if you notice the camera work then the camera work isn’t good; it should never intrude on the experience.

The first salesman passed me on to the sales junior despite me having made an appointment to see him. That made me feel so important that I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to buy from that garage. I took the test drive because I wanted to see what the car was like. It was very nice, not quite my perfect car but part of the game of changing cars is the compromises you are willing to make. The junior salesman was quite good, actually (I only use the word junior to indicate he was less experienced) but he kept asking questions about how the car felt to drive, how comfortable it was etc. This is done to try and get a positive response from the customer to start the process of wanting the car. It weakens the bargaining stance later in the buying process – you have already said you like it and those positive connections have been made.

Having been driving a Freelander for two years, my response was genuine:  “It’s very different – the visibility isn’t as good”. The salesman went quite and I ended up having to make the conversation.

In the showroom, I was left to wait while they went off to get a price. Now to my mind, the original salesman should have been doing that while I was out in the car. And, of course, he was. I was left to sit and wait while they sat and waited in the office, letting me reflect and worry a little. It should have softened me up. But the waiting area was in the sun and I was cooking. The only reason I didn’t walk out was because they had my keys. When they did come over, it was junior that gave me the figures. They had added the cost of protective coating to the price (easily removed to drop the price) but it was still way over what I was prepared to pay. Part of the reason was I’d over estimated the value of my car but that garage had a strange way of pricing their vehicles too, which worked in their favour (of course). In Swansea, my car had a value. In their dealership elsewhere, it might be more or less. But rather than having a fixed value for exchange, it was based on local prices. Swansea is quite cheap for Freelanders; If you want the best prices, go to Scotland where they are around £2k more. That’s what would have happened to mine.

When I questioned the valuation, the senior salesman waded in and quoted all sorts of reasons why that was an unrealistic price. But it is a game at the end of the day, so we smiled, shook hands and I walked out, sweaty and a bit disappointed.

Fast forward to the weekend. I went to another dealer, this time one independent from  both the make I was selling and the make I was buying. To be fair, the salesman was on his own and had been busy. While he was showing me around the car he was on the phone to someone explaining how he’d made 5 sales that day, “including the Fiat 500 which we’ve finally got rid of…”. Once again, I felt special and valued. I took it for a test drive and, comparing with the the previous one (same model) it just didn’t feel as good. It might have been the high mileage, about which I had my doubts. In the office, the valuation of my car was laughable. He asked me if I’d had another offer and when I told him what the valuation from the main Landrover dealer was, he said “they’re wrong”. I laughed out loud. He then started to show me all sorts of figures from the valuation site. But he’d had his quota of sales for the day and what little effort he’d made at the beginning stopped; he didn’t even take my contact details, which any half decent salesman would have done.

Fast forward once more to yesterday. I went to the dealer I’ve been buying cars from for a while. I’d seen one I was vaguely interested in and I’d done a lot of research. I kept coming back to this one car. On a whim, I called in and spoke to one of several salesmen there. Immediately, I felt as if I mattered. The game was being played well. This was the Premiership after me experiences in the lower leagues. The guy took the time to talk me through what I wanted, and more time to go through the cars that were due in but not yet on the website. We even explored different models and the options available. The test drive was relaxed and at no time did I feel I was being ‘sold’ the car. The language was friendly but to the point, It took a couple of minutes to figure out the prices, another couple to come to a final price we were both happy with and suddenly, I had bought a new car!

When I was a kid, I always told people I wanted a red sports car. I’m still a kid at heart, and I now have a red car. It’s not a sports car in the true sense, but the trim level is ‘Sport’ and that’s good enough for me.