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By Mark Loper
That’s right, I’m talking about car dealers.
These predators, many of them on two legs, have been trained to stalk, lull, and ingratiate themselves into your good graces.
These are exactly the tactics you’d expect from a timber wolf in Yosemite but not from your new friend at the Auto Mart.
Let’s examine several of the traps this predator has laid out to “put you in the car of your dreams.”
First, be suspicious when you drive onto the car dealer’s lot and see parking slots for employees, visitors, and suckers.
And be suspicious when the over-caffeinated sales guy helping you out of your car still has his name tag on from his second job selling timeshares.
So, you walk around the lot, and read the MSRP sticker on a car you like.
This is the car’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.
Well, poorly informed one, you’re wrong!
MSRP means This Price is Absurdly High, and You Are Fresh Meat for Us Vultures.
Your new best friend asks how much you’d like to pay each month.
You laugh and tell him nothing.
He laughs (because good friends enjoy a good joke) and shares some great news!
The dealership is running a lease special with a money factor of only .0100!
What’s a money factor, you ask, and you’re told it’s like the interest rate, and, wow, you were sort of good in algebra . . . that .0100 is a darn low interest rate!
(Well, that darn low number has to be multiplied by 2,400 to get your actual interest rate; in this case, 24%, or what you’d be charged by the Mafia.)
Auto dealers have their own language to confuse you—terms such as buy rate, acquisition cost, spread, and Gap insurance (so, for whatever reason, you can return those jeans).
Like a true predator, the car dealer makes you feel helpless.
And pretty stupid.
So now, after you’ve happily agreed to pay too much for your new car, you’re escorted down a soulless hall straight from the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.
Pictures of previous Salesmen of the Month adorn the wall, and you shake your head in astonishment.
You had no idea Dracula sold Audis.
This should be a clue.
Because you’re on the way to meet the Finance Manager, aka Bringer of Black Death, Disciple of Doom, and Good Friend of Wily Coyote.
In theory, the Finance Manager is to assist you in understanding the actual financing of your purchase: term, cost of loan, down payment, taxes, and where to send your first-born.
But the Finance Manager also wants to sell you important add-ons such as a warranty for your tires if they happen to fall off, or a spray undercoating for your vehicle protecting you from snow, salt, and the Klingon Empire.
But be strong and don’t give away any more.
And, remember, you have a new car and you’ve survived.
And, at least, you’ll escape with one arm and leg.
Mark Loper has been a San Juan Capistrano resident for more than 30 years and has written for several kinds of media, including The Capistrano Dispatch. His writing has been scorned and rejected countless times, but, while hanging onto a wisp of self-esteem, he’s managed to have the occasional scribbling published in book form, in columns, online, on TV and as advertising. He has yet to tweet.