M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, August 06, 2005  


Trash's car had to go. She loved her sporty little black '98 Chevy Cavalier that she's had since 1998, but it wasn't working out. Once M. Tiny quit being M. Tiny and became M. Small, he graduated to another car seat. The old one was fine. Safe, secure, basically a padded, belted Gibraltar in the back seat. The new one, not so much. The front end of it touched the top corners of the bucket seats in front, resting between them. Which, on one level, looked fine, but on another, we were pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happen. Especially since the car seat wiggled a lot more when the front seats were folded forward. Just didn't seem right somehow. Add to that the fact that strapping a wiggling baby into a car seat in the back of a two-door car requires bodily contortions not unlike those called for when building a fire in the fireplace from atop your chimney, and Trash's car had to go.

So my dad figured out what kind of car she'd probably like, and she went online and looked at some new and used cars, and last Saturday morning we met up with my parents at the Saturn dealership near where I used to work. Yes, she was joining me in the Cult of Saturn. And just like any cult worth its legions of insane proselytizers, the Cult of Saturn can be expensive and challenging to get into. If only we had known.

On the way there, with M. Small strapped into that tiny back seat for what we hoped was the last time, it occurred to us that we hadn't double-checked to make sure that we had food for him in case we were still car-shopping by his next mealtime. But we were pretty sure we were all set, and if not, he could probably hold off an extra ten minutes if things went a little long.

Let's just say we ended up being glad we were all set in case things went a little long.

No, actually, let's say more than that. Maybe we could start with two minutes after we arrived on the lot, when a salesman with a bad haircut -- let's call him Len -- came out of the building and descended upon us. Which was fine, because we did in fact want to buy a car. We just didn't know at the time how difficult he was going to end up making that.

Finding the right car turned out to be trickier than we expected. The one Trash picked out first turned out to be sold, so that was that. So then he got on the computer and started searching the database for vehicles that had what she wanted. Considering that Trash has a Master's degree in finding stuff out on computers, you can imagine her frustration at watching over the shoulder of someone who used the computer like he just recently graduated from pointing the mouse at the monitor like a TV remote. Meanwhile, my parents were taking care of the baby over at an empty cubicle. We were thisclose to inviting the kid over to run the computer, on the assumption that he'd do it faster.

But we got through that, and after an hour, Trash and I had both been on a test drive with my dad and she had picked out the car she wanted. It ended up being one of the ones on the show floor, about three inches from where she'd been standing and trying not to let her fingernails pierce clear through to the backs of her hands while Len took five minutes per vehicle to come up with possible cars that at that time were in Rochester. With Mom's help, we got M. Small's bottle taken care of. And at long last, we were just a few pieces of paperwork away from driving home a shiny new Trashmobile.

Sadly, at this point Len was nowhere to be found.

Len had decided to multitask this fine morning, and was dealing with at least two other customers in between stolen moments with us. We later theorized that he had actually made appointments with them, but had leaped on us anyway, figuring that he could do ten things at once. As it turns out, Len can't.

After a few minutes of sitting in our little cubicle, Len breezed by on his way to do something else. "You folks comfortable here?" he asked us hurriedly.

"Well, we wanted to buy a car," Trash said to the Len-shaped dust cloud before us.

You know how you're watching a movie or reading a book, and it's really not doing it for you, and after a while you realize you're only hanging in there because it has to get better? This was the experience of buying a car from Len. But we figured we were almost done. We'd get out of there, complain on our customer service survey, and enjoy our new car.

We kept thinking we'd get out of there, as Len took a ridiculous amount of time to request our financing paperwork. As he took an absurd amount of time to do whatever with the title and license. As he kept disappearing on us. Soon other employees began to notice.

"Can I help you guys with something?"

"We're just waiting for Len," we'd keep saying. Eventually they'd stop asking and they'd say, "Still waiting for Len?"

Over the course of the day, we had to have Len paged on at least three separate occasions.

After we'd been there three hours, and M. Small had had another meal, we finally signed all the paperwork, had Len paged again, and got ready to drive the new Trashmobile -- which by now was out of the store and out on the pavement -- off the lot.

"Oh, I haven't cleaned that car out yet," Len said.

We probably should have paid more attention to the Jack-Lemmon-in-Glengarry Glen Ross flopsweat pouring off the guy the minute we laid eyes on him. In a dealership full of calm, relaxed salespeople, Len was probably the guy staring down the barrel of an unmet quota on the last selling day of the month. He overextended himself, and we paid the price.

Nearly four hours after we'd gotten there, the service guys drove the car out of the bay and opened the driver's side door for Trash. While we got M. Small strapped in (I'd actually put the car seat in the thing while it was still on the show floor, which was a show in itself, let me tell you), Len had just one more thing to go over.

The survey.

Len explained that we would be getting a customer service survey in the mail, and while we both bit our tongues to keep from saying that the thought of the survey was the only thing that had gotten us through this long, arduous process, he explained that while the survey questions would look like multiple choice, they're really pass/fail. M. Small started getting impatient at being strapped into a stationary car while Len's flopsweat flopped harder than ever. I just glared at him. Trash wouldn't look at him at all. Survey, we both thought, and by the time we got out of there we were so frustrated and emotionally exhausted that we had to go pick up a pizza.

Later, mom told me that if we didn't respond to the survey, they'd send us another one. And then we should send both in.

Today I stopped in to have Trash's new plates put on, but I didn't see Len. At least not until I was driving out of the service bay, my errand complete. He was just stepping out of the building.

I'm actually rather proud of myself for not having run him over.

Today's best search phrase: "Owatonna rent dumpster." Okay, I know Owatonna's a clean town, but shouldn't they spring for something a little more permanent, just in case?

posted by M. Giant 9:44 PM 13 comments


Buying a Saturn can be an absolute delight when you're dealing with a salesperson with the tiniest bit of snap (i.e., when I bought my first one). But when you aren't? NIGHTMARE (i.e., when I bought my second one).

Congrats on the new addition!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 7, 2005 at 6:21 AM  

Congratulations! I bought a Saturn Ion 3 a month ago- so welcome to the cult. It is my first Saturn, and I love it! Too bad about crappy salespeople. Ours was as nice as could be, and it didn't take too long...

By Blogger purplefishy, at August 7, 2005 at 8:32 AM  

Oooh, shiny cars!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 7, 2005 at 11:57 AM  

Welcome to the cult! We just bought a Saturn Vue. Yes, we sold our green souls and have an SUV now. Ack. But it's so niiiiice ...

Anyway, we got the same "pass/fail" lecture at the end of our car purchase ordeal. How very odd.

By Anonymous Wayne, at August 7, 2005 at 2:48 PM  

When my wife and I bought a car (Ford) four years ago, we have "something" of a similar experience. We didn't quite have a Len to drive us insane, but we did have out first child in tow and it took us about three hours or so to get everything taken care of.

It was something of a nightmare.

But, hopefully, you can get over it . . . and if not, you can say very harsh things about Len in the survey.

By Blogger Burb, at August 7, 2005 at 5:55 PM  

Congrats on the new vehicle! FYI on the car seat thing - a rear-facing car seat can touch the back on the front seats, it's called cocooning and the front seats can actually provide more support in a crash. My husband and I are both really tall, so we were certainly happy to find out that it was okay since we need to drive with out seats all the way back - or else feel like a little old lady hunched over the wheel!

By Blogger shallahb, at August 8, 2005 at 6:39 AM  

Pretty car! Is it a 2005 or a 2006? I know it may be too late, but I read somewhere that the 2006 is actually cheaper than the 2005.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 8, 2005 at 8:14 AM  

Congrats on the new ride! Be safe and enjoy.

Our last Saturn purchase experience was a 6 hour long ordeal due to a computer network problem. The sales staff took turns feeding our 3-year-old popcorn to keep her entertained. On the drive home, the back seat of my brand new VUE got "christened." Cleaning that up, in the dark, along Interstate 95 was about 25 kinds of fun!

By Anonymous Lisa, at August 8, 2005 at 8:52 AM  

Damn, that's got to be the worst car-buying experience I've ever heard. My Saturn experiences were very easy, although the last time, 2004, every time I asked the dealer a question, he directed the answer to my husband. Next year, is M. Small gonna be M. Shorty?

By Blogger Nancy, at August 8, 2005 at 1:12 PM  

Oh! That is stinky! We just bought a new truck and we were also at the stinky dealership for a really long time. There was this other family there too. They had a toddler and they didn't have anything for this poor kid to do or eat! Apparantly they didn't think it was going to take very long. Anyway, they didn't even get to drive their car home that night, they had to come back the next morning and pick up the car. The only reason I know this is because we ALSO had to come back and pick up our new baby the next morning!

By Blogger Cheez, at August 9, 2005 at 10:30 AM  

It is always that bad. The last time I boght a car, I already knew exactly which car I was getting, financing had been pre-approved, and the salesman was my brother-in-law.

It still took nearly five hours.

By Blogger Dimestore Lipstick, at August 10, 2005 at 8:47 PM  

Pardon me, but as an escaped cult member haaaaaate Saturn. Haaaate.


I'm now the owner of a Toyota Prius. It's completely true about Prius owners. We drive around thinking, "Dang, all of you other drivers just hate the environment, don't you?"

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 16, 2005 at 7:06 AM  

We had a very similar experience when we went to buy my husband a used Jeep after his truck was totalled by a red-light-running-maniac. We had already picked it out off of their website and were paying cash. We foolishly figured it wouldn't take long because last October we bought a brand new Hyundai and the whole process only took an hour including the test drive and financing. Instead, we were treated with Len's twin brother, who made us wait for hours just to pay for the damn thing and then when we finally appeared to be done, we were told it hadn't been cleaned yet. Oddly, we never received a survey. Maybe he figured it best not to send one since we both gave him the stink-eye and peeled out of the parking lot as he tried to say goodbye to us, a half hour after the dealership had closed for the night. What we learned: buy cars only from Hyundai from now on.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 24, 2005 at 1:02 PM  

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