Part 1 - The Bait
That out of the way, here's my story.
For the last few weeks, I've been looking for a "new" used truck, searching internet listings for anything in my area that might meet my current needs, for the price I can afford.
Some time about a week ago, I called a couple dealers nearby to inquire as to the availability of two Ford F-150's I had seen advertised online. In both cases, the trucks had been sold recently, according to the salespeople I spoke with.
No big deal.
Maybe they were. Maybe they weren't. No skin off of my nose.
That's why I called ahead, to avoid driving out to a car lot only to find the truck I was looking for was sold just days before.
Anyway, I was having a hard time finding what i was looking for in the F-150's so I decided to expand my search to include the Dodge Ram 1500. I owned a '96 Ram a while back, and was quite happy with it. So, this past Saturday, I found three listings for 2006 Ram 1500's that I wanted to get some more info on.
One, in particular, seemed to be just what I was looking for, and was listed at a price I thought to be quite fair. The dealer was located in Massachusetts, a bit of a drive for me, but I figured if it was the right truck for me it would be worth the drive.
So, I filled in the little "Email the Dealer" form on the website, to inquire as to the availability of this truck, half expecting to get the "Oh, we just sold it." reply. Here's what I wrote.
re: Stock #[redacted], 2006 Dodge Ram, white
Is this truck currently on your lot?
Around 8:30 Sunday morning, I received the following reply via e-mail from an individual identifying himself as the Internet Sales Manager for this particular dealership:
Happy Mother's Day Bruce,
My name is [name redacted], Internet Sales Manager for www.[dealer website redacted].com.
How are you? The 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 is still available. Are you interested? We have the lowest internet prices in the area. Please respond by email to schedule an appointment for a test drive. Have a great day!
P.S. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PRICING YOU RECEIVE IS VALID ONLY THROUGH OUR SALES MANAGERS. PLEASE PRINT THIS EMAIL AS YOUR COUPON. UPON ARRIVAL AT THE DEALERSHIP, PLEASE LET THE SALESMAN KNOW THAT YOU INQUIRED ABOUT A VEHICLE ONLINE, AND YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH [names redacted].
Attached to that e-mail was information confirming the vehicle specs (Stock#, VIN, mileage, features, etc.) and the dealer's advertised price.
I re-read the e-mail, and replied by e-mail, as`asked, to schedule a test drive. I then printed out the e-mail, as noted, so as to avail myself of some of "the lowest internet prices in the area".
At 9:25 this morning, I called the dealership and asked to speak with the sales manager who was referred to me in the e-mail from the dealer's Internet Sales Manager, to confirm again that the truck was still there, and to let them know I would be in the area around lunchtime for a test drive. The guy I spoke with told me he'd go out and physically check to see if it was there, and call me right back.
Which he did.
And, yes, the truck was on the lot.
So, I head on down to check it out.
Internet Sales Manager guy calls me at 12:00 noon, to see if I was still coming for the test drive. I told him I was on the highway, and that I'd be there in about a half-hour or so. He says he'll call over there to let them know I'm coming.
I pull into the dealership at 12:30 and ask to see the sales manager, whom I had spoken to earlier. He introduces me to one of his salespeople, and asks her to show me the truck and get me the keys so I could take it out for a drive.
Everything was going fine. The truck was in like-new condition, low-mileage, and had all the bells and whistles I was looking for. As we pulled back into the lot, I asked the salesperson what were the typical charges that get tacked on to the sales ticket, between the sales price and the bottom line. She said that since the vehicle was used and I was going to be registering it in New Hampshire, the only add-on would be for the documentation and title transfer (read: $200 and change worth of bullshit).
I told her, "Here's the thing. I don't like to haggle. I don't like to dicker. And, quite frankly, I don't like car dealers. I've got my printouts here with the 'special internet pricing', so if we can make that $200 and change go away, I'll have a bank check here by the end of the day for the full amount of the car."
Then, with the predictability of a liberal calling for more unnecessary tax hikes, she dives into Chapter 1 of the "Sleazeball Used Car Dealer Handbook" and gives me the old "Well, let me just run that buy the sales manager and see." routine.
Yet, I was fairly confident I'd be buying a new truck soon. What could possibly go wrong? I had the printouts (both the e-mail and the website page) with one of their famous "lowest internet prices in the area" on them, and was going to be paying for the truck in full, with cash. I thought, WORST CASE scenario, the guy comes back and says he's sorry, but he just can't budge on any of their "lowest internet prices in the area", and I cough up the $200 and change, and sign on the dotted line.
All depends on one's definition of "worst".
(to be continued...)
UPDATE: Part 2 - The Switch is up.