Monday, 9 January 2012

Baby you can drive my car ....

As 2012 gets under way I have found myself having to make another choice. This month my trusty Fiat Punto, which I have owned since it was new in January 2005, is due for tax, insurance and MOT. At 87,000 miles this was going to hurt!

You may have read about my windscreen wipers breaking a few weeks ago. My confidence in my car has been shaken as warning lights have also started to flash. We had intended to change it last year but due to Clive's death many plans have not happened as originally intended.

So the search began last week. I have become skilled at using Autotrader and had several phone calls and trips to car sales places on my own. I have never shopped for a car on my own before. It was interesting to witness the various 'stereotypes' of car sales people!

One car I viewed was pretty grotty - as soon as I sat in it I could smell cigarettes and stale take-aways. However I knew there was a similar car further away so I asked if I could take it for a test drive on that basis - if I liked the type of car I would venture to view the other one. The salesman simply gave me the keys and I manoeuvred it off the forecourt; up to the M53 and back again. 
On my return I re-parked it exactly how I had found it. The man appeared and in an amazed tone said.
'Wow! That was good parking ... we could use you here'.
The pause in the middle I suggested he meant 'for a woman' which he denied!
I didn't like the car. I left.

At another garage I was treated with the 'oh you're a woman on your own so I can pull the wool over your eyes and simply ask what colour you want'.
I didn't like his patronising manner. I left.

I went back to Autotrader and found another car I might like. I phoned the next day to be told that one had gone but they had others I might like. So I drove to Wigan. When I arrived the salesman was on his mobile phone and ignored me for a few moments whilst he finished his personal call (not that I was eavesdropping of course). He gained a point for realising that it was me that he had spoken to earlier. When I asked what else he had to show me he just gestured to the cars outside - 'have a look' he said - and continued his call.
I don't like being ignored. I left.

Also in Wigan I went to look at another car - when I found the garage - behind a cafe and a closed roller shutter door! I actually liked the shiny red car I had gone to see but the surroundings and elderly man smoking and 'dodgy' feel put me off. However, I decided that I wouldn't be so judgemental and give him a chance. That was until he made horrible comments about my car and offered me peanuts for it!
I don't like anyone insulting something or someone I love! I left.

By Saturday I had got down to a shortlist of three - top of my budget, middle and sensible! I took a friend with me who knows more about cars than me.

The first garage (sensible price) I hadn't been to by myself but I had spoken to 'Andy' on the phone who had been very pleasant. So we had a look at the Punto I was interested in - older than mine but less than half the mileage and in great condition. One snag was that ideally having my niece now nearby to pick up sometimes, a 5 door car would be easier - this one was 3. Otherwise everything else about it was fine. Andy was charming, without being a creep, gave us the keys and said he would not push us but invited us to explore the car. We did so. He then invited us into the warm office and gave us a copy of the warranty he would offer and when we explained we had others to view, gave us his card and said that if he could do anything above what he already was offering, then to ring and give him a chance.
We liked the car and him - we might go back  to MC Garages .....

Next was the mid-range car. The garage owner had said the previous day that changing my private plate over 'could be tricky' and that I shouldn't expect much for mine! He might give me a fraction more if it was MOT'd. However, I did like the car he had for sale so risked going back. The 'wind-up' windows made me smile in memory of one of Clive's keynotes when he had a story about self-control and road-rage - he'd make a joke about having a car with manual windows. The salesman refused to budge on anything. No negotiation at all.
My friend didn't like his stubbornness. We left.

At this point I suddenly felt very emotional. I realised that I would be saying goodbye to my blue car that has seen me through an incredible few years. I have been ecstatic and excited in that car - and hysterically distraught. When Clive had his knee operations in the final months of his life I had driven him many places in this car. That too was now going. Another sign of 'moving on'.

Finally we went for my top range one. I had liked the young girl who had originally showed me this car, in the absence of her boss. She had been helpful before I went, via email and phone. She offered me a great price for mine and I was keen to go back. Having made the comment above about women only choosing  a car on it's colour I admit that this one wasn't bright enough for me! I like to be bright! This one was black. Beyond that it was a 'bargain' due to water damage and then being refitted. Hmmm. Maybe trouble in future? 
We were concerned about the car although their service was great. We left to think.

So the decision was down to the dear one and the cheapest. So what was it to be? The shiny black 5 door with on 8,000 miles or the bright yellow one?

We called at my parents and a family 'conflab' was held including my sister! I decided we'd give Andy the chance he'd asked for. He then offered a bit more for my car plus road tax! Job done!

We went back to do the paperwork and again he was charming. He was so passionate and enthusiastic about his job and that came across. He will sort out all my paperwork for me and get me some new plates made up.
So on Wednesday I pick up my yellow Punto. And it just happens to match my new branding ...

So was my choice made just on the colour? It helped but basically I feel my choices were mainly directed by other people!

How many people do you influence by your manner? Do you appear friendly and helpful like Andy or disinterested and insulting like some of the others I came across?

On reflection my new car experience has again been impacted by the three aspects I keep referring to:-

1. Choice
2. Communication - this influenced my choices as I have described. Incidentally, the 'black car' garage, VIP car sales, replied to my email, informing them that I had decided against their car,  in such a lovely manner that I would go back to them another time.
3. Caring - Andy cared. He got the sale. Not only that - my friend has asked him to look out for a dream car for him!

I now have to compromise - any one got a spare car seat for a 2 year old I can have permanently in the back of my new car for Sophie, to make life easier and safer?!

What will you do today to positively influence someone?

Elaine x

No comments: