STRANGE THOUGHTS By D.L. Russell
By the time he was 19 years old, my son had gotten his own place and had been paying his own way through college. He’d been working full time at a restaurant and had made what seemed to be a smooth transition into becoming a productive adult. That was my thinking anyway, until he bought a car that turned out to be a lemon from a used car lot. This was his second car purchase, but the first one had been from a private owner; $350 was all he had paid and that car had gotten him around without incident, for three years. He’d been pretty lucky; purchasing anything used is always a roll of the dice.
Before he’d gone car shopping that second time, I’d asked him to wait a few days and go with me when I had a day off, but like many of us are at that age, he was anxious and ready to go. And instead, he took his cousin, who was only a few years older than he was and hadn’t had much experience purchasing used cars either.
By the time my son informed me that the transmission had gone out on the car after less than a week, he’d already gone back to the used car dealer with his mom and had unceremoniously been told to, “get lost,” and that “all sales are final!” This is the law of the land at most used car lots, but that doesn’t make it right.
It was at this time my son also informed me he had been given an offer to add a parts warranty onto the car, at the time of purchase, but he had turned it down because he hadn’t wanted to pay the extra $150. Again, this was youth at work here.
With the little information I had, I went to the used car dealer in question and I made sure my arrival coincided with what appeared to be a busy part of their day. Several customers were walking around the lot, eying various cars for sale, and a few more were actually talking to salesmen. Then there were two others, who were actually waiting to complete their necessary paperwork.
I patiently set down in the lobby and was told someone would be with me shortly; as I said, they were busy. While waiting, I took in as much of the surrounding conversations as my little ears could. Both of the people completing paperwork were women and both appeared to be from other countries, based on their dress and accented English. I was positive, this would be to my advantage, if all went as I expected.
For more than 30 minutes, I waited and was finally approached by a salesman, whom I immediately told I wanted to speak with the manager or the owner. He initially got a confused look on his face, and then an expression of “oh crap.” That told me this was a place familiar with customers coming back with complaints, and again, I felt this would work to my advantage. I was then taken to a desk, which had a very distracted looking woman behind it, as she asked me how she could help, without even turning away from her computer keyboard and screen.
I went into my son’s story about his car breaking down in less than a week, and this distracted woman, again without looking at me said, “Sorry, all sales are final. He had a chance to purchase a warranty and he didn’t take it. Not our fault.”
“He’s 19, and you and I both know at that age, you don’t fully understand the consequences of buying a car.” I also added, “All I’m asking is that you give him the warranty, retroactively, and allow him to get it fixed.”
At this time, the woman finally looked at me. She looked at me, as if I wasn’t the right pay grade to be making such a demand upon her. “I can’t do a thing like that,” she said. “We just don’t do that.”
I hadn’t expected anything more from the first person I spoke with, so this didn’t upset me all that much. I simply gave her my highest pay grade stare and said the following:
“Look, I have been sitting here quietly, waiting to speak to someone about this lemon you sold my son. I haven’t made a scene and I haven’t raised my voice. I also haven’t tried to get you to take the car back.
“I notice you have a lot of potential customers in here right now, and I even noticed you have two ladies over there waiting to complete their sales paperwork. How do you think they would react if I let them and everyone else in here know that you guys are selling lemons; cars that won’t even run for a week, and then telling customers who complain, that all ‘sales are final?’ I think they would both get up and walk right out of here.
“I also think that you making those two sales alone are worth you paying that $150 warranty for my son, retroactively. So what’s it gonna’ be? Do I get loud or do you take care of this quietly?”
After that, the woman got up from her chair without saying another word. She went outside and began speaking fervently with a man helping another customer. They both came back to me, and he introduced himself as they owner of the car lot. I then repeated my speech about waiting quietly and what I wanted. At this, he looked around at his other customers, almost as if he was making a financial tabulation in his head, and then simply told the lady to give me the warranty. In fact, as he headed back towards the door, he turned and told her to make an appointment at a specific transmission repair shop and that was that.
Later when I told my son where to have his car taken, and what he needed to do, his reaction was dumbfounded shock.
“How did you get them to do that, Dad?” he wanted to know, adding, “They wouldn’t even talk to me or mom, when we went in there.”
I then told him I had simply assessed the situation before I started talking to them, and used what I saw to my advantage.
The point of this story isn’t to brag about how I told them, at the car lot. It isn’t even about the car lot specifically. I could have just as well told a story about my daughter running out of the bathroom because there was a spider in the tub, and how I had to go in and kill it. The point of the story is our children never get to a point where we can’t be of use to them, where we can’t be the strong hand or the level head needed for them to be successful or even safe. My son needed me there at that time, and I was thankfully able to be there for him. He’s 23 years old now, and nothing has changed. I try not to interfere in his life too much, but there are times I am needed, and I thank God everyday for that….
D.L. Russell is an author of Horror and Dark Fantasy and the co-founder and editor of Strange, Weird, and Wonderful Publishing. You can also visit his blog at www.dlrussellsblog.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 5, 2013 print edition.