“New is the New Used”


So said – with scripted sincerity – the small child barely filling a cheap suit predictably accessorised with a clip on tie. Being such a callow youth, the concept of using the time between his soundbites to actually listen, rather than cue up the next cheesy missive had yet to register.

Which goes at least some way to explaining how a spluttered ‘you are fucking joking aren’t you’ spectacularly failed to prevent the launch of the good ship ‘further stupidity‘ into the choppy seas of an irate customer.

Now Sir, we profile our customer using the PRICES method” [ignore crossed arms and darkening scowl] “That’s P for Prices, R forReliability, I for Image, C for Claptrap, E for Ectoplasm and S for Surely this is some sick joke, yes“. I may not have parsed the entire mnemonic correctly, yet I do remember being asked innocently whether “Image” and “Reliability” were important to me.

Allowed to speak at last, I caustically informed the young pup that as a middle aged man with the dress sense of a blind stoner and a hair line starting somewhere south of my spine, image was something that happened to other people. As for reliability, frankly if I’m handing over a suitcase of cash for some design exercise splattered with ‘my first plastics‘ I’d be pretty fucking irritated if it didn’t start first time every time until I’m long gone.

A frown passed over his youthful countenance as the literally hours of sales training failed to deliver any answer other than calling for the Sales Manager to escort me off the premises. Eventually he sucked hard on his pencil before scrawling ‘Mature Driver‘ on the crib sheet. Which I assume put me in line for some incremental selling involving cardigans, brogues and term time cruise offers.

I entirely disproved his categorisation with a flounce-out refusing to even consider a test drive of something clearly styled by a man with pointy sideburns, a pony tail and a razor blade. Things improved not at all with other brands; the Kia hawker ignored Carol completely on the apparently justifiable grounds that anyone without a penis could have even the slightest influence over the next car purchase.

The Nissan Salesman was some kind of gone-to-seed Rugby player crossed with a failed game show host. I can only but admire his chutzpah attempting to offload a car barely two years newer than the old knacker I was trading in, while demanding the thick end of twelve grand for the privilege. And having dragged the family around most of South Gloucestershire in an attempt to buy something that might transport me to work without bankrupting us all, we ended up back where we started.

At the Skoda garage where a nice man called Steve sympathised with our pleading of poverty while gently explaining that customer financial hardship in no way invoked some kind of hidden discount clause. I’d already told him in no uncertain terms that only snobs and mugs bought new cars and, as a man who had already trodden that idiotic path at least twice before, I was ready for his sales’y wiles.

Mainly by introducing Carol who is brilliantly immune to every sales technique ever devised, responding simply that ‘that’s too much money, come on let’s go back and see the bloke who was BEGGING us to hand over about a fiver for a new car down the road“. Me? Bloody Useless. I just see something shiny and fail to worry about how we might pay for it because I WANT SHINY NOW.

In summary, Carol – adult with good judgement and fiscal sense, Alex – small child with attention span of special needs moth and financial perspective similar to dictator of African country. I did advance an argument that purchasing a new car in the colour we didn’t want infested with toys we didn’t need was such a stupid idea not even I was buying it. Steve countered this offering us a second hand car with none of the toys but in a more pleasing colour for slightly more than the new one he was attempting to shift.

I gave up. Having decided we couldn’t afford the car we liked the best, we ran around for two weeks looking at more sensible options which we really didn’t like at all. There’s a history here; put three things in front of Carol and I and we’ll ignore them all instead selecting a fourth at double the cost of the most expensive. It’s not snobbery, or even good taste (well on my part). It’s just some hard wired issue of choosing expensive things that will cost even more once ownership is ours; exhibit A: this house.

But the kids loved the Yeti. So did we. It’s kind of fun even in the cooking 2WD version* with a not terribly lusty Diesel engine. It’s resembles most closely a Labrador in its desire to please – if such an emotion can be transferred to metal and electronics. There’s some justification in the cost of running the now aged x-trail, the great MPG, the need for the dealer to shift it – but honestly it’s really a shit load of money for something that loses 20% of the value when you drive it off the forecourt.

Once you get over that, it’s fine. Apparently. But otherwise I was going to beat the next salesman to death with his calculator, and I couldn’t ask my family to traipse around soulless car showrooms for any longer.

It’ll be a nice thing to drive a 100 miles a day for the next few months while I wrest this latest project into some kind of shape. And while I’ll be sorry to see the X-Trail go, the next 10,000 miles were going to be significantly more expensive than the last 50,000.

All I can say is it’s a bloody good job that new is – indeed – the new used.

* I wanted a 4WD again until I saw the price. Then I wanted some snow tyres instead

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