Welcome to Smart USA

Well it is official. I am smart. I decided to make a big leap of faith in to my future. I went out and bought a new car. But before I get on that topic let me tell you a little bit about what lead to making this monumental decision. (And yes, buying a new car, especially one that I want, was a big deal for me.)

I have been going through a lot of changes in the last six months. I had started a new job in October, which was my first full time job, and finished up a set of three college degrees. I received one from Marian College in management information systems and two from Purdue University in computer engineering. I actually just received my diplomas in the mail this past Friday. I recently moved into a much nicer, and basically brand new apartment a couple of months ago as well. I am spending a little bit more a month but it is so worth it. (My new apartment had new carpet, new door handles, a new stove, a new dishwasher, a new fridge, and new toilets. So yeah, it is basically a brand new apartment. And I have all freshly stained crown molding.)

But outside of all of that I feel that I have fallen into this “real world” mold that everyone talks about quite nice. No more are the days where I am staying up until 5:00 A.M. playing video games and drinking myself into oblivion. I am getting up every day, and most Saturday and Sundays, before ten in the morning and I am enjoying the day instead of sleeping through it. But it was time to make one more adult decision. I decided to buy a car.

And when this process began I had no idea where to start. I wanted a brand new sports car, of course, but knew that was a stupid decision. Then I went from one extreme to the other and started looking at hybrids. Those, as well, are out of the question. They are insanely priced and you would have to drive one for about seven years before it began to pay you back on the gas mileage. So then I started to look at what I wanted. And what I wanted landed me three options. Actually four, but a 2010 Corvette was out of the question purely based on price point. So I went to dealership number one to test drive a Honda Civic.

I went to Honda based on a few key factors. One, they are cheap. (Most every car I looked at was based on a price point I had in my mind.) I did not really want a Civic but they were offering, and still are, a 0% interest rate with $2,000 down on a brand new Civic. So I decided it was worth a shot because even if I did not get that for my truck I would be able to put a couple thousand down of my own money. And when I got to Honda I was not impressed with a multitude of things. First was their customer service. In places like that they have one thing on their minds; sell cars and keep the line moving. It is all commission based and I hate that. (Even today at Value City I was pressured by a sales man that was obviously selling on commission. And being pressured to buy a new car is not what I want to have on my mind.)

Honda was also very pushy. It was a joke to them, but it felt like they were trying to sell me the car only to make a quick buck. They refused to move on the price and were simply just trying to again, get me out the door. So I moved on to the Toyota dealership. I had sparked a conversation with a salesman a few months prior and he seemed to “get” me on the phone. He continued to call me every week or so (this was a longer process than I wanted) and was always just asking if he could assist me in any way and sharing details of specials they were running. Toyota, again based on commission, I felt this was a sort of pushed to make a decision.

But when I went to the dealer to test drive the car I was shocked at how I was treated. (I was looking at the Scion XB. Yes, this is the toaster on wheels. But I love the look, feel, and layout. I have driven them a few times and I loved everything about it. There are even cars coming out now, like the Nissan Cube and the Kia Soul, that match the look of it as well as the feel. It was what I like to call a designer car.) When I get there, having had a meeting scheduled with the individual that I was talking about on the phone all these weeks, he was no where to be found. They eventually find him on a test drive. So I wait. And while waiting, I see a coffee machine. I am excited as I was craving a cup of Joe. (Why do they call coffee Joe?) I come to find out that said coffee is $0.75. Are you kidding me? I am about to spend a lot of money and you are going to make me pay for coffee? So that puts a sour taste in my mouth. Then comes the introduction to the individual I was sharing the phone lines with.

He comes up and shakes my hand only to pass me off onto another sales guy. He tells me that he is about to “hook” this current client and that he must take care of him immediately but this new sales guy will take great care of me. Well, you know what, I don’t want this individual. He has no idea what we had discussed on the phone, etc. but whatever, let’s see what he has to say. Long story short (which is hard for me to do) he ends up starting the entire process over again and giving me the run around. They refuse to lower the price, not even coming close to the monthly payment that I was told I would have from the previous sales guy, and basically shoved out the door when they told me they could not reach my monthly requirement. So, two dealers down, one to go. And the dealer that was left was the one car I actually wanted more than anything on the road. Sure, the Corvette is nice, but this car is way more my style. Plus, I have already driven a Corvette before. They are nice, but this car is cute.)

The next dealer that I visited would end up being the dealer I would fall in love with. I started, when the sales guy walked up to me, with the following line. And I know that this is what I told him as I made certain I remembered this for this blog post. When he walked up I said, “I want you to know that this is the third dealer that I have been to tonight. I am not in the mood to be sold on a car. I want honest answers and please, do not try to sell me on something. I am not buying a car today, I am not buying a car this week. I want to look, learn, and not be talked to like I am a child.”

His humble response was, “Well, that’s good. We are not on commission here and I have nothing better to do than provide you any and all information that you desire. Would you like a bottle of water before we start?”

He had me at hello. Charlie, who would end up being the man that handed over the keys to this gorgeous new automobile, was a friend first, a sales man next. He talked to me like a human. He talked to me like I was educated and that if I did not buy the car it would be OK, just as long as I took the time to talk to him. I honestly feel that he cared more about filling me with information than he did about selling me a car.

So that night we drove the car (my first experience in a Smart) and I got to see how it handled and some smaller things about the car you might not get in a walk by. He showed me the stereo (which is very important to me) and the turn radius. He even showed me the windshield wipers. (They are really cool by the way.) But by the time I was done he had only shown me the key elements. He knew that I was not buying today and he new that I was still looking. He gave me an exact price quote, showed me some various interest rates, and gave me all the paperwork that I desired. By the time I left I was more humble than anything.

So I spent the
next week just researching the payments and what interest rates would be from various banks, etc. I had found one as low as 4.6% and felt that was going to be unbeatable. About a week to the day that I had been in for my initial visit Charlie called me to see how the search was going and to see what my thoughts were on the car and to answer any questions that I might have. Now, Toyota had called but they just wanted to know when I was going to come buy the damn car. I was not even thinking about Toyota at this point. They had pissed me off enough the day I visited the dealer to take themselves completely out the picture.

The next week, and after sharing a couple more phone calls with Charlie, I decided that it was time. I was going to go, that Saturday, and purchase my new Smart. And I had never been as excited in my life. I was going to, on Saturday, get a new car and a new iPhone. What a way to spend the day! If nothing else it was going to be the most money I had ever spent in one day. (And it will be until the day I decide to buy a condo.) But when I got to the dealer I was not as a excited as I was before I got there. The Internet was down at the dealership and would not be fixed until Monday. Plus, the ladies that fill out all the paper work were off until Monday as well. So no matter what I was not getting my car on Saturday. But I did get to have all the paperwork that he could fill out taken care of. I had my credit application put in place and I actually secured the car that I was going to be getting. So all in all it was not what I wanted but it was one step closed. He said the car would be ready by Thursday and would call when it was available. I did get my phone if nothing else.

So Monday morning rolls around and I get a call from Charlie. He stated the application went through just fine and that the car would actually be available on Tuesday, not Thursday! I was beyond excited. So I suffer through the rest of the day and most of Tuesday and decide enough is enough; I left work at 4:00 P.M. to get my car!

I get to the dealer and walk in to see my car sitting there shinning right in front of me. It was a pretty big deal as well. They had a card with my name on it on the dash (which I would later see as a thank you card) and the tired were so glossy I could see myself in it. Charlie was right there waiting on me and we started the process of signing my life away to a Mercedes bank. And when all that was over I walked over to meet my new ride. (This is when I noticed that when they shipped the car it has left some small white specs on all the black parts of the car. And since the car was mostly black it was quite noticeable.) We went through all the details and I was handed the keys. I was an official Smart Car owner! And I was never so excited to start an engine.

As I pulled away form the dealership all I could think was if this was the beginning of something new for me. Was this the start of my life? Or was this just a big decision that I feel I made a wise and educated choice on? Either way I am a Smart owner and I could not be happier.

I just want to take this public time to thank Charlie and Walter (the manger of the Smart center here in Indianapolis) for the entire experience. From the moment I drove onto the lot until the moment I drove a car home I was treated like a person rather than a sale. I was treated with care, attention, and someone that had an option in the car he or she chooses. Charlie was an amazing person to work with and actually took the time to call me to see how my first week with the car was. Walter has sent me numerous emails asking about the car, thanking me for the business, and even to say how impressed he was with my online reputation and Twitter presence. I am ever so grateful to everyone at Mercedes and Smart. Thank each and every one of you for putting me into exactly what I wanted.