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LET'S NOT MAKE A DEAL
Story by Lois Grace


I feel compelled to begin this with an explanation: this is not going to be funny. Those of you used to my razor-sharp wit and hysterical sense of humor (hahaha) might be disappointed this time. Why? Because I am disappointed, disappointed in Volkswagen of America and disillusioned by a certain VW dealer in my area. I went in recently to gather material for this column by examining three new VW models, and perhaps to take them for a test drive. Being the vintage VW buff that I am, I thought it would be fun to drive a new VW and report back on my observation. This dealer had other ideas.

The dealership (which shall remain nameless for my own safety) is in San Jose, near where I work. I drove Bogart over there on a weekday, during my lunch hour, and went into the showroom expecting to be approached by a salesman. That was my first error. Not only were the salesmen uninterested in talking to me, they were busily engaged in avoiding me. One sat in an office, talking on the phone. Two others sat at a small table on the showroom floor, talking and ignoring me. As soon as the one got off the phone, he disappeared. The other two continued to ignore me as I perused what literature was available for the three models, I'd hoped to inspect: the Eurovan, the Corrado, and the Passat. Of those three, the only brochures they had available were on the Eurovan. I killed a few more minutes, looking hopeful, and waiting for someone to come over. When they didn't, I wandered outside to the cars sitting in front of the showroom. Funny, when you actually want a salesman to talk to, you can't get one interested, and when you really are just looking, you have to fight them off with a stick.

Outside, I found a Eurovan, and began making notes. I ambled over to the Passat (a very handsome sedan, in a positively luscious shade of teal green) and continued jotting notes in my spiral notebook. The salesmen continued to ignore me. Once I got to the Corrado - which was parked right up against the glass of the showroom, incidentally - I tried opening up a door and found it locked. So, I took more notes. About this time one of the salesmen (I hate to call them this, since neither one of them seemed interested in actually selling anything) came around the corner and asked if I had any questions. Keep in mind here that I was the one and only person on the lot at the time. Well, I answered, yes, I do have a few questions...............for starters, would it be possible for someone to take me for a test drive of these three models? And, I proceeded to tell him which ones I wanted to drive and why: I'm a member of the Vintage VW Club of America, and several other VW clubs, and I write a column for their newsletters. I'm interested in reviewing these new VW models for a story, and I need material. He stood there staring at me as if I'd just told him I'd recently arrived from a distant planet. In a state of what appeared to be complete incomprehension, he said, "Well, I guess I could ARRANGE something. I mean, I'd have to see if the owner would be interested". Interested? In WHAT? A test drive? And, when? Well, he didn't know, the "boss" wasn't in the office and he didn't know when I could drive any of the cars. I was surprised, I hadn't expected a test drive to be so hard. And, the guy was acting like he was tremendously suspicious of me for some reason.

I had imagined that VW would be anxious to show off the new models, anxious to have people look at them, anxious to be pleasant and helpful. This is where my disappointment came in, because I was wrong. VW sure doesn't seem to care about selling cars if they've got bozos like this guy out in the sales field. He was not anxious to be helpful, was no pleasant in the least, and gave me the distinct impression that he didn't want the likes of me hanging around "his" cars. He was downright suspicious of me and my motives - I didn't get this at all, l since all I wanted to do was hopefully give VW some good press for their new models. I gave up on the idea of driving any of the cars, and asked him for some info on them, since they had no brochures out in plain view. He answered me by asking what I planned on writing in this column of mine. What kind of information did I want? What sort of comments would I be making about the cars? Would my review be a positive one - "You WILL say nice things, right?" I was astounded. At this point I began to get really irritated. I was irritated with myself for stopping at this particular dealer (Id' had trouble with them once before when I tried to organize a vintage car show and shine), irritated for being honest with him, irritated with the direction this unpleasant encounter had taken, and most of all, irritated with this NITWIT that was trying to make me sound as if I was planning on doing something subversive. All I wanted was a story, something that would make interesting reading, a few meaty paragraphs about the merits of new VW's, all written from a Vintage Person's perspective. And, instead of getting the help and courtesy I expected, I got first the run-around, and then the brush-off. And, in between the run-around and the brush-off, I was treated like dirt.

I wasn't asking for anything unusual. I wasn't asking for a half day of their time, time that could have better been spent making an actual sale. What I was asking was to test drive three Volkswagens - provided they had the time - something I'm sure I would have been allowed to do if I'd strolled in there as a potential customer. Instead, this salesman treated me as if I were a child asking for a FAVOR. right then I asked him for a business card (his boss') so I could return later at a more convenient time for them and continue this. Of course, he was "fresh out" of cards at that time. Since my lunch hour was drawing to a close and I needed to get back to work, I thanked him and left. I don't know WHY I thanked him, except that I was raised to have manners. I felt like telling him he had nothing to fear from me, I would never darken his door again. And, in the unlikely event that I was ever inclined to buy a new VW (after all, I have enough of the old variety to wheel me well into the 21st century) they wouldn't have to worry about filling out all that nasty paperwork for my new vehicle, or taking my dirty old money in payment. I'd be sure to make my purchase elsewhere.

As I drove off, I marveled at the fact that this particular dealer had recently been voted "#1 in Northern California." For WHAT? Rudeness? I was disappointed to find out that Volkswagens' eagerness to sell cars has diminished in proportion to its length of training for its sales personnel. In all fairness, I was not there to actually buy a new car. But, I was there to gather information and publish my impressions of these cars in a nationally distributed newsletter column. I could have possibly sold a car or two for them, merely by someone reading my comments and deciding that they too, wanted a look at the new VW's/. That look could have led to a sale. As in all things, though, VW now is not what VW used to be.

And the cars? What did I think? Well, from the outside, they all looked great. I'm partial to the Passat, myself, and the color combos on the Eurovan were really neat. I can't say much more than that, since I didn't get even so much as a peek inside any of them. To say I was disappointed would be like calling Saddam Hussein a little crazy. I expected more from VW of America. That night, to console myself, I went across the street after work to the Dodge dealer and drove the new Stealth. The salesman was a bit bored, but he indulged me and we went for a spin. Mine was white, with gray leather interior, and the "fancy" model - 300+ horsepower with twin turbochargers. WOW. Now THAT was a car. All you Dodge fans, drop me a line and we'll talk about the Chrysler lineup. I'm a big fan.


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