Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Not My Friend

The dealership that sold me my car keeps wanting to be my friend.

They send me birthday cards. Christmas cards. Thank You cards after I bring my car in for service. If I go too long without an oil change, they'll send a Miss You card.

Just yesterday they sent me a joyous letter. They want to give me, as a loyal customer, an unprecedented opportunity. (Their boldface.) If I bring the letter in to them by this weekend, they will give me the price on a new car "we normally reserve for our employees!" (Their exclamation.)

Prices are well below any ever advertised. This event will not be advertised to the general public. Seriously, you can save thousands of dollars! ... But, you must bring this letter to do so!!
(Actual quote with their overblown sense of excitement.)

Isn't it great how companies will go out of their way to convince you that buying their product, giving them your money, is always an incredible opportunity? Like you've just won the lottery? Like they're doing you a favor? Maybe the Nigerian email scammers are not so unusually sleazy after all. They're just running with ideas that "legitimate" businesses employ every day.


Look, Toyota dealership, stop trying to be my friend. I already have friends. Plus, I don't like you. You're obnoxious, pushy, manipulative, and come across as desperate.

I've never understood why people get bent out of shape when a corporation or institutions treats them "like a number." I want to be a number. When my bank asks for my account number and a photo ID, it puts me at ease. I know they're not going to mix me up with someone else. There might be other people with my name, but only one account has my exact number. I don't need to get my social needs met from my bank or government agency or grocery store. I have Facebook for that.

For business transactions, I want to be anonymous. Just another face with a number.


I spent a few hours in the waiting room of my dealership recently. I hate it hate it hate it there. Even when I make an appointment, and I'm only getting an oil change, it takes them hours. At the quick lube oil place I usually go, I don't need an appointment and it only takes them ten minutes. Sure, the dealership has free donuts and coffee, and big screen TVs, and a free shuttle service, and they wash your car for free. But that stuff isn't really free. I'm paying for it with the exorbitant prices they charge for service.

Plus, they're always trying to get me to get more work done on my car than I need. They print out page after page of estimates, on colored textured paper that look as official as a deed to your house. I want a mechanic who's lazy. Someone who doesn't want to do any work that's not necessary.

I don't want all the frills and fuss. I just want them to fix and maintain my car. But when I look around the waiting room, I realize: I am not the demographic they're going for here. The TV in the waiting room had Matlock on it. That should tell you all you need to know.

I'd never actually watched Matlock, but I found myself glancing at the screen more and more while I tried to read my book. It was an interesting nostalgia trip, looking at the 80's styles and recognizing TV actors that I hadn't thought about in 20 years. But I digress. See? That's what the dealership does to you. They try to be your friend so that you start getting comfortable with the donuts and the Matlock in waiting room, and before you know it you're happy to have some new experience to blog about.

But you pay for it. You pay dearly. It's not just the money. They'd take your soul if they could. Every single person I dealt with at the dealership kept trying to get my email address. They'd look at my record on the screen and say, "Can we get your email address?" No, you can't. Quit trying to slither your tentacles around more parts of my life. You're not my friend. Next thing you know I'll be getting Facebook requests from them.

Friends don't let friends use dealers.

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