Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Last week, we purchased a new car for hubby. Well, new to us. It had 15,000 miles on it, which put the make, model and year we at long last narrowed our choices down to, in a range we could afford. We felt good about the deal.
Today, I'll spare you most of the sordid shopping details, aside from the One Thing I really want to talk about, which I shall do later. Suffice it to say that on numerous occasions, our (hubby and I together, to use the word loosely) car buying experiences have been so horrendous, and so funny (in hindsight), that I've sold several stories about the hysterics and drama, the wars and compromises, the song that might best be titled I Left My Spouse at the Car Dealer Blues. If one of us likes it, the other doesn't. Exasperating is the word that comes to mind. I'm told couples can relate.
Having said all of that, we drove happily home in a 2011 Toyota Avalon Limited. (Factoid: the average age buyer for the Avalon is 64.) For two people who qualify for all senior discounts, not just some, we found the Sizzling Crimson Mica color quite exotic. It goes well with our cement driveway and the earrings I wore the day we signed the papers. Su-weet!
We traded in George's 2001 Buick LeSabre with 122,000+ miles. He loved that car; it served us well. My car, a 2003 Lexus RX300, has nearly 120,000 miles on it. We bought it used in 2003 with 5000 miles. I'm still in a love affair with my black comfy beauty. Both the LeSabre and the Lexus ran well, but we decided it was just time to up one, especially since we have a couple long trips in front of us, so we picked the oldest vehicle for our farewells.
I'm sure the Avalon's tricked out Navigation System will come in handy since we love to travel back roads. We adore the hands'-free functions, as well as the bazillion other fancy things the car offers, including reclining back seats and a back-up camera. It's HUGELY roomy. Whatever you need, we have a button for that. As soon as we figure them out and stop turning on our windshield wipers instead, life will be grand. The Avalon's ride is amazing. Street noise is missing. (Nice!) The same day we picked it up, we drove to
and averaged nearly 31 miles per gallon. YES! Minnesota
But none of that is what I really want to talk about today. When we were signing the papers—literally—something struck in my craw, and I can't seem to get over it. Perhaps it's because I'm a seasoned traveler. But before I deliver the craw-sticker, let us recap: we dropped a bucketload of money on a new-to-us car, purchased at a
dealer so large,
it has access to a test track. (Yes, we used it. Perhaps I'll post about that
another time.) Their service department waiting area is pleasant and well lit; the ladies' room is regal. The ginormous overall facility is spotless. But when we went to sign the papers, back
in the secret bowels of the building, the gentleman handed us each a very
familiar ballpoint pen with Hilton HHonors™ printed on it. One was slightly
chewed and missing the cap clip. Toyota
"Seriously? These are the pens you give people to sign contracts?" I said this out loud, volume slightly up, without a trace of humor in my voice because I felt none. I didn't sound angry, mind you, but … serious.
"Hey, they were free," the guy said with a smile, thinking this was all in good fun.
"This is pretty tacky." Again, no smile from me. "It's just wrong to hand these to your
buying customers." Toyota
"What kind of pen do you want?" he asked, now sounding confused, perhaps slightly offended himself, which I'm sure I sounded by now.
"One that doesn't say Hilton HHnors™ on it. Maybe one that says
includes your dealer name?" I refrained from adding, One that hasn't been chewed. Toyota
"Those disappear," the guy said.
"You mean the same way these pens disappeared from your hotel room? They're advertising. They're supposed to disappear."
By now, the guy figured out I was not kidding, about any of this. He commandeered the Hilton pens and swapped them out for what he called the "plain Bic pens with no character."
"Good," I said. "That's much better." At last, I smiled.
For the record, I am a proud Hilton HHonors™ member, and likely already have a bunch of said pens here and there and everywhere in my travel bags. And my husband and I didn't keep the plain Bic pens, which we weren't offered to keep anyway. To be honest, I don't need another pen and likely wouldn't have taken it unless the person handing us the pens would have said, "By the way, keep the pen, maybe in your car. It has our phone number on it in case you ever need to call."
Since this episode, my husband has brought up the topic with every friend we've visited. "And she didn't have a trace of humor in her voice," he says. "She wasn't kidding." I can never decide whether he's more amazed by the Hilton pens, or my strong objection to them.
(Pause two minutes here while I ask. I can't believe I haven't asked before this!)
I called a quick kitchen-table meeting and made my query. George's response, "I was surprised this bothered you so much. I mean, I'll admit it was strange to be handed Hilton pens, and you could have mentioned it. But maybe you didn't need to sound so … demeaning about it."
In all honesty, since he said that, I feel a little embarrassed. It was surely not my intent to demean the guy! Talk about tacky and disrespectful, Charlene! But I did want to make a point: in business, small things matter. Toyota makes a good product. The sales' team (and of course their managers) had worked hard to give us a quality experience and seal the deal. Why ruin it with a final tacky action? Come to think of it, I guess it felt kind of demeaning, to use George's word of the day, to be handed some guy's chewed pen from one of his hotel rooms, a feeling which is perhaps what set me off. I mean, go ahead, collect the hotel room pens, dude. Just don't hand them to your Toyota customers.
But now, I'm curious: am I the odd one here? Barring my apparently insensitive response to the guy's tacky chewed pen offering (okay, it still grinds me), what do you think? Should this kind of traveling business detail matter? Say if American Airlines handed you a pen with Fairfield Inn and Suites printed on it to sign your credit card purchase for first-class tickets, would you even take notice?
Please weigh in with a comment. Help save a marriage. (Just kidding. Seriously.)