Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 11:16 am | Fair 57º


Paul Burri: Sold on a Car with All the Options

Paying for even the smallest of upgrades was worth it — or was it?

Many years ago, when I was a single divorced man with few responsibilities and a fair amount of disposable income (what a concept!), I came down with a severe case of something called covetismus automotibilus, or “new car disease.”

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

The first symptoms are an uncontrollable twitching of the eyes toward newer cars alongside you at stop lights, soon followed by a compulsion to read the automobile section of the newspaper. The more advanced symptoms are when you become addicted to something referred to as “the new car smell” and you notice yourself driving past car dealerships for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, there is only one known cure for this disease, and it’s expensive and not usually covered by most medical insurance plans.

Eventually my disease advanced to the point when I found myself in a Pontiac dealership — Pontiacs, remember them? — shopping for a Pontiac Firebird. A little history here — the Firebird was sort of the equivalent of a Ford Mustang, the low-end model of sporty cars. Next up in the Firebird series was the more expensive Formula model, and the top of the line was the Trans Am, which could be compared to a Chevrolet Corvette.

So there I am starting to look at Firebirds. The salesman and I hit it off pretty quickly, and it wasn’t too long before he started talking about the Trans Am. After a test drive in one of the Firebirds, he slyly suggested we try one of the Trans Ams. (He was one helluva salesman.) As he knew would happen, I was sold within 100 feet of leaving the car lot.

We sat down to write up my order. Once we got past the color, he asked me, “Do you want the upgraded mag wheels?”

I answered, “How much are they?” He told me, and I said OK.

Then he asked me about the upgraded stereo system, the better version of the air-conditioning system, the deluxe comfort package (whatever that was), the fancy paint trim option, the expensive hood decal, the new safety door lock system — and I can’t remember how many other upgrades and options. I agreed to every one of them, at a significant increase in price, of course.

It’s a few weeks later and I’m driving my beautiful, brand-new car when I notice on the dashboard a small plastic insert — the kind of thing they use to plug a hole where a switch of some kind is supposed to be. I have no idea what is supposed to be in that hole, and nowhere in the car’s manual is there any answer.

But I am irritated beyond words that there is something that is supposed to be there that I don’t have. I don’t know what’s missing, but I do know that I have to have it. My car is not complete. I don’t have every single possible option.

And I wasn’t satisfied until I went back to the dealership and had them install the switch that controlled a special light for the trunk — at an additional $198.76.

Question: How often did I use that switch?

Answer: Once, right after it was installed.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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