Finally!

I finally bought the new car. Most of you know we’ve been in market for, oh, 20 months or so. That’s a lot. We finally got our act together. On the advice of a random internet person from the Straight Dope Message Boards, I sent this message to eleven Toyota dealers in my area:

I would like to buy a new 2007 Toyota Sienna. I am looking for a Sienna LE, base model (no options package), 8-seat version. Tan or silver is preferred, other light colors are acceptable.

What is your best price for a car with these specifications? The price should be a final drive-out price (so it would include the $1500 rebate, taxes, etc). There is no trade-in or financing involved with this transaction.

I will write exactly one check. If I come in and the final amount is different than your quote by even one penny, I will walk out of your dealership forever.

Please note, I am ready and willing to close this transaction this weekend. I am writing this same message to several dealerships. Whoever has the best price will get my business.

Thank you,
bla bla bla

I heard back from four of them. Interestingly, they were the exact four that have the most new car inventory. One of them was eliminated quickly, because their price was highest. Also we’ve browsed there twice, and they’ve been complete and utter sales scumbags both times. World Toyota, I’m looking at you. Grow up.

Here’s how the other three broke out, in no particular order:
1) A good low quote, but for a car that included one of the basic options packages we didn’t want.
2) They don’t have any 2007s, but they have 2008s. Here’s a price for the 2008 version, and it turned out to be a very good one.
3) The best price by far. They don’t have it in stock, but they are positive they can trade for it.

First we eliminated #3. He was probably being completely truthful, but (a) this strategy only works if you hold the cards. If we agree, and have to wait for him, he holds the edge. This is important because (b) there was a $1500 rebate program that expires on October 1st.

On Saturday night, we went visit #2. We had hired a babysitter for other reasons, they were open, so we went to check it out. A major roadblock comes up when Mrs. Muttrox argues that the 7-seat model is better for us than the 8-seat model. There’s nothing bad about this except all the quotes are based on the 8-seat model, so we may have to start fresh. The dealership offers to let us take one home for a day. Oh, they’re smart. Sure, we say, and drive the 7-seater home. After that, it was no real contest, we were hooked.

We did call #1 back to see if they could match the price. But the person we had talked to wasn’t there, the new person hadn’t seen my original email, didn’t know what was going on, etc. So heck with it, we went with #2. And the winner is… Toyota of Roswell!

We spent today juggling kids, cars and carseats while making sure we weren’t getting screwed somehow. We had the loaner car, which we moved the seats into. I dropped the family off at Monkey Joe’s down the street, and brought the Sienna in. I took the carseats out. They took it for the final detailing/washing/cleaning, and lent me a Highlander for the next few hours. I put the carseats in the Highlander, went back to Monkey Joe’s until the Sienna was ready. Then we went back, and put the seats in the Sienna, gave it the ol’ once over (as if we’d ever be able to notice anything that was wrong), and went over to finance to close it out.

We were a bit nervous, seeing as how this was our first new car, and the biggest check we’ve ever written, but it was smooth. Except for when they almost sold us the wrong car. Finance had all the paperwork from the 8-seater, an honest mistake. They were kind of amazed when I said the VIN was the wrong one.

So how did the money turn out? I guess we don’t really know. I think we might have been able to chisel a few more bucks out, but we are satisfied. We feel like we may not have gotten the best deal ever, but we know we didn’t get screwed. Good enough for us. We had a couple things going for us. The 2008s had come out the month before, so the dealerships were trying to clear their lots. And it was the last day of the month and the quarter, so it their last chance to make quotas. According the finance person, he made nothing, and the two salespeople who helped us made $37.50 each. Of course they want to make us feel like we got a great deal so we’ll come back. According to Edmunds, we were a fair amount under invoice. It’s enough to make us feel good about the whole experience, particularly considering how little time it took once we finally got going.

Our Car

Yay!

Links o’ Interest

This man followed every rule in the Bible for one year. Read about how it went.

Ten Things Congress Did Instead of Getting Us The Hell Out of Iraq

The Constitutional right you don’t know about.(This isn’t like the ”income tax isn’t valid” garbage, it’s a real right that you were never told about.)

The worst college recruiting video ever. Just… ever.

Gutter drains meet Rube Goldberg

Amazing wall animation. Not ”The Wall”, just wall.

Hypocrisy in Action

Could you get naturalized? Immigrants must get 6 out 10 to become a citizen.How do you rate?
(I got 9, and think that #5 was phrased poorly. These are pulled randomly from a pool of 100 questions.)

The seagull thief. With oddly addictive video.

See oodles of TV shows for free.

More Fun with Comcast

I just concluded my most recent adventure with Comcast. Previous adventures include this relatively minor incident (in which they hooked up my HDTV wrong and it stayed that way for almost a year) and the time (before this blog) where I was reduced night after night to bellowing swears at the top of my lungs for hours and hours.

I now have the top of the line TiVo. One of the features is a dual tuner, meaning I can now record and watch two shows at once. The cable company installs two cable cards into the TiVo itself, and then it can decode the cable signals. (As a bonus, there is no longer any need for the Comcast cable box at all, it gets sent back and saves me a few bucks.) These cable cards are provided by Comcast by law.

CableCard2 worked fine from the beginning. CableCard1 worked for most channels, but not extended basic (Vh1, Comedy Central, TNT, etc). No signal.

Are you following along at home? Here’s a quiz to find out how technical you are. With the symptoms I’ve described, is the problem likely to be associated with:
a) TiVo hardware (faulty cablecard slot)
b) Comcast hardware (faulty cablecard)
c) Comcast software (billing, signal, etc.)

The answer is C. Since it receives most channels, it must be something about the way the channels are activated. The technician is on the phone to headquarters, they send their signal nothing happens. They do a ping, they try a reset, nothing happens. Dispatch shrugs. They claim that it’s all fixed (since headquarters sent the signal), I must need to wait for the signal to propagate or repeat the TiVo setup or something, and they leave. Needless to say, it is not fixed. I call HQ, we do the dance again, they send more signals, eventually they give up and send Dispatch back over.

(Note that Comcast has no obvious incentive to train their people well on TiVo. It just makes it easier to use the competition’s product. On the other hand, it shouldn’t take more than two minutes to realize that it still to their advantage to make the transition easy.)

I am now caught in an endless loop of idiocy. Dispatch are nice guys, they follow their script well. When the script fails, they are helpless. They blame it on headquarters, and leave. HQ are nice people. They follow their script well. When the script fails, they are helpless. They schedule Dispatch to come out, and hang up. Repeat as needed. The two sides cannot talk to each other directly, only throw an obviously bad CRM ticketing tool. Every once in a while I am told I have a priority complaint, or a nonfixed visit, or I’m referred to sales, or a supervisor steps in to be helpless personally, just enough to make me feel like something is actually happening they are fixing as best they can oh I am such a chump!

Almost two weeks go by. I’ve spoken to headquarters about six times. I’ve had four, count ’em four, visits from technicians. The problem is the same as ever.

I blow a gasket with headquarters. It get elevated up a couple levels, and after 40 minutes of signals and discussion, they take decisive action. Dispatch is scheduled. NNYARRGGH!!

Finally, I do what I should have done (thank you Moleboy!) and browse the TiVo forums. It’s not their problem at all, as Comcast is legally required to make this work. Nevertheless, there is oodles of information.

When the guy shows up, I am ready. I have every code number documented. I have six pages of printouts with all kinds of debugging tips and probable solutions to try. I don’t let him near the system until I’ve explained everything I can. I tell him that he isn’t leaving the house until it works. Then I give him a few minutes to confirm that the last six things tried really didn’t work. He calls headquarters, they send a new signal.

And it works. It works! It works, it works, it works! What, I ask, exactly did headquarters do? I dunno, they just sent the signal. Didn’t ask for nuthin’ special. I am too happy to be enraged. Ah. Happiness is having The Family Guy Star Wars episode on TiVo, even when it was broadcast at the same time as Desperate Housewives.

My First Time at Chuck E Cheeses

…was not as soul-deadening as expected.

The money you pay there is for food and entertainment. The food is expensive. The entertainment is not. In fact, the entertainment is ridiculously cheap. All video games are a token, and tokens cost less than one quarter. That’s no big deal for playing skeeball and such, but it also applies to the big video games. Wave Runner is the only I remember by name — but there were about six video games that would have cost a buck a pop anywhere else, that were still less than a quarter.

I may go there on my own sometime, ignore the food, and just play video games.

Links o’ Interest

Amazing hand shadow work.

Smart lawyers get scammed. Smart people are just as gullible as everyone else.

Children building their dying teacher’s coffin.

Some clever origami art.

No, no, your other right hand!

A fantastic collection of quotes, mostly anti-establishment. It took me thirty minutes to read, but well worth it.

Dean Kamen is just amazing. Here he is talking about his new artifical arm he helped design.

That’s How They Get You

Consider the below picture. At first look, the actual cupcake looks a lot like the ones shown on the box. But it isn’t.

Cupcakes

It’s subtle, but look at the curvature of the top of the cupcake. The real one is basically flat, the ones on the box picture are pleasingly rounded. They have such a nice hump because they have such a generous portion of filling that it’s practically bursting with shiny caloric pleasure. The real cupcake, being flat, cannot hold quite as much filling. The amount of filling contained in the actual cupcake is enough to please a midget grasshopper, but nothing bigger. We don’t buy these anymore.

TiVo

Simply the best thing ever. I could write a whole ‘nuther post about that. A good friend did a whole Toastmasters speech about how amazing it was, and I am in complete agreement. Anyhow, I just splurged on the TiVo® Series3â„¢ HD DVR, their top of the line product.

And after 15 minutes of setup, the first ever image on my HD TiVo? David Spade. In Rules of Engagment.

Yuuuccchhh!