Saturday, September 11, 2004
Close But No Cigar
My intention was to revisit the Ducati dealer and sweet talk him a little on the very slightly used 800 Supersport I looked at last week and go home happy. Being the kind of person who likes to explore all the possibilities one last time I decided to visit three other dealers (Japanese brands and BMW) before finally hitting the Ducati shop last.
When I pulled into the BMW dealer, my first stop, there in the parking lot was a beautiful Ducati ST4 in bright yellow. Yum. Must be a sign of some sort that there is surely a Ducati in my future. I wandered around the BMW place just to look, drool a little, see what they had used, and warm up my buying urges. The R1100S Beemers looked sweet but were way out of my price range there was nothing there within my price range or that even much turned me on so I rolled on down the road.
Next stop was the Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki/Watercraft generic "powersports" dealer, one of several around town owned by a local car dealer. The stores are clean and well stocked but run like car dealerships, not motorcycle shops. The showroom bikes are jammed together, no price tags on them, and don't even think about a test ride. Come to think of it, don't even think about finding a sales guy that knows an Aprilia from a Zundapp. The BMW shop is owned by the same outfit but at least is run as something of an enthusiast's shop with BMW as a stand alone marque.
I've played a bit of a game for years when visiting the flakey powersports-type dealers, most dealers in fact, by asking the inevitable saleskid "What kind of bike do you ride?" I'd say nine times out of ten the answer is "I don't own a bike right now but..." A little more questioning usually reveals that the fellow likes motorcycles but doesn't know squat about them. The exception is usually found at Harley shops where riding the product, however over-rated it may be, is at least seen as an essential bit of credibility for the sales staff.
The powersports place had a very clean late model Kawasaki ZX9 that I like really well although it wasn't on my list of possibilities up to that point. The price wasn't too bad and I imagine I could have beat them down a little so I asked how many miles it had on it. "Uh, I dunno...and the battery is disconnected so I can't get the key and tell you." Brilliant sales ploy. Send out a kid who knows nothing to sell a product that doesn't run. The Ducati 800 was still fixed in my mental image of me-on-a-bike so I continued my journey.
Next came the Kawasaki shop where they know me well since I've purchased three bikes from them and also sent them four or five paying customers. It's a nice little shop, independently owned, a little sterile, but still friendly enough and they will deal on bikes and not BS you too much. Sometimes they get interesting used stuff in, I even saw a used Ducati ST2 there a year or so back. Today though it was just "Hi" to Joey and the guys, a quick swing through, lusted just a bit after the ZX10 gonzo bike that I would have to be insane to buy but still would if I could afford the bike AND the insurance. Visiting the shop once with my son I sat on the ZX10 and asked Dave if he could picture me riding it to work. "I can picture you by the side of the road with flashing lights behind you." The lad does know me, at least a little bit.
So on to the Ducati shop. Happily, the Ducati dealer is a real dealer, a small shop run by an enthusiastic but businesslike owner. The shop is crowded but clean and the staff is knowledgeable and friendly. I asked about the used 800 I'd looked at the week before and it was still there. I told the sales guy I was vaguely dismayed to find it still there as now I would have to actually make a decision.
I sat on the 800 Supersport, looked at the 800 Monster sitting by it, poked prodded, asked questions, and tried to think of all the reasons why I shouldn't buy the bike. Eventually the sales guy wandered off to talked to someone more decisive or at least less indecisive. My cellphone rang. My brother. "Hey, what are ya doing" he asked. I told him and as you might imagine his advice could be distilled down to "Buy it, do it, go for it, now or never, you're only young once!" He did show a flash of maturity and wisdom when he asked if I could actually afford it. I told him "Sort of but not really, but that never stopped me before either."
Finally the shop owner came over to see if he could push me over the edge or at least stop me from poking and prodding and sitting on the red 800. I decided to go for it. The price was known and not especially flexible, the first sales guy had made that plain. So what's the price out the door? The owner grabbed a calculator, muttered something about "$180 for doc fees" and came up with a number fully $1000 higher than the base price of the bike. Erk... I don't think so.
Now sales tax and registration fees are given and are not cheap in Arizona. But the $180 of phony "doc fees" annoyed me just a bit. I was actually willing to give him the asking price for the bike plus the tax and title but I'd be darned if I was going to cough up $180 in phony fees. Your profit is in the mark up above what you paid for the bike, my friend. Don't insult my intelligence by telling me it costs you $180 worth of clerk time to complete the motor vehicle registration paperwork. I respect the right of any businessman to make a reasonable profit, that's how businesses stay open, but let's not play games with inflated "doc fees" and the like. Reminds of the Harley dealer that wanted to charge me $2600 for freight and set up on a Sportster once. He didn't sell me a bike either.
I countered with a number about $450 out the door less than what he quoted me, essentially deleting his doc fees and a little more just because I was kinda bugged. "No" said Mr. Dealer, "the bike is popular, I'll get back to you in a week or so if it doesn't sell." So be it. I was about to tell him I'd give him the price I offered plus drop a few hundred more on accessories on the spot but decided the moment was past. I thanked him for his time and headed for the door half expecting him to stop me as in reality we were only about $250 apart on the price. No dice though so out to the parking lot I went, fired up the Kaw and headed for home. I guess the moment wasn't right for a new Ducati after all. Maybe I didn't want it bad enough or maybe he didn't want to sell it bad enough. Maybe next week.
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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence
An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison