Never Meet Your Heroes

There's a saying that I've heard before: "Never meet your heroes." Well, now I know why.

One of the big benefits of working at a larger dealership is the ability to see and drive a lot of different makes and models of cars. I've driven everything that General Motors makes, as well as assorted Fords, Chryslers, a Lexus  IS300, Toyota Sequoia and Land Cruiser, Hondas...the list goes on.

I have a favorite car that we've taken in on trade. The guy who writes and coordinates our commercials traded in a 1999 BMW 740iL, in almost mint condition. I LOVED that car. Everything about it was perfect, except for the thermostat that went bad and cost the dealership $500(!) when we had to have it replaced at the nearby BMW dealership. We didn't have that one for very long before the owner sold it for close to wholesale price to his brother-in-law.

I've had a long-standing man-crush on BMW and their sport sedans. I drove a 2004 BMW 525i a couple years ago and absolutely loved it. The steering was perfect, the inline-six motor was peppy and eager to rev, and the drive was genuinely enjoyable.

Fast forward to today, when our health insurance representative decided to trade in his 2006 BMW 530xi (xi denoting all-wheel-drive) for a 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS. The Beemer is an absolutely stunning forest green, with saddle-brown leather interior. To get in this car is to know what money feels like when contained in an Italian leather wallet.


I snuck the keys away from the salesman who did the deal and hopped in. A cursory glance around the driver-centric cockpit revealed the level of precision and assorted Bavarian whiz-bangery that BMW stuffed into their car. It even had the BMW Comfort Access feature that allows you to insert the key-fob into a receptacle on the steering column (which turns on the accessory mode for the car) and a push-button start to start the motor. I started it up and maneuvered the German sedan into traffic.

Immediately, I felt the heavy steering of the car fighting my every input. A lot of modern premium sedans have a kind of "active steering" that will vary the amount of effort needed to change course depending on road conditions and vehicle speed, but the Beemer seemed to always need maximum steering effort. "That's fine, I said, BMWs are known for their heavy steering." I thought to myself. I accelerated up to speed, while trying to fiddle with the radio.


I don't know if you've ever driven a BMW with the first generation of iDrive, but the system is MADDENING. Simple things like changing the bass and treble of the radio become exercises in futility and frustration. You take the ability to make changes to your car's audio system for granted, but using iDrive makes everything more complicated.


After traveling for a bit, I decided to take the 530xi onto the highway, its natural habitat. Instantly, the BMW got up to cruising speed, the heavy steering doing its job and making sure that no unintentional inputs set the car off course. I enjoyed the utter silence of the interior, the throaty hum of the motor, and the comfort afforded by the thin but carefully sculpted seats. I got off the highway after a few miles, and took the 530xi through town on the way back to the dealership.

I pulled back into the lot. I felt confused, worried. How could it be that a drive in a vehicle that I held so dear could have me in a state of disarray? Did I enjoy the ride? Yes, of course. But something was missing. The BMW je nais se quoi was missing. I had met my hero, and I was disappointed.

Here's my point, if this post has one. People like to think that German and Japanese cars are so much better than what General Motors and Ford are putting out right now. I have to say, there's no way I would purchase a BMW 5-series knowing that I could get literally everything that's in the BMW on a Buick LaCrosse for $20,000 less. A LaCrosse, loaded to the gills, is about $40,000. This BMW 530xi stickered for about $55,000. When you compare the vehicles on price, there really is no comparison, and I think the Buick easily drives just as nice as the Beemer. I honestly don't see the point of spending so much more for a BMW. I honestly don't. Not when everything about the Beemer is more expensive, including maintenance and insurance.

Give me a Buick (or Cadillac) any day.


More Change

Well, we said goodbye to another guy this week.

Honestly, I should be used to change. There are only 2 other salesmen that are still working at the dealership that are there when I started. The job is a grind, and a lot of guys can't get used to the income instability. This guy was one of those. It's his bad, truthfully. He decided to become attached to a woman that most of us agree is just going to make his life miserable ultimately. It's not our place to say anything, however.

Another note about leaving a dealership: there's no two-week notice. None. When it's time for you to leave, you let the manager know and you clean out your desk. But above all, you say goodbye to the guys. That's the one constant. Be a man and let people know you're leaving, because if anything, we're going to have to tell the customers that you were working with what happened to you.

This guy didn't say goodbye to anyone but myself. That's completely unacceptable. We spend upwards of 50 hours a week with each other. I spend more time with my coworkers than I do with my girlfriend. You learn a guy's ins and outs, what he's thinking, how he handles his business, everything. When you leave, you leave with a handshake and a fare-thee-well. That's the way men do it. I suppose that says it all, doesn't it?

Managing Money on a Commission, Part 4

It's been a while since I've written an update to this, so here we go.

Things have been going well for my financial makeover. I'm saving more than I ever have been before, and I haven't been touching that money because, well, it's very difficult to get it out of where I put it. I have that high-yield savings account through ING Direct, and it takes three days to get the money back out. So, my savings are almost inaccessible to me, which is good. If I had regular access to it, I'm sure I would have burned through it already.

A little while ago, I got what's called "a wild hair up my ass" (read: sudden and strong urge) to purchase a new laptop. I bought my current laptop just this past summer, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact, it was the cheapest laptop with the specs that I wanted that I could find. I bought an HP G62-234DX, which was a Best Buy exclusive, for $530, including a very nice laptop case. The very next week, the price on this laptop jumped to $700. Dodged a bullet there.

But I still wanted a new laptop for some reason. When you want to do something, the ways that you try to convince yourself to do it can get ridiculous; I tried to justify getting a new laptop by telling myself that I wanted to play games on it. Looking back now, I'm glad my wonderful girlfriend stopped me from doing that. One disapproving look from her was all it took to get me back on the path.

This past week, I took a couple more steps to getting my finances in order. We had an insurance meeting at work, and after examining my paychecks, I discovered that I will have paid out over $2800 in insurance premiums this year. I'm generally healthy; the only problems I've had with my health was a bout with kidneystones in March of this year. After doing the math and consulting our health insurance guy (don't know what else to call him), I moved down from the expensive coverage and went to a Health Savings Account (HSA). The initial premium cost is much smaller than the expensive coverage, and I elected to make contributions from every paycheck pre-tax to the HSA that can be used to any medical expense that I need. There's a deductible involved, but if I do "get hit by the bus" as our insurance guy put it, I will still be covered. I have family who can help me out with the deductible if need be. The savings should be substantial, about $30-$40 per paycheck that goes to me instead of the insurance company. Over the course of a year, that should be about $800-$1000 in savings.

The other step I took is to automate the deposits in my savings account. Before, I was just squirreling money into that account when I remembered to do it. Now, my dealership will take a percentage of my check (about equal to my 401(k) contribution) and put it in that account. If that account grows like the 401(k) has, then I should have quite a bit in that account after a while. The best thing? I don't have to think about it. Every time I get paid, BOOM, done. The money doesn't even hit my checking account for me to spend, which is nice, considering I budget off of what's in that account.

But there's still work to do. I have one more credit card to pay off, and a couple miscellaneous bills to take care of. I'm making progress, though, and for that, I'm proud of myself.