A Car Dealer’s Worst Nightmare

by Bob Sparrow


Negotiation with car dealers is child’s play for Linda

I bought a new car a while back; well I should say my wife bought a new car for me, well, not exactly for me, but instead of me. Let me explain. It was time for me to get a new car and I hate the car-buying process.  Left to my own devices, I would go to the nearest BMW dealer, find the model and color I like and buy it. I’d trade in my old car – no, I’d never try to sell it myself and maximize my profit, I would take it to the dealer and have him tell me all the things that are wrong with it and generally what a piece of crap it is, so I would feel like he’s doing me a favor when he takes it off my hands for about half of its Blue Book value. So I end up paying top dollar for my new car and get bottom dollar for my old car. No muss, no fuss, no haggling. I’m a car dealer’s dream. That’s why I am no longer left to my own devices when it comes to buying a car, but it is right in Linda’s wheelhouse.

While I’m ecstatic about not having to deal with ‘those car dealers’, there is one major drawback: the black 740iL BMW that I wanted turned into a champagne 460 Lexus, but I guess non-negotiators can’t be choosy. She got a good deal on it and got top dollar for my old Lexus.


Reynolds Buick in West Covina

Linda has driven a GMC Yukon for the past seven years and it was still in very good shape, but it was definitely starting to show its age, a feeling I could relate to, so it was actually me who suggested that it was time for her to buy a new car. I don’t know whether she was more excited about, getting a new car or getting another opportunity to chew up and spit out a few car dealers. She is a super shopper when it comes to buying anything, but she is Wonder Woman when it comes to buying a car.

She decided she wanted another Yukon, so went on line and searched the 11 western states for the model and color she wanted, a champagne silver metallic, SLT – I’m wondering if she has a champagne addiction. Just so you know, if you spend more than a nanosecond on any dealers website, they will track you down and make you believe that you have committed to purchasing your new car from them. You will be bombarded with phone calls and emails, so much so that you actually start wondering if something happened to them if a couple of hours go by without hearing from them.


Anaheim GM dealer

Linda had found 1 (one!) champagne silver metallic SLT in southern California, it was in possession of a dealer in West Covina, who Linda had previously talked to (of course), but the dealer she was presently grinding into fine powder and was ready to strike a deal with, was in Anaheim. It is customary for dealers to ‘swap’ cars with one another if a dealer feels confident he can sell it. The Anaheim dealer, who now figuratively looked like he’s just gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson, tells Linda that the car she wants is in West Covina and he’s going to get it from them so he can sell it to her. But when he calls them, they tell him that they think it’s sold, so he can’t have it. When the Anaheim dealer tells Linda this, she calls the West Covina dealer and asks if they have ‘her’ car. They say yes, but that another dealer wants it. Linda asks if it’s the Anaheim dealer that wants it and they says yes it is. Linda tells them that the Anaheim dealer wants the car for her and that if they want her to buy it from them, they’ll have to accept the same terms she’s already negotiated. When the West Covina dealer hears the terms, he groans, then is silent (he’s thinking, “A very little commission or no commission?”) and finally says OK. This all may sound confusing to you, but just understand that the bottom line here is that Linda now has the two car dealers trying to screw over each other, while Linda gets the keys to the car.


2015 GMC Yukon SLT Champagne Silver Metallic

As we were heading home in Linda’s new car, I started recounting the savings: a rather large GM Family discount for me being a retired GMAC employee, a rebate from our insurance company, USAA as well as a less-than 2% auto loan and top dollar for her old Yukon. Linda interjects, “Add another $100, I’ve got a full tank of gas here and there’s not enough gas in my old car to drive it off the lot.”

Maybe that black BMW isn’t that far in the future; when I get it, I’ll buy Linda an nice bottle of champagne.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Alan with his perfect present

Alan with his perfect present

Today is my husband’s birthday.  Which means that for the past several weeks I have been struggling to figure out an appropriate gift for him.  Some years he goes out and buys himself a whole set of golf clubs and then tells me that’s my gift.  But I’m old-fashioned when it comes to gifts.  I think it matters that someone puts thought into finding the perfect present.  Of course, Alan and my definitions of the “perfect” gift differ a bit.  What he really would like is a Shelby Cobra.  He has been known to make a perfect fool of himself by approaching Cobra drivers in parking lots with drool slithering down his chin.  He also would like to have a date with Kate Upton.  He hasn’t seen her in person but I’m sure he’d be drooling over her too.  The chances of him getting a date with her is about the same as me buying him a Cobra.  It’s just not happening.  So I’ve been in my usual quandary about finding him a great birthday surprise.   I was going to send him to golf school up in Sun Valley until he said the other day that he hoped I wasn’t buying him golf lessons because he has miraculously fixed his swing. This is generally what happens every year – I think of something “creative” and it turns out to be the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But I like to have something for him to open on his birthday.  I could rest on my laurels, since bringing Dash the Wonder Dog into our home racked up LOTS of gift points.   But I’ve never been one to pass up the opportunity to have a birthday celebration so I was determined to forge ahead in my quest for a gift.

The "new" sensation

The “new” sensation

A week ago I was lucky enough to get a good hint as he made his daily trek into our office to watch YouTube videos of Brazilian jazz artists.  He just discovered YouTube about six months ago,even though they’ve been pretty popular with anyone who likes cat videos for the past eight years.  He is constantly going up to friends and saying “Hey, have you heard about this YouTube thing?”.  Sadly, given the age of most of our friends, he sometimes finds people who haven’t.  He has created his own account to bookmark all of his music and, for all I know, videos of Kate Upton.  Luckily, as he was watching Ivan Lins for the 1,000th time last week he said, “Gee, I really wish I could take this music with me when we travel this summer”.  I paused.  How could I explain that he could watch YouTube on the iPad?  Instead, I saw an opportunity and immediately began to research iPods.  The next day I bought him the iPod Touch.  As long as he is coming into the twenty-first century I thought I’d drag him all the way – messaging, FaceTime and all the games he desires.  I was going to unwrap it and download several of his CD’s and favorite songs from the Apple Store, but given my success rate with some of my past bright ideas, I have left it in its original packaging.  Which means for the remainder of the day all I will hear is “Honey, can you come in here to help me download?” or “This *&^($# thing doesn’t work!”.  It’s never easy.  But I will give him this – he has a GREAT attitude about birthdays and aging in general.

Old woman birthday cakeWhich is more than I can say for some of our friends.  We know people who either hate to celebrate their birthday or are stressed out about getting older.  Frankly, I think they’re crazy.  First of all, birthdays are the perfect excuse to have a party.   Secondly, and more to the point, getting older is a privilege.  Walk into any pediatric ward at a hospital or talk with a young widow with small children and it becomes very apparent how lucky we are to grow older.  And the old saying is true – if you have your health you have everything.  Complaining about getting old seems a bit selfish or at least  self-centered.  Sure, we have more wrinkles and the bones creak a bit more, but if you’re generally feeling good a birthday should be a mark of accomplishment.  Being as good as we can be at whatever age we’re at is a good goal to have.  Besides, birthdays are the perfect occasion to eat cake and what is better than that?  So Happy Birthday to my dear husband today.  I hope he hears me since I have a feeling he’s going to have ear buds attached to him for the foreseeable future.

The Tape Chapter 3 – A Visit with Chief Chuckwalla

(If you have not been following the story of ‘The Tape’ or need a refresher, you can read Chapters 1-2 by going into our archives and looking under ‘January 2014’.)

by Bob Sparrow

While at our timeshare at the Marriott Desert Springs a few weeks back, I decided to take advantage of being near the home of the Cahuilla Indian tribe and follow up on the information given to me by Matt at Chapman University and pay a visit to the tribe. I had contacted Chief Chuckwalla and made arrangements to meet him in a coffee shop in Palm Springs. With The Tape in my hand and Don in my head, I walked into the coffee shop looking for the Chief. I stood at the entrance surveying the small, sparsely populated room when a voice came from my left saying, “Are you looking for a guy in a headdress and war paint?”


Chief Chuckwalla

Embarrassed that I probably was, I turned to meet Chief Chuckwalla, who was wearing a plaid sports coat.

“Good morning, I’m Bob, we talked on the phone”

“Yes, I’m Chuck”

“Oh, so it’s Chief Walla, your first name is Chuck?

“No, my first name is Mark.”

“So it’s Mark Chuckwalla?”

“No, I just use Chuckwalla because it’s the last remaining Inviatim word left in the English language, so I’m holding on to it. You can call me Chief.”

“So are you the current chief of the Cahuilla tribe?”


I felt like I was part of the Abbott and Costello Who’s On First routine.

Nonplused, I decided I would try to impress the chief with the fact that I’d done my homework on his tribe, by using a Cahuilla greeting. I smiled and said, “Yee-Makh-weh”

He stared at me just long enough to make it uncomfortable and said, “I think you mean Mee-Yakh-weh, which is how the Inviatim Indian would greet a friend. You, on the other hand, just called me a grapefruit!”

“Sorry.” I guess I never was much good with homework.

I continued, “I notice you use the word Inviatim rather than Cahuilla when you talk about your tribe, why is that?

“Cahuilla is the name that the Spanish gave to our tribe; it would be like calling the Italians ‘Wops’ or the Puerto Ricans ‘Spicks’.

(Don echoed in my head: “How’s this going for you so far, you’ve screwed up his name and now you’ve insulted his entire tribe?”)

I doggedly pressed on, “I don’t know how much Matt told you, but I have a tape that a dear friend sent me years ago in a language or various languages that I’m trying to translate, Matt believed part of it was in the Cahuilla, er Ivia language.”

(Don: “I was wondering when you were going to bring me into the conversation, are you going to tell him that I’m dead?”)

Chief: “Matt has done much to help the Inviatim cause. What is this tape?”

The Tape

The Tape

I held up it up and the chief stared at it

Chief: “Why did your friend send it to you?”

I told him I wasn’t sure.

Chief: “What does your friend say it says?”

(Don: “See I told you you should have told him I was dead!”)

“I actually got the tape in ’95 or ‘96, but when I asked him about it at the time and on several occasions after that, I couldn’t get a straight answer from him, so I just forgot about it. When he passed away a couple of years ago my curiosity was raised again.”

(Don: A couple of years ago, gosh, it just seems like yesterday – where does the time go?”)

The Chief and I sat down in a corner booth where it was relatively quiet and I pulled out my cassette player and popped in The Tape.   We both fell silent as I watched the Chief listen. His expression changed from dutiful to curious to interested, to visibly shaken when he stopped the tape and stared at me trying to decide what to do next.

Finally he stood up from the table and said, “You need to see something.”


Entrance to ‘Sec-he’

I followed him outside and got into his dusty Jeep Wrangler and we headed for the nearby foothills. After a few miles we left the main road for a seldom-traveled dirt road which, after a few more miles, turned into no road at all, until we were deep in the Santa Rosa Mountains. After about twenty minutes, we came to a narrow opening which revealed a boarded up, washed out ranch-style dwelling tucked in the back of a canyon behind an outcropping of granite boulders. As we neared the structure, we passed under a weathered wooden archway entry gate with a name carved in it that was barely legible; as we passed under it I read it aloud: “Sec-he”.

I asked Chief what it meant.

“Sec-he is the name the Inviatim gave to this whole desert area, it means ‘boiling water’; when the Spanish took over they changed the name to ‘Agua Caliente’, meaning ‘hot water’. Then the white man came and decided that neither of those names would help them sell memberships to private golf clubs or luxury homes for celebrities, so they changed the name to Palm Springs”.

Chief drove under the archway and parked the car in the shade of a Palo Verde tree in front of the gray wooden structure. He slowly pushes open the shack2front door that had neither locks nor hardware. The wooden floor creakes beneath our feet as I followed the chief to a small room off the main living area that had only a crude wooden desk and chair sitting on a dingy brown rug. Chief moves the desk and chair off the rug and slides the rug over several feet revealing a trap door. The hinges squeak as he slowly opened it. There is a narrow wooden staircase that leads into darkness. I notice for the first time, a kerosene lantern hanging on the wall next to the trap door, as the Chief pulls it down, lights it and heads down the stairs motioning me to follow.

To be continued