Getting Nothing for That Deal


In April 2019, I began working at a local mechanic as a shuttle driver, driving customers to home or work after they’ve dropped off their cars for inspection and/or repair. The shop has been in existence since the 1970s and specializes in foreign repairs, specifically Volvo, Audi and BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. Expensive brands can mean prickly customers, and more than a few with a sense of entitlement.

Most are polite, on time and kind. Those that aren’t, though, highlight a surprising lack of coping strategies of the rich and famous. Because they spent a lot of money on a car, everything should work. Because everything should work, other, stupid and poorer people — people so unlike them to boggle the mind — should suffer through repairs.

Repairs are sort of like Death. No one, regardless of their station in life, gets a free pass. Repairs on exotic sports cars can destroy a budget line item in one visit. Quotes of $7,000 or more for Porsches and Mercedes are common.

So common that when a customer acts surprised, I wonder whether or not they understand the impact of heat and wear on a car. But even more than that, I wonder what mental models they use to divorce the cost of purchase from the cost of a repair. Children live in a world of first-order thinking, where consequences aren’t even considered. But these are adults.

The smarter ones shop around. These customers have already taken their car to the dealership, and finding their price too high, visit my shop for a less expensive option. That’s right. A price tag of $7,000 or more is the less expensive option.

Repair costs should be factored in to the purchase price. Most do factor these costs into their budget, which is why they come to my shop.

For those that can’t or won’t understand the relationship between price and repair, their dismay represents a fascinating intersection of class-privilege-meets-no-money™️. Typically middle-aged, pot-bellied and male, this customer believes that life owes them an expensive car and all the rest of are lazy idiots, unable as we are to afford such a car.

I’m a lawyer or a financial advisor or a doctor, they may say to themselves, getting a Porsche or Mercedes reflects how awesome I am and what a loser you are.

Can you detect the first point of faulty thinking? That the rest of us can’t afford these cars. Not that we don’t want to pay that amount for any car but that we can’t.

And often times, as it turns out, they can’t afford a new Audi or Porsche, either. Like us, the sticker price of $135,000 Audi A7 causes a loss of consciousness, forcing them to opt for a used version of their StatusMobile™️.

They can’t believe their luck! What a deal.

I bought a used Porsche Cayenne for $40,000!!”

They may very well congratulate themselves on their budgetary acumen. Riding along in their new-to-them but still used StatusMobile™️, they may feel sexy or exciting or cool. Eventually, and there is always an eventually with the expensive German/Italian cars, the car requires a repair.

At this point the privilege-meets-no-money™️ problem begins.

All that money they saved buying used? Sucked up by the repair, evaporating in a cycle of spending more than they’re earning pursuing a lifestyle they can’t afford, which is why the bought used in the first place.

Now they realize they’re getting nothing for their earlier deal.

Now they want to save something somewhere, now that their StatusMobile™️ proves to be expensive after all.

Now the service staff come under attack.

The StatusMobile™️ customers begin a steady war of attrition, alternating between demanding discounts and freebies and name dropping the owner. When the costly repair price doesn’t drop, the customers stop adulting, throwing temper tantrums that include raising their voices and leaving the premises in a huff.

The cost of the repair still remains the same.

Whining, bitching, accusing the staff of made-up infractions won’t drop the repair cost.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for rich people who are cash poor. But loathsome boorish behavior only invites ridicule. There is never an excuse for being rude. When a get-status-cheap-scheme fails, admit it and move on.

Buying a used car doesn’t mean repairing with used parts.

Expensive cars alway require expensive repairs.

Physics governs automotive operations.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.