Opinion: Straight answers


Used cars and cellphones oddly fit into the same category of being simultaneously useful, to the point of essential, while being exceedingly difficult to purchase. To be entirely clear, it is not too hard to walk to the counter and ask for a phone, sign a paper or two, and walk out with a working device. The problem comes in understanding what, exactly, it is that one has agreed to pay. 

Forever phones, leases, trade-ins, trade-ups, switch-over deals, loyalty offers – wow! We are looking for a reliable device to get text messages from our kids when basketball practice is over, but we must become an expert in fine-print and wholly Byzantine exceptions, fees, upcharges, expansion packs and extended warranties. Isn’t there an easier way?

So, we modern humans turn to the web. We look for more digestible offers without the endless double-speak of hyper-competitive sales folks effectively trained to pick our pockets. Like some updated Artful Dodger puppeted by Oliver Twist’s wicked Fagin, they descend on us, knowing little of the harm they cause as they themselves try to survive. So, the relative calm of internet surfing in our own homes leads to false security that any of a dozen or so prominent sites offer a secure and “transparent” place to make a purchase. 

Isn’t it always better to “get it in writing?” So, we chat with the sales teams. They cut and pivot, always coming back to their own required script. For the tough questions, we are directed to “call,” not email. Is it really for clarity, or is it to simply to loosen up the definition of “the truth” a bit? “How much will the phone cost – all in?”  “Has the car been in an accident?” Why is it so hard to get a straight answer? 

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