The car shopping saga continues. We started our day by driving around for over an hour trying to find the location of a 12 hour dance festival that was posted in TimeOut Mumbai. The listing had an address and a phone number, and the map promised a vague idea of where the venue might be. Well, either the map or the listing were wrong, most likely both. Even our driver laughed about it, he said the address doesn’t make any sense, because it mentioned both Andheri and Oshiwara, which are quite far apart from each other. Of course, calling the phone number was equally useless, because no-one picked up, and not even the driver was able to understand the brief message one would hear upon calling the number.
So that was that. Next stop was a Bajaj/Tempo showroom in the Eastern outskirts of Mumbai, in Bhandup. Their sales guy had actually visited me in my hotel two weeks ago, to show me some brochures that were trying to be glossy. Back then, he said no problem, I can show you car Wednesday. He never called again. I called him last weekend, he said definitely, I can show car tomorrow. That didn’t happen either. I called him again last Wednesday, he said Saturday, no problem, we have car in showroom. Ok, so we drive to Bhandup from the westside of the suburbs, and it turned out to be a fairly nice drive through the Sanjay Ghandi National Park, a real park with lots of birds, and trees and flowers, and, yes, real tigers. Because residential areas are shooting up everywhere around the park, it happens then and again that some little kids get in too close, and unpleasant, contact with the tigers.
Anyways, the park looks nice, it has two lakes, and we’ll definitely come back here sometime. When we finally find the Bajaj/Tempo, there’s a lot of commotion, we get tea and water and coffee offered, and the sales guy greets us very excitedly. But, of course, he has no car to show. He has a number of autorikshaws standing around, and the Tempo Traveller that he tried to interest me in, but that’s a 15 or 20 seat bus. So now he says maybe Tuesday or Wednesday he can show me the car I was interested in, if not, he says, maybe I should go and buy a Mahindra, i.e. the competition. The Mahindra Scorpio appears to be the strongest Indian SUV in town, but at $19,000 or so, it’s more than I want to spend, and I really don’t need an SUV with 110 or so hp; I’d like a simple one that’s safe in a potential crash, gets over the incredible potholes, lets us go into the rural areas on weekends, and can easily get repaired at every corner.
After that, we needed some lunch. We go to a place nearby, where we were immediately sent into the airconditioned room on the upper floor. That A/C is a bit too cold, so we go back to where we came from, and started ordering from the sticky menu. The whole place is staring at us, especially Ksenia, who generally gets stared at wherever she goes, it is sometimes getting a bit annoying. But the food is great, the chai is good, and we manage not to use our left hands. Behind us are two utterly drunk guys in their late teens, who eventually stumble out of the place. To our side is a few teenage boys shoveling in the food like it’s going out of fashion. We are the only ones with a fork and spoon. The boys constantly look over to us and hardly even pretend they aren’t looking.
Next stop is Chembur, back towards home. Rumor has it that there’s a Tata showroom that actually has cars to show and that would accept credit cards for the initial deposit. When we get there, they do indeed have the Tata Sumo that I had in mind. It comes without any bells and whistles, but has an A/C, even in the base version. One version up has power steering. The top model also has central locking and electric windows, neither of which we need. At around $14,000 it’s not exactly cheap in my book (who has never owned a car in his life), but it’ll do. So then the commotions and negotiations begin. They didn’t like my Indian government issued Foreigners Regional Registration Office ID. They had probably never seen one of those. They said it’s only valid for a year, normally they’d require a passport, which would be valid for 15 years or so. We said, we are very sorry, but we will probably not stay for 15 years, and this is an official document, with an official stamp, issued by the Indian government. It even has our address in there. Unfortunately, it’s the address of our hotel. Don’t we have a phone bill, they ask. I wonder out loud how a phonebill could be more official that this Indian government issued document with my address and a bunch of stamps in it.
So, eventually, they give up. Ok, so what’s next? They’d like a Rs100,000 deposit, and yes, they take credit cards for that. No problem. Well, I guess I should have known, but of course neither the American Express card, nor a regular Visa card is accepted. Indian bank issued Visa/MC cards only. So, after some back and forth, it turns out they will accept Rs15,000 in cash for now, and with that, they will get the car from the factory. Then, next week, I need to come back with the remaining Rs85,000 to give them the balance of the Rs100,000 deposit. Preferably as a DD, i.e. a certified check. Ok, from taht point on, it’ll be another 10-12 business days to have them get the car registered. Finally, the car would be ready for me to pick up, if and when we pay the remaining balance of the Rs600,000 total. Needless to say, the last points took us over an hour to negotiate. The sales guy kept changing his story about what money is due when and for what item of the list of things that need to be done to have the car and keys in your hand. He kept going back to saying Sir, can you give me six lakhs now, by check (six lakhs = Rs600,000)? I kept saying, no I can’t, besides, I won’t give you the full amount untill I have the keys to the car in my hand.
So this went back and forth for a while, the General Manager of the place got involved (or, rather, we were summoned to his office), who tried to tell me that he’s taking a big risk by letting me not give him the full amount now. As he was sort of insinuating that I should be very thankful for his service, he kept saying You know, Sir, I take one lakh now, but then you might change your mind and not want the car. I guess the logic escaped me and I tried asking him, wouldn’t it be rather stupid of me to hand you one lakh ($2300), and then change my mind? So then he tried to explain to me the ways of doing business in India (well, in India, you see, Sir, we have certain rules and regulations…), and at that point I slowly started to sense that he was beginning to feel insulted by my arguing with him (after all, he was probably twice my age), so I left it at that. I think we have a deal, I guess we’ll see next weekend, when I hand them the rest of the deposit.