[email protected] With Leilani Basson
Funny how people judge others – and their supposed income and perceived worth – by the cars they drive. No matter how shallow or materialistic it may seem, the vehicle you drive determines the kind of service, respect or assistance you may or may not receive.
Those who disagree: imagine your high school reunion, be it the 10th, 30th or 50th. Would you prefer to rock up in your brood-koop-karretjie, or would you rather arrive in the latest model you’ve invested in? It’s not a hard choice. Anyone would like to be perceived as if they’ve made it in life and that they are really, really successful, even if it’s not the case at all.
I wrote a story a few years ago about a company that rents out super luxury vehicles for as much as R10 000 a day. High school reunions, business meetings and important dates made up their core business. Image and perceptions matter, whether we like it or not.
If a financial planner arrives at your doorstep in a Tata Indigo to work out a sound financial plan for the rest of your life, investing your hard-earned money to create long-lasting wealth and peace of mind, chances are you won’t be at ease. But if he arrives in a Volvo XC90, Mont Blanc pen in pocket and a Breitling decorating his wrist, you’ll be more likely to trust him with your savings.
Since I bought my Jeepie, my trusty Opel Corsa Lite has morphed into our own brood-koop-karretjie. Hubby and I take turns accompanying her on an outing every so often, just to keep her going. Admittedly, hubby does it a bit more often than I do, since I am still very much addicted to the feeling of empowerment behind the steering wheel of BOS POP FS.
On the way back from a meeting – on a Corsa driving day – hubby popped into a Nissan dealership. Being a devoted admirer of the Nissan Murano since it first made its appearance on local soil, he decided to have a look.
The dealership didn’t have a Murano on the floor, but the eager sales assistant promised to get one from another dealership so he could view it. The guy even walked hubby to his car. After four weeks, no one has phoned back. The old Corsa clearly led the sales guy to decide not to exert himself over this deal. If the customer drives a Corsa, how on earth can he afford a Murano?
Come to think of it, a Jeep dealership in the south of Joburg didn’t bother to phone me back either, after I stopped there in my Corsa one day. I asked for a quote to be worked out and e-mailed to me. Instead, I received a standard price list. I replied, asking for a personalised quote, but did not hear from the guy again.
At first I blamed the incident on bad service, but after hubby’s experience, I realised that it must have been my un-wealthy appearance.
I started taking notes in the weeks that followed. Could this be why parking attendants at shopping centres are no longer happy with the R2 or R3 I pay them for “watching” my car? Could this also be why these attendants are now eager to help me push my trolley and pack my stuff into the car?
“This one, Madam. This one.” They assure me they know exactly which is my car. The chances are that there will be a bigger tip from a madam in a Jeep than from a madam in the Corsa. In my Corsa days, I seemed invisible to these people.
It’s like a value proposition — the perceived value of what you can offer against the perceived benefit people can get from “helping you”.
This reminded me of the rather disillusioning transition period after getting married. If you have a ring on your finger, your perceived value is small to a guy witnessing a damsel in distress. I’m used to it now, but I remember one incident shortly after my newly acquired status, when I was struggling to get a gas bottle into my car. It was freezing cold and raining. The guys at the hardware store, who had just sold me the gas, just stood there smoking in the doorway, watching me from a distance. Bloody hell! A few weeks earlier, these guys would have rushed to the car to help me.
There have been many similar incidents over the years, but I’ve come to accept the situation and struggle with the heavy stuff myself.
Funny how things change. In my “younger days” — without a ring on my finger — I could count on help from all sorts in my Corsa. The only place I can count on assistance from men today is in a parking lot with my Jeep. Life, I tell you…