Wednesday, September 21, 2011

News at 11: Used Car Dealer Disappoints Consumer

I feel like the title of today's blog should be a headline in "The Onion." My husband tried to buy a used car. Since most diplomatic vehicles were already sold, we asked some questions, asked for recommendations of a reputable used car dealership, did our homework and ventured into the local used car market.

We looked at cars, we rubbed our chins and discussed cars. Although, I don't want to fool you, I know nothing about cars, besides the fact that their purpose is to get you from point A to point B. We engaged a mechanic to look at finalists and finally made up our mind. We settled on a modest 2008 Hyundai Xanto(?) with fairly low mileage. Relieved that we found a suitable vehicle to get us from many point A's to just as many point B's. We bargained and settled on a used car price that would infuse between 4 and 5 times an average Indian annual salary, which hovers at around $1200 USD. We gleefully gave a deposit of - gasp 50000 INR or just over $200 and started filling out an application with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to get permission to buy a car. The MEA permission is tied to the person, you say? Well, no that is not the case in India. MEA permission to buy a car is tied to the car. So we wait, and wait, and wait. We are told, "well, just another few days and everything will be settled." We hire a driver for when we receive...may I say it out loud....our car?

Approximately, seven weeks later we finally receive a "preliminary" approval for the sale. The MEA approval depends on one little thing. Nothing really, a document which the legal owner of the car has to obtain from his local police precinct. Basically, this document will say that there are no open investigations, tickets, ect in relations to the car. Indian law requires this document to approve sales of used cars to everyone living in the country foreigners and Indian nationals. A fairly straightforward and logical procedure, unless the owner will "under no circumstances" go to the police to get the aforementioned document, which invalidates our purchase. Since the MEA permission was tied to the car and not the buyer, to buy another car we start at the beginning.

After we found out we were not getting the 2008 Huyndai Xanto, we thought again. We looked at options that minimize our risks, albeit more expensive. We decided to buy a new car - from a factory. A few of my husband's co-workers traveled down that particular car acquisition road and we decided to follow them. This is where the situation gets more Kafka-esque. We need permission from the MEA for a car that does not yet exist. The factory cannot build this non-existent car without us obtaining permission to buy this non-existent car. We will also have to pay up-front before the non-existent car gets built. Sigh.

So here we are, waiting for permission from the Indian government to buy a non-existent car.


In other news, I got my work authorization from the same agency lightening fast - faster than getting permission to dump 4 times the average annual salary into the local economy. The funny thing is that the MEA permission to buy a car was processed in the local MEA office in Chennai and my work permit went through Delhi. Go figure right? Government bureaucracies work in mysterious ways.

I will do a write-up on my employment process begging to end, because you know what fellow diplo dependents, there is a great big world outside of your local mission and I am living proof that finding a job in the local economy is in fact possible.

Stay tuned folks!