Hi, I'm James, a second-class consumer

A recipe for disaster: driving a car with a non-working tape deck, having my commute to and from work expanded to 30-40 minutes now that I work in MFing Reston, and being forced to listen to Washington radio stations. I have very nearly harikari-ed myself on several occasions.

So I made a few calls to see if I could get a new in-dash CD player installed before my New York road trip last weekend. Myer-Emco in Fairfax said they could install one Thursday evening, so I drove down. I walked into the car stereo showroom and browsed a bit. There was one fairly simple model on sale for $120, which looked reasonable. I jokingly tried out one of the $1,000 touch-screen models for fun. Then I waited for some customer service. And waited and waited.

Fifteen minutes later, one of the creepy sales reps walked up, with a customer trailing him. "Have you been helped?" he asked. "No," I said. "OK, someone will be with you in a minute."

I listened as he explained to the other customer why he needed a $500 extra addition to the $3,000 stereo he was about to buy; because that extra $500 would make it "10 times better". Then I watched as they walked out into the parking lot to the customer's Porsche, where the sales rep explained how the stereo would be installed.

That's when I realized I probably wasn't getting a stereo that day, if only because the sales commission on a cheap CD player for my crappy '91 Maxima kind of paled to what this other guy was spending. Sure enough, after waiting another 15 minutes, a different creepy sales rep informed me that they didn't have the wiring harness necessary to install the radio in my crappy '91 Maxima. Nor did any of their other branches in Northern Virginia. Which would have been nice to learn on the phone earlier. Before I wasted an hour of my workday. Oh, apparently they usually have the wiring harnesses in stock. Just not that day.

Thus, I drove back to work radio-less. For shame, that I would labor under the delusion I can compete for attention at area retail outlets, when other Washingtonians are throwing around money like that.

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