beta Car Part 1

On November 4, 1996, in Opinion, by Tim Robertson

If you have ever been car shopping, you know how much fun it can be, with the exception of the car salesman. No, not all car salesmen are bad. Some are, in fact, quite good. But I pretty much had my mind made up on what I wanted before I visited the dealership. To my surprise, this event would change my outlook on many things.

I strode onto the car lot full of determination. “Howdy!” the salesman, Randy, said in greeting. I nodded my hello, and pointed to the shiny black car in front of me.

“I want one of those.” I said. Randy stopped short, looked at the car, and sighed.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty good car. Last year’s model, though. You know the new ones are coming soon, right?” He asked, stepping closer to me with a knowing look. Great, I thought, just what I need! A car salesman giving me a hard sell.

“Yeah, I know, but last year’s model seems a stable, dependable car. I have driven a friend’s, and really liked it. Who knows what the new model will be like?” I asked, stepping away from Randy some, but moving toward the car I wanted.

“Wanna drive the new one?” Randy asked. I stopped short. The new one? It wasn’t due for at least another three months or more.

“You have the new one?” I asked with doubt in my voice.

“Well, yes and no.” he replied, not looking at me directly, but rather at a fingernail he was cleaning with a car key. “You see, here at Viking motors, we have a new program. The manufacturer lets us have pre-release models, and we are supposed to give them away to people who may buy the car when it is released.” Randy had stopped cleaning his fingernail, and looked at me.

“Pre-release? You mean, you are just going to give me a new car? For free?” I could not believe this. Sounded too good to be true.

“Yup.” said Randy, pulling his loose wrinkled pants a little higher up his waist.

“What’s the catch?” I asked, the veteran car buyer in me coming out. Hey, there is always a catch in deals that sound this good. And I was right.

“Well, what we do is, we give you, for free mind you!, the Beta, and…”

“The Beta?” I interrupted.

“Yeah,” Randy said, “that’s what we call them. Pre-release does not sound as good. Anyway, we give you the beta, and you drive it, free, for three months.”

“Sounds too good to be true. What happens after the three months?” I said, as Randy decided that his ear could use a good cleaning with the key that he used a moment ago on his fingernail.

“Well,” he began, “After three months, the Beta will expire. By that, I mean it will just stop runnin’. But for the three months, the car should run fine for ya.”

As I thought this over, Randy went on to clean his other ear, after first wiping the wax off his key using his shirt sleeve.

“Of course,” he said, “we do ask that you let us know if you find any problems with the Beta.”

“Hell, if I can have a car for free, I will report every time a bug hits the wind shield!” I said, meaning every word.

“Well, you sound like someone who we want to get one of our Betas. All’s ya gotta do is sign a few papers, and the Beta’s all yours.” Randy set, putting the keys into his pocket.

The paper work was fairly simple. Of course, with the thought of getting a free car, with no obligation to buy anything at all, I signed pretty fast. But I did have a question.

“Randy?” I asked my new friend, “why would anyone just give a car away?”

“You see,” he started “they, the car company that is, used to hire these high-priced test drivers. Now, these test drivers, or Beta testers as we call ‘em, did a great job. But that’s all it was to ‘em. A job. None of these Beta testers were in the market for a new car, and the company was paying them big bucks to find and report any bugs they found in the car. So one day, someone got a great idea. Why not simply give the Beta cars away to people who may be looking to buy a car, rather than pay someone to do it? Sounds smart to me, ya?”

I thought this over as I signed the last form. Randy was legally bound to tell me I had to read this form before I could sign it. Skimming through the paper, I read something vague about Viking motors and the car manufacturer not being responsible for any problems I may have with the car, nor any damage cause by the car once it is in my possession. I scrolled my name on the page, handed Randy his pen back, and stood.

“Ready?” Randy asked

“Sure am!” I replied, following him out a back door and into the back car lot. And there it sat. My free Beta car!

•Continued next month•

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