Dear Tom and Ray:

I do not have an air conditioner. “So what?” you say. “There are many cars on the streets without any air conditioning, most of them old, rusted-out beaters.” But I have a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, base model XFE. My boss bought it for me because he couldn’t pass up a $6,000 brand-new car. So now I am driving hell on wheels … literally. It would be one thing if I lived in Alaska or Siberia. But I’m in the middle of the country, where temperatures were regularly 95 this past summer. The dealer wants $2,500 to install air conditioning. Are there any cheaper alternatives? Thank you so much, guys. I am truly grateful. — Thomas the “Roast Duck”

TOM: Unfortunately, there are no really good alternatives, Thomas. Because almost nobody buys a car without air conditioning these days, your car doesn’t even come with vent windows.

RAY: They had to unload this car for $6,000 because it sat on the lot for almost two years and no one gave it a sniff. And the only reason your boss bought it is because he knew HE wouldn’t have to drive it.

TOM: Fortunately, your car is pre-wired and -ducted for air conditioning, even though there’s no air-conditioning equipment in it. All cars come that way now. Why? So that if the buyer decides, after the purchase, that he’d rather not go to every sales call with a pool of butt sweat collecting in his trousers, he can come back and have AC installed. And $2,500 is about the right price.

RAY: So this is a classic case of the axiom “It’s the stingy man who spends the most.” Your boss bought the XFE model: the Excessively Frugal Edition. He thought he’d save money by making you drive around in a car without AC. But now it’s going to cost him.


TOM: How’s it going to cost him? Well, he can bite the bullet and have air conditioning installed in this car. That’ll cost him 2,500 bucks. That’s what we’d recommend. But if he’s unwilling to do that, there are alternatives.

RAY: He can hire a new junior partner for you. Then, the new guy will be the low man on the totem pole, and he’ll have to drive around in this oven. Of course, then the boss will have to get you a new car with AC. So that plan will cost him $50,000 in salary and benefits, plus another $12,000 for a cheap new car.

TOM: Alternatively, he can hire two cheaper, lower-level assistants for you. Those assistants will drive around with you in the existing car. One of them will spray you with cool mist while the other sits in the passenger seat and waves a palm frond. Figure $25,000 each for those guys, plus the fronds.

RAY: Or he can pay for your fill-in workers, when you start calling in sick every time the forecast calls for temperatures of 85 degrees or higher.

TOM: One way or the other, you should reason with him, Thomas, and ask him to rectify this situation. Remind him that he’s still getting a great deal. Even with the AC, he’s getting a new car for $8,500.

RAY: So tell him that his credentials still will be excellent. He’ll still be able to walk into any cheapskate convention with his head held high.


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