at the end of the day

“At the end of the day,” the guy with the orange polyster tie said, “we’re all about value here. Value and quality.”

Maury looked skeptical. This was his first time buying a new car (after all these years), but he had heard stories. “Does it get good gas mileage? All things considered?”

“Well, you know, you drive some in the city, you drive some in the country, but a car you get from us, at the end of the day, it’s going to be economical with the gas.” He leaned his torso in its checked jacket against a counter and took a slug of his coffee.

“What is the service record like, in the long run?”

“I’m telling you, at the end of the day, the cars we sell have better service records than any other make.” He paused, then nodded once for emphasis.

“And yet you’re selling the extra protection warranty. In the final analysis, is that such a good deal, then?” Maury circled the car one more time, running his finger along the detailing.

“You know, if it were just you and the car…” The salesman made a flat wipe with his hand. “You wouldn’t need it. But there are other drivers out there, and nature. Rocks. Ice. At the end of the day, that warranty is a good deal.”

Maury raised an eyebrow and he and I exchanged a glance. This salesman sure was focused on the end of the day. I was wondering if he was impatient to go home. I glanced at the clock: still just early afternoon. Well, people do tend to speak in habitual manners, and fads come and go for clichés. At the end of the day has been in use in its figurative sense at least since the 1970s – but it didn’t take long for the Oxford English Dictionary to include “hackneyed” as part of its definition.

“The handling in difficult conditions?” Maury asked. He opened the driver’s door and sat on the side of the seat.

“At the end of the day,” salesdude said, one arm holding coffee cup leaning against the door frame, “any car you get from us will handle better than any other one you can get.”

“So, in sum, all in all, when all is said and done…” Maury said.

“At the end of the day?”

“Sub specie aeternitatis?” Maury said. The salesman looked at him blankly. “When it comes down to it, is it really the best one for me? Or should I look at a few more?”

“At the end of the day, you won’t find another car that’s better for your needs.”

“And are you really, when it’s all added up, giving me the best deal you can? Are there other plans, other promotions, other incentives –”

“At the end of the day, no.” Salesmeister swept his hands apart smartly. “You won’t come out further ahead than what I’m offering you.”

Maury paused a moment. “Very well, then…”

I didn’t think I could trust the salesman as far as I could throw him. But Maury clearly liked the car, and he was just seeking assurances. The salesman seemed confident and forthright enough to him.

Looking back, though, one thing is clear to us: Maury should have come back in the evening, just before closing. The car Maury bought that afternoon turned out to be a lemon and an open sore on his bank account. Everything the salesman said may have been true… but we’ll never know, because it wasn’t the end of the day.

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