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Our secret shoppers learn that when you buy a Cadillac or Lincoln, you get a gift!

Our secret shoppers learn that when you buy a Cadillac or Lincoln, you get a gift!

You’d think that treating yourself to a shiny new $42,000 upscale sedan would be enough of a gift. But some car companies now give you a present at delivery—one that you pay for. So, do you want a black walnut presentation box or an iPad?

I recently took delivery of our 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. It was a surprise when the salesperson gave me a white cardboard box and told me to open it. He didn’t know what it was and was genuinely curious. Going through several layers of packing material uncovered a shiny American black walnut presentation box, complete with the Lincoln logo inlaid in the lid.

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“Consider this the first of many nice surprises. Welcome to Lincoln,” reads the small pamphlet inside. It appears that the salesguy was supposed to hand me the (unwrapped) box with the key fobs inside, as the box has little flocked cavities to hold the fobs and a shiny brushed stainless flash drive with the owner’s manual. (You also get a paper manual.) Since I bought the first MKZ delivered by this dealer, I guess the ceremony wasn’t exactly rehearsed. (That’s OK. Getting out of the dealership in under 30 minutes is enough of a gift.)

So now I have an American black walnut box sitting on my desk, smelling vaguely like magic markers. Some of my macabre co-workers joke that it looks like a mini-coffin. Other masters of automotive trivia say that the wood for the box came from leftover trim from the ill-fated Lincoln Blackwood luxury pickup. Setting aside the snark, the presentation box is a sincerely nice gesture, and it certainly is a surprise.

Cadillac-gift-ipad.jpgBut it pales to the surprise I got at the Cadillac dealer a few months back when I picked up our ATS. They handed me a new Apple iPad 2 with Cadillac engraved on the back in a custom logo-emblazoned presentation box. We also got one when we bought our XTS. In fact, you get the iPad if you buy a Caddy with the Cue controls, an apparent consolation prize for having to put up with the annoying interface.

The main reason for Cadillac’s iPad generosity: It has a tutorial to help you learn how to use Cue. (There is a certainly irony there, requiring one touch-screen device to teach to you how to use another.) Cadillac probably hopes that the extra training will help customer loyalty and JD Power survey scores. It’s a novel approach to achieve that. What would be even more novel are knobs for volume or tuning, but forget about those high-tech features with Cue. The MKZ also omits user-friendly knobs, but there’s no iPad to help you master MyLincoln Touch. In either case, it would have been preferred to simply pay less for the cars.

We’ll pass on the iPad and the walnut box to whoever purchases our test cars. But if a manufacturer decides to hand out 5 pounds of gourmet chocolates or some buffalo steaks, all bets are off.

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