Car buying—at least the negotiation process—is very much like your first kiss.
When you get back home and replay the entire experience in your mind, you invariably begin to question whether you may have done something wrong.
A few weeks ago, Lindy and I had to buy a new vehicle.
Before the big day, I spent numerous hours watching tutorial videos and gathering as much information as I could from Consumer Reports magazine.
Which, incidentally, is exactly the same research I did in preparation for my first kiss.
On the way to Adamson Motors, I repeatedly stressed to Lindy the key elements to an effective negotiation process. Appear disinterested. Do not let them know we need a vehicle. Certainly don’t let them know we need a vehicle as soon as possible. Don’t tell them how much we want to spend. Don’t tell them how much we’re hoping to pay monthly. Be willing to walk away.
Lindy had simply given me one of her pursed-lip nods, which seemed condescending, especially since I had taken the time to watch a YouTube video called “Effective Body Language During Car Buying.”
We met the salesman while we were looking at vehicles on the lot. As we walked to his office, he asked us why we were looking for a car.
Lindy walked in the middle, with the salesperson on her left. I was a few steps behind and to her right. So, when he asked the question, I was in an awkward position to just run up and start talking without sounding desperate.
Also, Lindy and I had just role-played this very question not five minutes earlier.
Lindy—and this was one of the first things she said to the guy—announced something like “Our van was totaled when someone ran into us in the Silver Lake Foods parking lot. So, yeah, we’re pretty desperate for a vehicle.”
“Really?” he asked. “That’s too bad, I hope nobody was …”
“It’s been a nightmare,” Lindy offered. “We really need to buy a vehicle as soon as possible. Today, in fact, would be great.”
“Well, we can certainly take a look at …”
“We’re heading to Chicago for the weekend,” Lindy interrupted. “So we absolutely need to get something before Friday. I don’t trust the one car we have left.”
Lindy turned to me and mouthed the words “I’m sorry! Help me! I can’t stop myself.”
This was not unexpected.
Lindy and I are terrible negotiators.
Years ago, a giant slab of ice slid off the roof of our old house and crushed our central air conditioning unit. It was one of those incidents that inevitably happens at 3 a.m.
Lindy woke me up so we could go check on whatever sound she had just heard. When we made our way outside with a flashlight, we saw a couch-size chunk of ice sitting where our AC unit once stood.
We were terrified, not only because we had small children who could have been injured, but also because our house had very low ceilings in our upstairs bedroom, making air conditioning an absolute necessity.
We were concerned about cost, but then a friend of ours mentioned what he described as a “standard insurance loophole” and something “everyone does.” All I had to do, he explained, was mention to the air conditioner repairperson that I would be willing to “help out” with the work, and they would somehow eliminate our deductible.
I was unclear on the details.
I truly was willing to help, and honestly believed they may have me do something like remove the old ruined AC unit, and that this work would somehow warrant them covering our $500 deductible.
My friend assured me the AC guy would know exactly what I was talking about, and, again, that “everyone” did “this.” He said it in a way that made it sound like this was not just expected, but that it would be rude if I didn’t ask.
So, when the repairman arrived at our house and started evaluating the situation, I sauntered into the backyard with my outdoor work clothes on. I may or may not have been wearing my tool belt.
“Hey,” I said. “Just figured I’d offer my services for whatever you need me to do back here.”
The repair guy looked at me like I was offering to give him a back rub.
“What is that supposed to mean?” he asked.
“Oh, I think you know,” I nodded. “I’m here to offer you my services. With the repair process.”
“Do you have HVAC accreditations?” he asked. “And are you familiar with the Carrier three-ton SEER Condenser Base Series?”
“What? No. I’m offering to work off my deductible. You know what I’m sayin’? Work off? My deductible?”
“What in the hell are you talking about?” he finally asked.
And, with that, I walked slowly back to the garage and took off my tool belt.
We paid the full deductible, and, when I looked over the bill, I am certain that, hidden in the various costs, was an additional charge for my “offering my services with the repair process.”
Back at Adamson Motors, Lindy and I reached what seemed like a very reasonable deal with our very professional salesperson, Tim, and drove away in a—Look out ladies, here I come!—2016 Dodge Grand Caravan.
My first-ever new car!
And, just like my first kiss, even if I had done things slightly wrong, it all still felt pretty good in the end.