As the year drew to a close, and I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the aftermath of my father’s passing, I decided to make a list of the major stressors that were weighing on me, so as to better understand my enemies and plan appropriate attacks.
One of those stressors on the list stared back at me with me with the arrogance displayed only by those with a hard and fast deadline: switch out car at lease end. Now, for some of you, this may sound like a silly to thing to have on a list of major stressors, but I am not a big car guy in general, and I despise everything about car dealers. I feel like I am going to get conned no matter what, and can’t muster the energy or interest to figure out how to avoid it.
So after pretty much running out the clock on my stalling, I made an appointment with Manny, the guy I’d been dealing with in the run-up to this date with destiny. I had met with Manny once before and we had a decent rapport. I also liked that he was quick to return a text and called me “brother” in his responses. Obviously he’d be treating me like family.
In lieu of doing real research that might have afforded me any bargaining power, I simply cleaned out the car and sported for the $35 deluxe job at the car wash. Unfortunately, neither of those steps was able to fix the deep scratches on one of the wheels attained after sideswiping a curb (that experience also resulted in a flat tire), and the science experiment one of my kids had spilled in the backseat, which was now one with the rug. There were also a number of nooks and crannies in the doors that the boys had used as receptacles for one type of refuse of another whose depths made it impossible for me to reach their bottoms.
Luckily, I was there early afternoon and it was fairly tame. We were working through the process of getting me into a new lease when I began to observe a couple working with a different salesperson a few feet away. As Manny was talking to his manager about something or other, I listened as the other salesperson (let’s call him Jimmy) worked with his customers. This exchange took on the usual dance of such affairs, as the people told Jimmy what they wanted, followed by Jimmy talking to his manager, then returned to present THE FIGURES.
At this point in the dance, the customers did what they were supposed to do according to the script – they balked. To which Jimmy hemmed and hawed and lamented the difficulties of it all. After being implored to do better and getting some ballpark numbers on just what “better” meant to his customers, Jimmy took his next step in the dance. He went back to his manager to “see what he could do.” As luck would have it, Jimmy’s manager could do a little bit better.
The customers then did their next move, sounding appreciative yet not altogether thrilled. After that, a little gentle persuasion from Jimmy pushed things over the finish line and they signed on the dotted line – deal done!
Hmm, I thought to myself. I now know exactly what I’m supposed to do, and I want to get the same outcome, but I really can’t fake my part in the whole thing. I can’t pretend to play hardball when Manny knows I want to leave here with a car today. I’m going to try the humor route – make him laugh, lay it on straight and see what happens.
So when Manny returned from his first trip to “get the numbers,” I let it fly.
Leaning over the desk, almost whispering, I confided:
“Hey Manny. We all know what’s supposed to happen now. I’m supposed to break your chops and tell you how much this place stinks, how much the cars stink, and how much you stink. I’m supposed to do all that so I can then tell you why I should pay less. But I like you Manny, so I don’t want to tell you stink. Follow me? So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to do exactly what you would usually do at this point if I did say that you stunk. You’re going to go to your manager and tell him I’m the toughest, nastiest negotiator you’ve ever dealt with, and that he’d better come down on those numbers or I’m walking. (Of course, I’m not going to walk, but bear with me.) You and I both know these numbers are built with wiggle room to do just that. He’ll come down on the numbers and then we’ll have a deal. Cool?”
“Oh, and tell him I’m so good that you think you guys should hire me,” I added.
“You’re too much,” Manny said, laughing. “Ok. What kind of numbers are you looking for?”
After lowering the numbers a bit based on my arbitrary requests, he headed over. Returning a few minutes later, I was told that they’d met my “demands” and we had a deal. Good enough.
The lease term is 42 months, as I was not offered anything shorter, and I surely don’t want to sign up for another such root canal any sooner than necessary. Hopefully my brother Manny will still be working there at that point, and we can do it all once again. After all, it’s wonderful doing business with family.