Monday, October 17, 2005

Six Magic Words

The Costco Membership Auto Sales Program is utter and complete Bullshit, with a capital B. The pre-negotiated pricing and simple no-haggling sales methodology is exquisite crapola. Private party, wholesale fleet, and email mass-negotiation are the only ways to buy a car.

Unfortunately, I needed a new car, and was left to play my least favorite game on Sunday, "Car salesman negotiation." Fortunately, I negotiate large numbers for a living, so it was a little like sport, and only a little bit like jock itch. God, I hate car salesmen! Look, I'm a lawyer. I know people don't like lawyers. But, I take solace in the fact that most people rate certain other professions beneath lawyer, like dentist, politician, Nazi death camp commander, TV reporter, and car salesman. And really, at the very mud-sucking bottom strata lay the lying sack-of-shit soul-sucking car salesmen. Motherfuckers. (Bitter much?)

So, we make the necessary phone calls. We make the necessary appointments. We wait the appropriate amount of time to avoid the appearance of desperation. I wash the trade-in. I research the Kelly blue book values. I research the Edmunds dealer-cost reports. I research the JD Power reliability ratings. I compare competitive payment calculators. I research the available incentives and rebates. I am prepared. I am girded. I am ready for battle.

On Sunday, we met Aaron. He scampered over to meet us. Hell, he scampered everywhere he went. Aaron was our bitch. Aaron was the authorized Costco sales manager. Aaron reminded me of the shorts-wearing bicycle cop on Reno 911.

So, the super-magic, ultra-secret, eyes-only, membership-privilege price? Right. Invoice, which everyone knows, isn't even in the same fricken area code as the actual dealer cost. Bitches! Fine, throw down, here we go.

Then we meet Ammar. He plays cricket. He's also the finance and insurance manager (F&I). He informed me that my trade-in was worth less than I knew it was worth. The cost of the new car was higher that we had just been told, and the financing rate was a joke. I summon my best poker face. I consciously resist the contortions of contempt spreading across my face. "Well," I say, “This isn't what I was expecting." Although, it was exactly what I dreaded.

The Howler monkey dropped a fist-full of cheerios onto Ammar's industrial charcoal gray carpet. I subtly crushed said cereal with the toe of my loafers. The missus takes the monkey for a walk.

Up. Down. Black. White. Higher. Lower. More. Less.

This isn't going to work. Fine, walk out. Now, this is the point of no-return in negotiation. I'd say that it works 90% of the time, because no one wants to lose the deal, regardless of what the deal is. However, you have to mean it. Like Blackthorn in Shogun, you have to know that you are willing to fall on your sword. You have to mean it. You have to accept the consequence of the walk out. If you say you are going to walk out, but you hesitate, you look longingly in the eye of your opponent, you stop at the door waiting for the counter offer, and they will call your bluff. No, you have to be seriously on your way out the door for it to have its full effect.

"Ammar, Aaron, it was a pleasure. This isn't going to work for us today. Thank you for your time." Shake hands. Walk straight for the door.

Then... Then. Then! Ammar utters the six magic words I've been waiting for. It's been a slow day. I've been watching the lot. I know they need a sale. "What do I need to do?"

Ammar wants to know what he needs to do to make this happen today. He knows damn well, as I have been pointing it out for the last hour, but slowly, I lay it out in small words and pictograms exactly what he needs to do. We stand on the stoop, seconds from leaving, the old Mitsubishi wanting eagerly to return home with us, waiting three feet away; the Howler Monkey cooperating with Herculean toddler stoicism. She wanted the new car too.

Then finally, somehow, miraculously, Ammar comes up with the exact offer I told him I needed. Asshole.

So, we have the new car. It's exactly what I wanted. I feel good about the deal, but next time... Next time? Costco can kiss my mayonnaise-colored ass.

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