Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Happy and Merry Merry

Merry Christmas to all, and wishing you a Happy New Year!

It's the day after Christmas and most everyone is still dozing after a long and busy Christmas day - Which is fine, everyone earned it!

This Christmas was made special by the fact that the whole family pitched in to get everything ready in time. (And by that I mean that our Diamonds in the Rough got a little more "polished" and really stepped up to help more than they ever have!) Best of all, despite the considerable time crush this year, there were no "ugly moments" when someone lost their temper; Everyone felt needed, special, appreciated, and loved!

After all, that's what Christmas is all about!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Never Go to Buy a Car Without Taking at Least One of These!

Several years ago my wife and I bought a brand new car, and learned a valuable lesson in negotiation in the process. In this case the car was for me, so I spent considerable time researching the several brands, models, options, and even the dealerships in the area to narrow down the field. (I think I started the day after I bought my last new car about 5 or 6 years prior, maybe even a bit before.)

Once I was certain of what I wanted, It only took about an hour of blinking, staring, and swearing at my research to realize that our allotted budget was just not going to buy my ideal car.

Or would it?

Once I got over the sticker shock and calmed down, I started to think in cold factual terms. To start with, I had a pretty good idea what the dealer's cost for the car was based on my Internet research. I also had a pretty good idea of what the minimum acceptable price would be from the dealership I was targeting. Right there in black and white was our budgeted amount, and it was (by a hairs breadth!)between the two.

This could work!

Heartened, I continued to inventory my weapons. I had a $500.00 manufacturers coupon from my recent trip to the auto show, I had a trade in that was in very good shape and was a popular model on the resale market, I had a date when I could spend a very l o o o n g time negotiating, I had my wife to represent the impartial voice of reason (in case I lost my objectivity), and I had our two secret weapons: The dynamic duo of Tired and Hungry Toddlers D1 and D2!

Here's a rundown of how it went.

It's Friday, early evening. We arrive at the dealership about an hour or so before closing. We begin looking at examples of the model car I'm after. A salesman engages us. He looks like a nice guy. He talks like a human. I have a slight pang of guilt, but I push it aside (this is war after all, and we have engaged the enemy!)
"Do you like these?" he asks.
"Yes I do" I say, "But it looks like we'd have to go somewhere else or order one because I don't see any exactly like what I want."
(The toddlers are climbing in a nearby car, playing "driving". They are really having a blast.)
"Why don't you all come inside and tell me what you are looking for and I'll check the computer. We have some stock in the lot across the street."
So we go inside - D1 and D2 are upset that they have to stop playing "driving". The salesman looks a bit relieved. Once we are inside and set up at the salesman's desk, with the kids sitting on our laps, I explain exactly what I want.
"Gee we don't have any that exactly match what you want. We do have one in that color that has leather, but has an automatic instead of a stick. - I'm sure I could make you a good deal."
"It has to have a stick" I say.
"OK - well here's one in black, they are really sharp"
(The kids are getting restless)
"I had a black car once. I will never, ever buy another black car. Period"
"Ohhhkaaaay" He hesitated, then asked anyway - "Why is that?"
"Can't keep them clean enough I say. Hard to take care of - paint swirls show up too easily. Plus they're hot"
(The kids are getting really restless, and want down, we let them.)
He looks through the computer inventory some more. "Oh, Um, let me check with my manager. I'll be right back."
(The kids begin fighting over who gets to sit in the salesman's now vacant chair so they can play "Office")
He comes back and we shoo the two very disappointed toddlers out of the way. (They go to an empty desk across the way and begin fighting over the chair there.)
"We just got some new inventory in, they're so new we don't have them entered in the system yet. Usually we're not allowed to sell them until we've had a chance to get them fully inventoried, but my manager says it will be OK." "We've sent someone out to the lot to check on what exactly we have, in the meantime can we check out your trade in?"
"Sure!" We head outside.
Our old car is immaculately clean, inside and out - even the engine was cleaned in anticipation of this moment. It's my turn to be the salesman. "The car has been serviced regularly in keeping with the suggested schedule in the owners manual." "All of the major servicing has been done by the dealer" I continue, "And as you can see there are very few surface blemishes."
"How about the brakes?" He asks.
"Less than half worn" I say. "The next thing it will need is tires"
As if he didn't hear what I just said he asks "What does the car need?" "Say your grandmother was going to by this car, what would you warn her about?"
"The tires are going to need replaced" He walks over and checks the tires - They still have some tread left.
"Are you sure that's all?"
"Yes." "I have the service records if you'd like to see them." I move to the car, open the door and start to open the glove box.
"Uh, no. . . That's OK" he says. I start to wonder if he wants the car for a child or perhaps himself. . . .
Another salesman comes up and says something to our salesman. "Shall we head back to my desk?"
"Ah, so you found one like I want then!" I say, feeling a little excitement building . . .
"No", "But I bet you haven't considered this color - it's brand new" We reach his desk and he shows me the new color in a brochure.
He was right there, it was a brand new color and I hadn't considered it.
"I'll have to see it." I say . . . He goes to get someone to bring the car into the service bay where we can get a good look. By now it's gotten dark, and the dealership has been officially closed for quite a while.
(The secret weapons are really making a fuss now. They are tired, hungry, and bored - they are fighting, whining, and generally being a pain in the butt. We are non-plussed.)
The car is brought in so we take a look. It looks awesome! "These lights make it hard to see the true color of the car" I say . .
The salesman lets out a sigh and seems to shrink in size a bit, but otherwise stoically continues his sell . ..
"These lights are more natural than most indoor lighting because we deliver a lot of cars to their new owners in here."
"Oh, OK . . . Let me take a closer look" It is totally what I wanted, well except for the color change . . .
"What do you think?"
"I think we can talk about terms on this one" I reply" He looks elated.
Back to the desk - the kids are just about to implode they are so done with this whole process . . .
"We can give you [really good price] for your trade."
Of course I say "That's all?" But my grin tells him I know it's a good price, so I don't pursue that any more.
"Now let me show you some of our financing options" I cut him off. "We're pre-approved with our bank."
"But I bet they didn't give you 1.9%!" He was right - I said, "Tell me more!"
We decide to use their financing - the kids are having a melt down on the floor.
"OK so the price is [sticker price], - your trade that's going to leave [ridiculous amount]"
"Nope - how about [dealer cost]?" He turns white. . .
"Sir, are you joking?"
"Not really." "We expect to have to go up from dealer cost, but it's a place to start isn't it" Now he's blushing and seems to be quite rattled. He keeps turning his attention to our darling little negotiation aids who are just this side of going into full tantrums.
He turns back to me and says "You realize we have to make some money on this deal." "Or we would go out of business."
"Yes - So knowing that there are likely manufacturer incentives and such, if we offer you [$500.00 over dealer cost] would that be enough?"
Again turning his attention back from our beautiful toddling distractions he says "Um, no." I can only go as low as [$500.00 more than my offer]"
I hem an haw a bit. I Look at my wife, but ignore the screaming, crying, kicking, and downright obnoxious pair of darling children having meltdowns just a few feet away. The desperate,- pleading really - look on his face told me this was the best he could do.
"I think we've reached a deal we can live with." I'm grinning from ear to ear as we shake on it.
Just then my wife pulls out the $500.00 auto-show coupon from the manufacturer,and handing it to the aghast salesman she says "Oh, take this off that bottom line would you please"? (I love her!)
"But you didn't tell me you had one of those!" he manages to stammer through his shock . . .
"It says right here - 'Take $500.00 off your best deal.'" You didn't think we would use this before we were sure we had gotten our best deal, do you?" she said sweetly. (I really love this woman - did I mention that?)
"OK, fine!" "Whatever!" "Yes" "Let's get this written up so we can all go home." (The secret weapons have worn themselves out, and crawl up into our laps and fall asleep. Perfect timing!)