Pay no attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

It might have been mostly rainy today, but things went pretty well nonetheless. I did actually drag my sorry rear-end out of bed this morning in time to make a 9:30 am visit to the car dealer. The usual business was then fully attended in the showroom, with the describing of my car and the discussing of my intentions. Really, it’s a lot like picking a girl up for a date in high school, except that the car dealer wants to screw you out of as much money as possible, while the girls dad just wanted to intimidate you with his very clean firearms, manly countenance, and subtle (and sometimes decided not subtle) hints that if you break his little girl’s heart, you might as well head for the border.

Ok, fine, that’s not all entirely true; the car salesman doesn’t care if you get screwed or not. His boss sure does, but the sales guy himself just wants you sign on the dotted line.

I’m actually fairly lucky, honestly. A few years ago, I managed to blindly happen upon the guy I do my talking to nowadays when it’s time to auto shop. He’s not the charmer, the pouncer, or the guy that tries to be your buddy; he’s not weaselly, and so far, he’s usually pretty straightforward when it comes to talking about deals.

That not to say that it’s a quick and painless process; in my experience, the term “quick and painless” belongs with car negotiating about as much as it goes with a root canal. For that, I place blame solidly at the feet of the sales manager. He’s that guy with the bling that kicks it in the Business Office, hidden away like a Great and Mighty Oz. He’s got a shiny pinky ring for every day of the week, and special ones for Christmas, his birthday, and Labor Day (you know, to show off at the Huge End of Summer Sales Event). He labors with a calculator from a comfortable perch on his Executive Luxury Throne, and bids his minions to deliver bad offers to the unsuspecting prospective buyers.

The worst part is that I eventually feel bad for the sales guy, schlepping back and forth between me and the Office of Doom with offers and counter-offers. He wants me to have the new car, and I want me to have the new car, yes. But I’m not the delicate negotiating flower that I was back in the days of my naive youth before I realized that the big number on that window sticker is more for comedic effect than it is a price tag. No sir, when I arrive at a car dealer nowadays, I’m invariably clutching a manila folder in my hands full of printed references and harboring nearly preposterous ideas about how much car they’re going to give me for very little just because, you know, I’m me. Luckily, my sales guy has good shoes, because he does a lot of laps between me with my complimentary Diet Coke and the office containing the Great and Mighty Oz. Occasionally, Oz and I even meet somewhere right in the middle of Screwdgie Town and Free Carville.

Not today though, today there was nothing but a big gaping, unbridgeable canyon between our respective positions. Apparently, when I negotiated for my current Accord, I somehow got the best deal since the US purchased Alaska for 1.9 cents an acre. Good for me, yes, but it seems to have made my expectation for subsequent wheeling and dealing somewhat unrealistic. I want all my new deals to be relative to that one; the Great and Mighty Oz is not inclined to see things that way.

So, after a couple of hours, a couple of test drives, and a couple of round trips to talk about me in the Emerald City, my sales guy and I concluded that there simply wasn’t enough common ground in our respective positions. I certainly don’t have to make any changes at the moment, and I’m not the guy anymore that’ll talk himself into making a bad deal just to get a shiny new toy with leather seats, four-wheel drive, XM radio, and a navigation system. I walked out of the dealership, manila folder in hand, before lunch today, pleased with myself for having visited Wonka’s factory and without stealing a gobstopper, just to say I had one. The dumb kid that used to pay whatever the sticker said is dead now, gone forever. I think they might keep his ashes in a coffee mug on Oz’s desk in the Business Office, next to a picture of the two of them fishing.



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