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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Negotiating with an 11-year old

At first glance of the title, I'm sure the natural response would be, "Silly, man.  Why would you even bother?"  And normally you would be right.  I would rather try to theorize why Ryan Seacrest is even remotely successful (my brain hurts just thinking about that one) than to negotiate with an 11-year old.  But this situation is a little different.  I'll explain.

My wife and I decided that it was time to trade in one of our SUVs and become more environmentally friendly. (By environmentally friendly I mean more environmentally friendly to my bank account. (Have you seen the price of gas???))  So we started our quest to *ahem* save the world.  I searched around online to find a smaller car with WAY better gas mileage than the 2 miles per gallon (3.218688 kilometers per 3.78541178 litre (notice the overseas spelling) for my 1 overseas reader) of our current vehicle.

I contacted a local car dealership and told them I was in the market for another vehicle.  I let them know what I had to trade in and what I was looking to purchase.  I also added 2 rules to my search... It had to used (nothing newer that 4 years old) and it had to get considerably better gas mileage than what I was driving.  And that was pretty much the only things I was NOT willing to negotiate.  I really didn't care about the other features like the color, the amount of leg room, or even that it wasn't a good fit for a family of 5. (The kids can ride in the trunk (if no trunk then the roof).)  There were a couple of cars that fit the I'm-not-worried-about-the-kids-just-give-me-better-gas-mileage description.  So I decided to go check them out.

2006 Civic EX - It was a nice car.  It accomplished what I was trying to accomplish.  Smaller car.  Great gas mileage.  And only 1 of the kids would have to ride in the trunk or on top of the car. (This is a bonus because I originally thought I was going to have to strap 3 seats up there.)  I'm not sure which child would be the lucky one on top of the car but I was fully prepared to make a game out of it.  And the 2 "losers" would have to ride inside the car with the totally lame parents and the other even lamer sibling.  While the "winner" would be treated to a magical getaway from all of the silly confinements of conventional cars (doors, windows, protection from the elements, family communication (Are we there yet?)).  They would be able to enjoy the freedom of an eagle in flight as we cruise down the interstate at 75 miles (120.7008 km) per hour (an eagle that is not afraid to take a bug in the face at high speeds).

A lot of pluses for this car.  And the clincher was that my 11-year old hated it.  So I automatically like this car. (Freebie Glimpse into the Male Psyche: I didn't like the car because my 11-year old hated it.  That would just be mean.  (And besides the whole making one of the kids ride in the trunk or on top of the car... I'm not mean.)  I liked the car because if she hated it, she would NOT be asking to borrow my car in a few years.  She would ask her mother.)  Now what about the other car???

2006 Jetta 2.0T - Ooooo.... I didn't even know it was turbo at first.  But when I found out, I fell in love.  With each press of the accelerator I was mentally working out my "But Honey" speech. "But Honey, it's still has only 4 cylinders like the Civic (I'm going to conveniently leave out the horsepower difference)."  "But Honey, if I don't press the gas hard it will be about the same as driving the civic (Again, she doesn't need to be bogged down by the technical details)."  "But Honey, it gets over 30 mpg on the highway (I didn't know the "T" in the name stood for turbo so neither should she)."  PLUS... My 11-year old REALLY hated this one.  I must have this car now!

On a quick side note... I found out that my daughter hates cars.  They don't have the room that an SUV or a minivan have.  She loves bigger vehicles.  She's in for a heartache when she turns old enough to drive.  Especially since she didn't even like my joke that if she wants a bigger vehicle, why not buy a school bus when she turns 16.  Marginally funny... right???   ...whatever.

So after the test drive the salesman said that he wanted me to talk to his manager.  Ahhhh.... The old talk to the manager routine.  But he did spend a decent amount of time with me so I decided to oblige.  On the way into the building I decided to make this a learning experience for my 11-year old.  I told her everything that was about to happen from the manager telling me that it would be in our best interest to purchase a new vehicle instead of one of the "pre-owned" (used) vehicles to them telling me that they would work out a REALLY good deal if I purchased one of the said NEW vehicles.  And I looked like I was the smartest father in the world at that moment.  The salesman and manager did EVERYTHING I had just told my daughter they were going to do!  As far as my daughter was concerned, I could have written the book on how to try to sell a NEW car to people who don't want/need one.  It was great!  I would look at my daughter after each of my points was made and we would smile at our nice little inside joke.  We were having a great time mocking the situation and how I correctly predicted this whole encounter.  We were having an AWESOME father/daughter moment.... UNTIL....

If I remember correctly, the salesman said, "Before you say no, I want you to check this out."  I (again) said sure and walked over to the NEW car that he wanted to show me.  And in all of my predictions I did not predict this.  Little Miss Grumpy Pants proceeded to say, "I LOVE THIS CAR!"  It was almost like the salesman slipped her a hundred and told her that she would get a cut of the commission upon the completion of the sale!  This Oscar Winning performance was legendary as she jumped into the SUV and smiled like she was ELMO.  She started telling the salesman of all of the great and wonderful uses of such a BEAUTIFUL vehicle.  She was doing a better selling job than the salesman! And just before she had almost convinced the salesman that this car was too good for mere mortals I played the wrap-it-up music and cut her short.  It was time to throw out the trump card.  I was cornered by her and the salesman.  I didn't know what else to do.  So I said, "Uhhhh.... we need to ask your mother and see what she says."

Whew!  That was close.  Good thing the salesman didn't know me or my wife or he would have spotted the lie.  He would have known that I run the house and I really didn't NEED to ask her anything.  If I wanted the car I would have gotten the car!  I am the M.O.T.H. (by default).  But sometimes you have to pick your battles.  And winning that battle surely would have cost me the war.  But I did learn a VERY valuable lesson...  If I ever need to negotiate a purchase of ANYTHING, I will always leave the 11-year old at home... (or strapped to the top of the car).

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