If you had to put together a list of the ten most miserable experiences that just about every American will have to deal with in their life, surely walking into a dealership to buy a car has to rank near the top. You would think that after a century of this torture that has essentially remained unchanged through the decades, that there would be a better way. After all, what is all this great technological advancement of the 21st century for if not to reduce the misery quotient of civilized life? Until the day comes when someone who just wants to buy a car without feeling humiliated and ripped off arrives, the trick to reducing the misery quotient is turning the pathetically unchanged game plan they continue to rely upon for sales success against them.
Raise your hand if you have gone into a buy a new car from a dealer and you have even just one time been able to go through the process without the salesman leaving you alone at his cubicle for an excruciatingly long time. Yeah, I figured as much: only rich guys buying cars that cost more than the average house can raise their hand to that one. Here’s what you need to know before you make the decision to walk inside a car dealership. you, as the buyer, possess the single greatest power that can ever be wielded inside a car showroom. That power is the willingness, at any stage of the proceedings, to get up and walk out.
This advice comes from personal experience. What is the longest you have ever been made to sit and wait by a car salesperson? Perhaps they disappeared to “speak with their boss.” That’s a typical ploy. Other excuses and justifications for letting you sit and stew and wonder if you are going to be able to eventually walk out the dealership with a new car exist, but every one of those reasons is just so much smoke. The whole point of a car salesman leaving you alone for excruciatingly extended periods is to create anxiety and paranoia.
And here’s the key thing to realize: the more evidence you have exhibited that you will be extremely disappointed if you leave the dealership without that vehicle, the longer those periods of being left alone to stew in your anxiety and paranoia will be. Try it out as an experiment if you are in doubt. The less crushed you seem likely to be if the deals fall apart, the more time that salesman will spend with you. So the lesson is clear: even if you cannot comprehend going on with your life if you cannot find a way to buy that car, do not show it. At all times remain as non-committal as possible. And always remember this when you are negotiating with a salesman to buy a new car: just like fish and people, there is a great big sea to choose from out there. In fact, there is probably another dealership right next door or across the street that has a car at least as equally suited to you as the car you are currently negotiating.
Keep uppermost in your mind that no matter what the reason given for leaving you alone to brood and build up the anxiety about not getting that car you have your eye on, it’s a lie. One of those lies will be about having to check with the boss or supervisor about some detail. And then the salesperson will leave and you may not see him again for as long as an hour if you have made it clear you are especially eager to buy that car. You could sit there and wait it out. But if you really do have any interest in getting out of that dealership within any sort of humane timeline, the very first time a salesman checks out on the excuse of not possessing the requisite authority to seal the deal, you immediately stand up and announce, loudly enough for anyone within a ten foot radius to hear: “I’m here to buy a vehicle, not to waste my time with some impotent lackey . If there’s anyone here who wants to sell me a car and has the power to do so without leaving his desk, I’m willing to wait two minutes.” That’s all you need to say. And then you wait for no longer that exactly two minutes. If some guy comes rushing up to after you have passed through the doors to the outside world, you do not make the mistake of going back inside. Just keep walking. No matter what kind of deal or assurances the salesperson is making once the two minutes have lapsed, you just keep walking away.
What happens then?
You wait. By that stage in the process of buying a car, you will have already written down your phone number. They have your phone number. The next day you will receive a phone call from someone fairly high up in the hierarchy of the dealership; quite possibly from the guy whose name is attached or the person who appears on local commercials. The point is that you can be 99% certain that you will be getting a phone call from the dealership the next day and it won’t the same lackey salesperson and the pot will be sweetened in some way to lure you back into the showroom. Because–and this cannot be stressed highly enough–the pitfall of a process that hasn’t changed in a century is the inherent and inescapable contradiction of that process. The process of buying a car remains structured in such a way that in most cases your presence is required inside the dealership to finalize the deal. The process hasn’t changed because car salespeople are firmly convinced that they can overwhelm you with numbers. Once you are inside the dealership, you are immediately outnumbered. And all that shiny stuff. And those great pictures of happy people smiling while they stand next to a pretty cars. Intimidation through coercion.
But they’re wrong. You have the real power and you are never more powerful during the process of negotiating to buy a deal than when you have walked out of the showroom and gotten an apologetic phone call the next day. Why? Because if you are getting that phone call, that incredibly strong aromatic bouquet you can sniff right through the telephone is the smell of desperation. The car dealer that is motivated to call you and apologize for the treatment you received that compelled you to walk out with even acknowledging the presence of any salesperson who came running after you is the car dealer from whom you want to buy a vehicle. Because from the point you pick up that phone, everything you say and do should be directed toward convincing the salesperson that you are only willing to come back into his lion’s den if you can get the deal you desire. And the longer you put off actually coming back into the showroom, the better your chances of getting exactly the deal you want.
That is the power of being ready, willing and able to become a car dealer’s worst nightmare.