Sunday, January 19, 2014

No. 137 – Need You Tonight / Mediate

Performer: INXS
Songwriters: Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence
Original Release: Kick
Year: 1987
Definitive Version: Live Baby Live, 1991.

In January 1991, near the pinnacle of my love for INXS, it was time to pull the trigger and buy a car.

My plan, such as it was, was to go to Honda and then Mazda and ... well, get some kind of idea of price, I guess. Let’s face it: Like a lot of 26-year-olds buying a new car, I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew I was supposed to bargain, but how exactly does one do that? This was pre-Internet. I knew nothing about invoice price or how the markup dealers made on cars. In other words, I didn’t have a real plan.

I went to the Honda dealer in Grand Blanc and was checking out a spiffy red Civic on the showroom floor when a petite blonde saleswoman named Cindy approached me. We talked for a bit, and I told her I was interested in a Civic. As good fortune would have it, she was interested in selling me a Civic.

Actually, I say good fortune in all seriousness. Little did I know at the time, but for a long time, it almost always made for a more satisfying car-buying experience to deal with a saleswoman and not a salesman.

Make no mistake: Cindy wanted to sell me a car, like any salesperson. She took me back to her cubicle to talk turkey, but I wouldn’t bite. Besides, I wasn’t sure I even wanted THAT particular car—the one in the showroom. It had a few extra features I didn’t want to pay for, like pinstripes, and it didn’t have a radio or air conditioning, although those could be installed.

I wanted to look elsewhere, too. Even though the three cars I test-drove were in the same price neighborhood, I’d read that Honda would bend the least on price, so it likely would be the most expensive.

Finally, perhaps in a bit of exasperation, she said, “What can I do to put you in THAT car today?”

All right, I decided, if she won’t take no for an answer, I’ll just make an incredibly low-ball offer. So I said, well ... that car, with an AM/FM cassette stereo and AC for $8,500.

That was what the Great Lemon Car had cost seven years before and was about $4,000 less than the sticker price plus the options. But what the heck: I’ll just throw that out there. When it’s rejected, I’ll move on as planned. I had nothing to lose.

But Cindy didn’t reject it out of hand. Instead, she just said, “Now that’s a firm offer. Let me go talk to my boss.”

Thus began the whole sit-and-wait routine. I didn’t know it was a routine at the time, and I felt uncomfortable sitting by myself (which, of course, is the whole point). But I also thought, somewhat surprisingly, that she actually might go for that ridiculous price. Well, if she did, yeah, I’d buy the car right now. It was a no-brainer.

Cindy came back and said her boss thought the offer was too low but that she still was working on him. Would I be willing to move up just a bit? I said I might but gave no number. She said she’d be back in a few more minutes.

I sat and stewed a bit longer, when finally Cindy came back and said they couldn’t do the deal for that low. Would I be willing to move to around $10,000? I said I wanted to think about it and started to leave. She tried to stop me—I’d read that walking out is always a good move—but I left.

However, as soon as I left, I wondered whether I’d been a bit hasty. I DID want that car; I did want a Civic. I didn’t go to any other dealer but just went home and talked it over with Dad. I decided: I’d go back the next day and nail this thing down.

When I arrived, Cindy wasn’t there, but the sales manager, who knew my name, was. It was time to get serious, and we hammered out the deal fairly quickly: $10,300 for the car as is, minus the Tragic Mazda in trade, plus an AM/FM cassette stereo and AC. In the end, although I felt I paid more than I wanted, I got the car I wanted. I was satisfied.

Now all I had to do was learn to drive the damn thing.

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