Great News!

“Great news!” Salem sat down and leaned forward eagerly. He held a piece of paper in his hands. “We can pay you $1000 for your nice car!” He formed his mouth in the shape of a smile and set his frozen gaze on my wife.

I was too preoccupied with the disappointingly low figure to see humor in the look on his face. That would come later. After a moment of shocked silence my wife and I tag-teamed poor Salem with our reasons for being disappointed. Our “nice” car had some problems but they could be fixed; the blue book trade-in value was $4200 and we expected to get $3000, $2000 at the very least.

He argued half-heartedly but agreed to talk again to his boss. While he was gone, I said to my wife with determination that we would get $2000 or walk out.

“Great news!” he said a few minutes later. His smile was somewhat weaker than before. He showed us the paper again and the trade-in credit now said $1400.

I stared at it for a moment, wondering if I would hold to my resolve. I was not a good negotiator. When faced with a pro, I’m liable to crumble, capitulate, and pave the road of good relations with one-sided concessions. Truth be told, it would be very disappointing to walk out at this point. Salem knew that, of course. He was talking about how they were giving us this price not because our car was worth it to them, but because they wanted to sell us the new car, and they wanted us to be happy.

“I am not happy with $1400,” I said finally. I think that was a good choice of words. Sweat that wasn’t there when we arrived at the dealership was beginning to break out on Salem’s forehead. It was going to be a long day of selling for him. He was disappointed that happiness had failed to materialize but surely not surprised. In another moment he said that he would talk to his boss again.

I confided to my wife that I would be fine with $1800 if that’s what he came back with next.

“Great news!” Salem said again, an incantation which up to this point had been ironic. When he put the paper down, however, the trade-in value said “$2000.” My wife and I happily agreed to the deal, though of course we wondered minutes later what kind of deal a real negotiator could have gotten. It was okay though. Life’s little victories should be enjoyed and not examined too closely.

[Written after returning from a Toyota dealership a few weeks ago.]

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