Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's all what you value

When Brad and I lived in Dallas, I worked at a sales job which required a functioning vehicle.  To make matters worse, cars in Dallas were a VERY BIG DEAL.  I had a friend, Leslie (an entire post could be dedicated to her, easily) who was a sales rep with me.  She came from insane oil money in Snyder, (pronounced "Sniiiider") Texas.

She didn't like to haggle on the car lot, even though that is what she basically did everyday, so she would just pull onto the Mercedes car lot, pick out a car and then call her Dad.  Once she picked the one that was on a platform, you know, the one at a 120 degree angle that is supposed to attract traffic into the car lot from the highway. Can you imagine the salesguys' faces when she requested that one?  Hilarious. 

Anyway, Brad and I had just moved from Denver, where it was "uncool" to display any kind of wealth (not that we had any) to Dallas where guys who made $30,000 a year would use credit to buy expensive suits at Neiman Marcus and then they leased Lexus sedans which they "valet parked" (unheard of), at bars that served $12 beers (gasp).  Maybe this is prevalent everywhere, but it was an entirely new concept to Brad and I.

So Brad and I set out to purchase our first automobile.  We settled on a Toyota Camry, of the grey variety.  It is impossible to get Brad to shop for anything, even if you need it, so often I would get a few beers in him and then suggest that we "go look at Camrys, just for few minutes, just for fun.  I mean, I'm not ready to commit to anything."  Coincidentally, this is how I got our couch, all of my kitchen appliances and all three of our children.

So, one night, after dinner, we end up at a Toyota/Lexus dealership.  My husband is famous for throwing out insane, unattainable goals for a salesperson (me, included), and then asking them to "see if they can make it work."  An example of this would be when he recently asked me to find a vacation home in Georgia for the week that needed to be (1)on the ocean, (2)have a pool, (3)with bunk beds, and (4)accepts pets.  This was supposed to be all for the price of $500.  Oh, and if the owner could include a stocked fridge and gas money, that would be great.

We drive onto the lot and come face to face with the sleaziest salesperson I have ever met.  Larry was slick.  We went from looking at used Camry's to test driving a Lexus in a matter of minutes.  Now there is nothing a salesperson hates more than another sales person.  He obviously was some sort of mirror held up to my face and I did not like what I saw at all.  We drove this tricked out brand new Lexus all over Dallas.  I felt like a rock star.  It had leather seats and surround sound, and every other bell and whistle at that time.  I had never been in a car that nice, let alone been given the opportunity to buy one.

So the dealership is about to close and we start doing this dance where Larry goes back to the invisible "boss" in the back while we haggle on the price.  Brad is absolutely not havin' it.  Brad is sobering up and is doing his "impossible sales deal" routine, Larry is going back and forth to the back room which I am starting to suspect is just a break room, and I am getting increasingly anxious that I am not going to be able to drive home in my dream car.  To be real, I was freakin' frantic.

"Well," Brad concludes, when Larry and his "boss" could not sell the Lexus to us at a loss, "I guess it's just not going to work out." He turns and winks at me and whispers, "I got him right where I want him."

"Buddy, why don't you take one more test drive before you walk away."

We get back into my dream car and I am starting to have cold sweats.  I am emotionally exhausted by the four hour experience, but I am also desperate to own that car.  Larry knows exactly what to do to get me going.  He cranks up the radio, opens up the sun roof and turns on the air conditioning full blast. (Did I mention we had 100 days of 100 degrees the summer we moved to Dallas? Yep, even hot at night.)

We pull back into the dealership and as a last ditch effort, Larry offers to let us take it home for the night.  I am giddy.

"Are you sure?" I squeal as I jump into the front seat.  "I can't wait to show Angela tomorrow!"  I was getting to drive my dream car for at least 24 hours, and I was determined to drive it off of the lot before someone came to their senses.

Well, someone came to their senses alright and it was my nemesis - Brad.  To make a long story short, we got in a HUGE fight right there in the car with the sales guy in the back.  I was crying and we were yelling at each other and in the middle of it all I caught a glimpse of Larry in the rear view and he was smiling the smile of the Cheshire cat.  I knew in that moment that I had been had and I promptly apologized to Brad and went home.

We ended up buying a used Camry that I had up until a few years ago.  I loved that car and I sold it for a steal in the Upper Arlington News.  I had 84 calls on it.  There were people haggling in my driveway with cash in their hands.  Everyone was positively desperate.  I sold it to the first one who called me for asking price.

I haven't been to a dealership since that night.  I don't have the stomach for it.  During that emotionally wrenching night, we called Brad's Dad for advice because he is always the voice of reason and settles all disputes in the family.  He is also notoriously cheap, so Brad knew he had me when I agreed to call him.

"I guess it's all what you value, " he said.

"What do you mean?  What are you saying to me?"  I wailed, sensing defeat.

"What I mean is, if you value an expense stereo and silver wheels and you are willing to give up other things in order to have those, then this is the car for you."  He continued, "But if you value paying your rent and buying groceries, then you will settle on a car that you like and you can afford."

Truer words have never been spoken.  Is that the best line EVER.  Since then I have used that logic in every major purchase we have made.  It also applies to lifestyle choices.  Hell, it applies to EVERYTHING.  Think about it.  What do you value in a house?  In a friend?  In a good pair of jeans?  It is so simple and eloquent and should be so obvious, but it's not.

O.K. so the next time you are faced with a decision that is pitting your heart against your head, think to yourself, what in this object do I value and you will find that the decision is much easier to make.  Unless, you are me, of course, because I hung up that phone that night and sputtered, "What does HE know?  He doesn't even have leather seats!"

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