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Buying a New Car

new-car-in-parking-lotHave you ever been involved in the purchase of a car? I’m sure most of us can answer yes to that question. Recently I too had the opportunity to partake in such a purchase. Despite the uncertainty, I was excited to go through the process and end up with a new car, yet something was nagging at the back of my mind. The process of buying a car is known for being tortuous, filled with hoops you have to jump through. On top of that I’m a woman in her 60s trying to go up against the boys club of car salesmen, chomping at the bit to get me to part with as much money as possible. The fact remains, that the automotive industry is male dominated with men holding down about 71% of all sales jobs, as of 2019. For someone who dreads confrontation, this whole process was getting a bit daunting.  But, I told myself, this is the time of Covid when we are all going out of our comfort zone and trying new experiences. So, I got this. By that, I mean I got my negotiating savvy male family member to help me on this journey. Okay, so I did opt for reinforcements but I knew my limitations. Now we’re ready to tackle this beast!

As a veteran deal seeker, I always start my journey off with some thorough research. At the library we have numerous online guides when it comes time to choosing what type of automobile to buy, including Chilton Library and Consumer Reports.  They are easy to access from our homepage by selecting Digital Resources and then Databases in the dropdown menu. Various helpful websites are also available such as www.edmunds.com or www.cars.com.

Once I settled on the car make, I found a small dealership in a neighboring town. Ok, let the games begin. We went in with high hopes. Regrettably, their inventory was low and they were not flexible on price. Bruised but not beaten, we opted to bow out and take our fight to a new dealership. I was disappointed that we were unable to finalize a deal, but my companion reminded me that this experience was productive, as we now had a point of reference for pricing, which would give us confidence for future negotiations.

The next dealership had a vast inventory and a large staff of salespeople. Things were starting to look up! After test driving the vehicle I liked, we were prepared to take the ultimate plunge – we were ready to enter into negotiations! I sat back and began to observe the proceedings. We started out asking for the most equipped model for the least expensive cost. Start big – room for concessions. We proceeded from there. Each new figure was dutifully brought to the “manager” for so-called approval. Back and forth we went. Silence from us, bluster by them. The salesperson at one point even resorted to minor personal attacks on the sincerity of our offers – a tactic to  disarm us and make us more vulnerable. Every move is well rehearsed and honed to perfection. These and other sales tactics can be found in Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes, by Robert H. Mnookin, Scott R. Peppet, and Andres S. Tulumello. For a specific offering on buying a car, access our online service Hoopla, which you can download on our website under Digital Resources or directly at www.hoopladigital.com, and connect to The Secrets of Power Negotiating for Your Dream Car, by Roger Dawson. For a more general digital title, check out The One Minute Negotiator: Simple Steps to Reach Better Agreements : More $uccess with Less Stress, by Don Hutson and George Lucas.

Finally, in what seemed like hours, but in reality was only about 30 grueling minutes, an offer that was to my liking was presented. I responded to it eagerly, with great relief to be done, but my enthusiasm was short lived. My male negotiator went off script and tried to bargain down the price even further! This request was not met with amusement. We then asked for the manager!  The manager emerged from an undisclosed cubicle and was brought over; he would not budge on the price. I understood. I got way more than I expected for the price, and we walked away victorious.

In the days since this purchase, I have been reflecting on this situation. Although I did not trust my negotiating skills, I did have the astuteness to level the playing field by bringing in a man to fight a traditionally man’s fight. Unfortunately, a woman in her 60s is still perceived as timid and uninformed about cars. I am not proud to admit that I perpetuated the myth of male dominance by bringing a male, but if it served to get me the best deal, then I swallowed my pride and played the game. This was only for a car deal and I shudder to think of what women have had to endure in order to “close the deal” in the past. Hopefully, though, now we are rewriting societal wrongs with political and social movements that address these issues, as well as instilling strength and confidence in our children. But when the salesman did mention his mother, I thought “uh-oh now he’s appealing to my maternal side.” Yet another tactic in his arsenal of weapons!

Robin Kessler is a Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Look for her article in the March 18, 2021 issue of the Transcript and Bulletin.

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