Monday, April 17, 2006

Art of the (Lost) Deal

My car lease is up. We go car shopping. Being a wee bit Web savvy, we check out Edmunds and AutoSite (which I had the pleasure of launching, umpteen years ago), to get a sense of sticker prices, options, etc.

I enjoyed my 3 years with the 2003 Passat, and my wife learns that VW can be pretty generous with current owners, to keep 'em in the family, so I decide to just get a new model. We comparison shop, with 2 local dealers.

When it comes to the "real life" stuff, my bride is the tough negotiator in the family. You'd never expect it; she's a tiny blonde whom most contractors, car salesmen, etc., assume they can hoodwink. But in 18 years I've been shocked and delighted by the number of shuysters she's left enfeebled and shivering in her wake.

First dealership takes 3 "trips to the pencil sharpener" to come up with a contract that is satisfactory to the wife. It's not that we begrudge the dealer his profit, but, c'mon: we knew the dealer invoice price on every widget in the car before we walked in. Why is this so hard?

It takes 2 visits to the dealership, numerous phone calls and emails to get the "BEST" offer. Ultimately we say "we'll think about it" and walk out...

The second dealer is willing to chat with my wife on the phone, and without prompting or "pencil sharpening" he comes up with a deal that is a little bit better than the "BEST" deal from the first dealership.

She calls the first dealership to tell them about this better deal. They offer to match it. But didn't we already get their BEST offer? Apparently not.

Guess who got our business?

Lessons: All vendors of consumer goods must bow down before the pricing transparency that the 'Net empowers. You can't treat customers like suckers anymore; that day is past.

Also - don't mess with little blondes.

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