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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good Cop / Worse Cop

When cops interrogate a suspect they use a tactic where one cop pretends to be a hard ass, sweating the perp out. He threatens a long jail sentence in a cell next to Bubba and generally tries to break the suspect. Meanwhile, the good cop brings in some water, consoles the suspect, and tries to make it seem like they are on their side. Everybody knows this method and most see through it and lawyer up pretty quick.

What most people may not know is that this method of attack works for nearly anything. In fact, I use it on a regular basis which kind of makes me a pathological liar. However, the benefits have been tremendous. Haggling over price or services can be a slippery slope. One wrong move and you may find yourself like a contestant on Deal or No Deal who just opened up the million dollar briefcase. The banker calls and the bottom falls out on the deal.

In 2000 I rented my first apartment. I had just graduated from college in 1998, I spent a year living with a friend in a house we rented from someone on a handshake lease. Unfortunately, my roommate pretty much owned everything in the house outside of my bedroom. So, when I signed my name on my first lease for a one bedroom apartment, the only thing I had was an entertainment center, a bed frame, mattress, box spring, and some sheets. The rest of the place was as bare as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

I went to one of the local furniture dealers and negotiated my way into a living room suit which included a couch, a love seat, a coffee table, two end tables, and matching lamps. All to be delivered to my bachelor pad for $100. What I didn’t know was that the lamps weren’t part of the delivery. I guess there was a problem with these lamps being from Italy or something because the contract listed the reason being Fra-gee- lay. I would have to pick them up separately which blew my mind. Delivery is delivery. Why should I pay $100 for partial delivery. So, I cancelled the delivery and went to the store to pick up the furniture. I managed to secure my Father’s truck for the early part of the afternoon and my future Father-in-law’s truck for the whole day.

We went to the store and they gave me some song and dance about the furniture not being there but downtown in the warehouse. So, I asked if I could just go pick them up there. Once we got to the warehouse I told my girlfriend to give me a couple of minutes and then honk the horn. I went into the office and said I was there to pick up my order. The girl said she had no idea about any of this and that anything I was going to pick up would take two hours to get ready. Knowing that I needed to have the truck back ASAP led to my instructing my girlfriend to honk the horn. Not knowing that this has been a communication issue between the store and the warehouse gave me room to improvise. The girl in the office immediately got infuriated because she assumed that the store told me to just go to the warehouse and the order would be ready. With that information and the honking truck out in the parking lot, I explained that my girlfriend was already pissed because she had to take the day off and borrow her Dad’s truck which was an issue. Now, we were going to be late and all because the “store” screwed up. Good customer service and my ability to lie on my feet had my furniture, lamps and all, ready in less than an hour.

Here’s another example. In 2005, my wife and I decided to take a vacation in the Outer Banks. This was highly unusual given our previous trip to the region, but we wanted to rent a house with some friends. Unfortunately, we started looking for a September rental in early August. I began scouring the rental websites and compared houses based on price, location, and amenities. I highly suggest that anyone who goes on vacation does a lot of research into what each line item on a rental property is. There’s loads of haggle room if you know where to look. With the minimal window until our vacation I knew that there wouldn’t be a lot of options but that some properties outside our budget may still be open and willing to deal. I called and spoke to a few rental agencies and acted like I was all in love with their property but my wife and the rest of my party wasn’t happy with the price. I chose some arbitrary amenity that made me like the house and went on about it while my wife maintained it was too much and that she found a similar house for less money at a competing company without that one amenity.

Soon, fees started dropping like prom dresses at 11pm. Here’s a tip. That rental insurance….waive that and take the upfront $50 charge to cover any damages. Yeah, you get the $300 back but if something does go wrong, you lose it. That $50 covers you for a lot more. And the insurance against bad weather is about as smart as getting the insurance in black jack. Chances are that if you have inclement weather and are forced to vacate an area, you aren’t going to be back for the remainder of your stay which could end up being one day. In all, I was able to knock off over $500 from a rental property because my wife played the Bad Cop.

Here’s the best example. In 2005, we bought a new car. This was during the whole “employee pricing” bonanza which made buying a new car more appealing than a used car. I went on and on about how much I liked the Malibu Maxx while my wife maintained that we should get a Cobalt. I even had the dealer trying to work my wife over in my defense. Her and I both knew we would buy this car. Unfortunately, the only ones on the lot were models with more features which meant a higher price tag. My wife went to work on the guy and had him nearly in tears. We managed to get the monthly payment down to $213 just based on down payment and good credit. We still wanted to have a payment less than $200, so my wife stood up and proceeded to leave. It was the end of the month and this salesman was one car away from making his bonus quota. He said to my wife, “Come on, you mean to tell me you are going to walk away over $10 a month?” She firmly said, “Yes, I am.” The best part about it was the guy KNEW I needed to get a new car because the head gasket was blown. That was a mistake on my part. He was willing to deal even though he knew I had to buy. The worst part was that I was actually beginning to believe my wife. She wasn’t pretending anymore.

The salesman went into that back room they all go into when the pretend to work the manager over in your favor and came back out with a final offer, $203. We said fine, although my wife maintained her dismay over $3. We went back into the finance office and I gave the girl my GM credit card and I got an additional $750 off in earnings which brought my payment down to $193 a month. That was an added bonus that even I wasn’t aware of when I opened the card. There was some offer from GM to give additional earnings over certain new car purchases.

Now, I am in the process of replacing our second car and there seems to be a lot of deals going around on new cars but I’m having trouble working out strategy with car dealers. Somehow, I think the sales people caught onto our scheme and bought off my wife. She actually turned on me this weekend at a KIA dealership when the salesman offered an 09’ Spectra Sedan for $12,000. Immediately, my wife said, “That’s the car.” While I maintained that I wanted a 4 door hatchback or a wagon and wasn’t real impressed with the Spectra’s power on a hill with the A/C running, she kept saying that we should buy this car. I felt like I should lawyer up before doing anything else. Perhaps she was drunk on power or just wanted to hear me stop bitching about cars but she went from Bad Cop to Worse Cop in a heartbeat.

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