Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: The art of closing the deal

dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.comJune 21, 2013 

In case you're wondering, my family now has a new van in which to take our 3,000-mile family road trip.

Actually, it's a used van, but it's new to us.

I found it online at a dealer two hours away, and my salesman agreed to have it delivered to my house.

He also agreed to give me nearly four figures in a trade-in for our old van, which is a year older than my 13-year-old son and has logged roughly as many miles as the distance from here to the moon.

And when his driver dropped off the new van, he could drive our old one the hundred or so miles back to the dealership.

He had himself a deal.

He also sensed my eagerness and followed up with a question.

"My driver will make it back OK in your van, right?"

What could I say? "I really don't know," I said.

The salesman laughed. He thought I was being funny.

It reminded me of the time more than 20 years ago when my wife, Bess, and I were stationed in Germany and buying a new Volkswagen. We'd hoped to trade in an old Mercedes-Benz I'd bought a couple of months earlier off the lemon lot at the PX.

The old Benz had the latest technology for 1976, which means it had power windows. But the power windows didn't work so if you wanted to roll down the windows, you had to pull over, open the door and push the window down with your hands. The tracking was broken and the windows slid down pretty easily.

But you didn't pull the window all the way down because then you couldn't grab it when you wanted to pull it back up.

The car would also die at random moments but would restart if you popped the clutch. One time it died when Bess and I were on the autobahn. I was doing about 80 with a tractor-trailer bearing down on us, and I swerved onto the nearest exit ramp and popped the clutch.

The car went up on two wheels and wheezed back to life. It was our only car, we were newly married, and I was in a combat unit that deployed for months at a time.

When the car returned to all fours, Bess informed me that we would be purchasing a reliable automobile that day.

At the Volkswagen dealer, our salesman opened the door of the Mercedes and admired the leather interior and the mahogany dashboard. It really did look good sitting still.

"I'll give you two grand for it," he said.

We tried not to jump up and down.

Then he slammed the door. All four windows rolled down by themselves.

"Special feature?" he asked.

Bess lost it. "We're good people!" she cried, and she proceeded to tell him every single thing wrong with the car.

Now I make the deals by myself. I think the driver made it home OK.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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