At the end of last year, in the post Be Angry. Then Do This . . ., I wrote about a personal negotiation that made my blood boil. The negotiation is done, and I can now give you a little more detail about what happened. It had to do with the purchase of an RV that took almost 18 months to deliver — a deal that nearly came undone in the final days because the dealership wanted to raise the price.
For our 20th wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to purchase a small, van-like RV to enjoy for short trips and weekend getaways. This was at the very beginning of the pandemic. At the time of purchase, we were told that we’d have to wait a year before we could take delivery! We decided that it would be worth the wait. So, we put our deposit down and did just that.
During that period, wait times for newer purchases rose to a staggering two-plus years! In fact, used models of our rig were selling for more than new ones. The RV industry was struggling to keep up with demand.
Then, right before Thanksgiving, we got the call — our RV was in and ready for pickup! But just before the salesperson tried to hang up, he said, “And the price went up 10%.”
That was the blood-boiling moment for me. We had a signed contract with an agreed-upon price, and they were trying to change the terms. The best thing that could’ve happened for the dealer is that we’d cancel the contract, they’d keep our deposit, and then they’d sell our new RV to someone else for 20% more. That was the worst thing that could’ve happened to us: Not only would we have lost our deposit, but we also would’ve had to wait another two years to get the RV we wanted!
The salesperson tried to blame it on COVID and the supply chain, telling me that everyone is dealing with the exact same thing — it wasn’t just us. None of that was comforting. In fact, it made me even angrier. We couldn’t help but feel that they were trying to take advantage of us.
I was so angry over the betrayal that all I could do was whine about it being unfair. Then the salesperson said, “Why don’t we split the difference?” That’s when it hit me — it was time to negotiate! When you’ve been aggrieved, your choices are to complain about the situation or to negotiate a better outcome. I stopped complaining and started negotiating.
The first obstacle I had to overcome was that I didn’t quite know what I could ask for. This was our first RV purchase, and I didn’t understand the variables beyond the vehicle’s price. I told the salesperson that I wasn’t going to make any decisions until I read the contract and spoke to my wife. But then I asked, “Let’s assume I go along with raising the price a little. What would you be willing to do to help me agree to this increase?” He said he wasn’t sure, but he’d be willing to find out.
When the salesperson got back to me, he said they would meet me halfway on the price increase (5%) and give me the extended service warranty. I asked about the extended service warranty so that I could understand its value. They told me all about it, including the cost. Then I asked, “Assuming we go through with this, since this is our first RV purchase, what are all the things we need to consider purchasing?” They gladly told me about all the extras and add-ons that you can get with an RV. (FYI: there are a lot!)
Now, I had a better idea of the variables I could work with. Once I added those variables to the ones that my wife and I came up with, I felt I was ready to make a proposal.
The salesperson connected me with the general manager. In essence, I told him that I was disappointed with how this had gone, that I felt I was well within my legal rights to demand the price we’d contracted. However, since they’re the only dealer that can work on our rig should problems arise, I felt it was in both of our interests to come up with a solution — but that I would agree to a higher price only if I were to benefit too. He was apologetic about the situation but said there were limitations to what they could do and that this was an issue that was impacting the entire industry.
With that, I made a proposal: “If you agree to give us the extended service warranty, UV paint protection, $1,000 worth of free labor during the first three years of ownership, and a point reduction in our financing, then we’ll accept the 5% increase.”
His first reaction was, “You want me to give you all of that?” I calmly replied, “The other option for you is that you don’t increase the price, and we’ll drop the demands. The choice is yours, but I’m willing to work with you either way.” With that, he said he needed to speak with the owner.
After a couple of hours, the GM called back and said, “I can do all of it, but I can’t give you the free labor for three years — I can only do it for one.” I looked over my wish list and, for the close, went with, “If you agree to have it ready for pickup this weekend, you have yourself a deal.” “Deal,” he replied.
In the end, we got three times the value in exchange for the price increase. We were within our rights to demand no price increase, but had we dug in our heels on principle or continued to whine about the unfairness of the situation, we wouldn’t have gained all that we did. Instead, we took a breath, got curious, did some planning, and made a proposal. If you find yourself in a similar situation, my advice to you is to stop whining and start negotiating!
We Can Help You Turn a Whine Into a Win at the Negotiating Table.
When an unexpected or unreasonable demand threatens to ruin a good deal, get past the whine and go for the win. Take a breath and consider what you want in return. We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.
Talk to one of our experts today.
About the author:
Sure, we could whip up a snappy bio about Brian’s experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, and Fortune 500 executive. While we’re at it, we could go on for an afternoon about his 20 years in marketing and advertising, developing brilliant consumer-engagement strategies for the likes of Google, Amazon, Samsung, Virgin Mobile, Microsoft, and Sony. But knowing Brian, he’d rather we not. Instead, he’d likely ask us to focus on something else — namely, other people ...