Improbable: the language of car sales

“I’m not making any money on this sale.”

Then why, I wanted to ask, are you agreeing to the price? 

I took Salesperson #1’s offer to Salesperson #2 at my home dealership.

“I’m not sure how they could possibly offer you this price,” she said. But I had it in writing so eventually she matched it, grumbling:

“We’re basically paying you to buy the car.”

Welcome to the improbable language of car sales

Businesses that sell things below cost don’t stay in business very long, but that car dealership has been going strong for decades. And as for people who don’t make any money for the work they do? They’re called “volunteers” and you’re more likely to find them in a hospital than a car dealership.

So why do salespeople think we’ll believe their claims of poverty or altruism?

Probably because it works—most of the time. It’s flattering to think you’re such a savvy negotiator that you’ve extracted more than car sales has its own improbable languagethe other party wanted to give you. So you’re likely to let your guard down. But keep your wits about you: good car sales professionals negotiate every day and at least twice on Saturdays. No matter how nicely they smile, you can’t take anything they say at face value.

Salespeople in politics

You know who else negotiates for a living? Politicians. And also con men-turned-politicians. If they say “look out behind you,” you’d do well to keep focused on what’s immediately in front of your eyes. And hang onto your wallet while you’re doing it.

You know it’s true. Our president-elect, a self-proclaimed billionaire, sold himself  as a populist. So, really, anything is possible. Check the sticker price on any deals he tries to sell. Like the car salespeople, he won’t be doing anything that doesn’t benefit him in some way.

Whether you’re buying a car or a “replacement” for a social safety net program like Medicaid or Obamacare—always ask, “what’s in it for them?”