The Best Haggling Technique Is Blatant Lying

The truth is overrated

Time To Read: 7 mins | January 10, 2017

I discovered this tactic on accident. But like the invention of Viagra (also accidental, true story), that doesn’t make it any less effective.

I was at a motorcycle dealership, say, six years ago. I knew what I wanted: a 5+ year-old street bike. Or, to use the common tongue, an old crotch rocket. It was to be my first bike, so I didn’t need anything fancy. I just wanted to go fast.

There were two popular dealerships on my side of Los Angeles. And in the first, I found exactly what I was looking for within moments. It was red and black, in my price range, and large enough for my 6’2” frame.

That last bit is actually important. Growing up, my friend’s dad owned a Mazda Miata convertible, a car that’s roughly the same size as a tuna can. And that’s fine, if you’re a petite suburban housewife. But this guy was pushing 350 pounds, and every time he squeezed his planet-sized girth into the driver’s seat, the poor car creaked and groaned and threatened to collapse under his weight. He looked like Jabba the Hut trying to ride a rollercoaster.

Your vehicle should correspond to your size as a human. Big people drive big cars, little people drive little cars.

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Shaq shouldn’t drive a Mini; Peter Dinklage shouldn’t drive a Hummer (although, of all little people, Tyrion could best pull it off).

This concept is even more critical on a motorcycle. Because a bike is so much smaller, and the rider is outside and on top of it, the visual discrepancy can be much more pronounced. You may not casually notice this if you’re not around bikers often, but pay attention the next time you drive by a rider: there’s nothing more ridiculous looking than a tall & overweight guy on a tiny street bike.

So I, a large human, needed a bigger motorcycle. That generally costs more, but amazingly, I’d found something perfect immediately.

That’s when the stereotypical salesman walked over to chat me up like we’d known each other for years. I explained that I liked this red one, but I’d only just started looking and, honestly, this being my first motorcycle purchase, wasn’t totally sure what I was doing.

This admission of weakness triggered whatever skeezeball gene used auto salesman share, and I was immediately given the grand tour of the entire shop. Go figure, while all of these other bikes were undoubtedly nicer – I particularly liked a gray Yamaha – not a single one was as cheap as my first choice. But my tempter assured me that each and every one was worth the upcharge. “You definitely want more power, amiright?” “This one’s famous for not breaking down.” “My buddy gets so much pussy on this.”

I distinctly remember that last line marking the end of my patience, so after twenty minutes of shitty pitches, I told Biker Bro I didn’t feel like buying anything until I shopped elsewhere. Sensing his mistake and trying to salvage the sale, he lured me to his office under the auspices of giving me a card, and then threw a Hail Mary.

“What if I could get $300 off that Yamaha?”

Now, that Yamaha was already $2,000 more than I wanted to spend. And motorcycles are significantly cheaper than cars, which means two grand was a significant percentage higher than my limit. What’s more, I’d made my budget clear to the man, but that hadn’t stopped him offering.

Knowing that there was no way I could afford it, I bro’d out and said, “That super cool, man, thanks. I’ve got a little wiggle room with my budget, but I still can’t get there.”

“Let me talk to my owner real quick,” was the immediate reply. He left me in his office, staring at posters of girls in bikinis posing next to superbikes, wondering if this actually works for him. It must, or he wouldn’t be doing it now. Salesmen must regularly be able to talk people up thousands of dollars from their original budgets, elsewise he wouldn’t bother.

He returned a minute later with, as he put it, “amazing news, bro” – he’d gotten special permission to take $800 off that bike. Which, for a moment, was tempting. You can’t help it.

My mom explained this phenomenon to me years ago, one afternoon when she’d dragged me to the mall because she ‘needed’ a pair of shoes. After what felt like a century, she squealed with delight as we left the store with new black boots – which, if I recall, wasn’t even the style she’d originally been looking for.

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When I pointed out that she’d just spent the week’s budget for groceries, she explained, “But they were half-off, so it’s worth it.”

That logic is both common and ridiculous. I thanked my bro, but told him I couldn’t pull the trigger until I saw other dealerships. And besides, now I had a plan.

I drove to the second dealership, and before being waylaid by another salesman, quickly found another gray Yamaha. It was a little older, a little more beat up than the one I’d been pitched hard just half an hour before. But it was the same model and, to the cent, priced at my maximum budget.

So I quickly walked away.

I farted around the cheapest sport bikes on the lot for a while until a salesman tracked me down. Same story, different store. If possible, this guy said bro even more constantly than the first one. This is one of the downsides of south LA.

For the second time that hour, I explained what I was looking for, but this time lowered my announced spending limit by $1500. That was enough to buy the cheapest bikes on the lot, the ones we were currently standing next to, but not enough for much anything else.

This tour was, predictably, shorter. But sure enough, it focused on all the bikes that were a couple thousand dollars over my limit, including the gray Yamaha. I made a show of liking that one in particular, but moved on after a minute or so.

“So bro, what are you thinking?” To his credit, he made no mention of pussy.

“Honestly, I guess this is fine,” gesturing to a bike in my stated price range that I’d never consider purchasing. “But I may go check out some other dealers, see if they have a cheaper Yamaha.”

“Huh. Come to my office bro.”

You know where this is going. I was immediately offered a few hundred off the listed price – which, you’ll recall, I didn’t need. But I’d literally just gone through this song and dance and, sure enough, after saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ one more time, was asked what I needed to make the deal work.

Had that Yamaha for 3 years, and blew the $750 I saved on useless crap.

 

Now, I just told a very long story about vehicle shopping so I could then tell a very short story about sunglasses. Most of us don’t go out buying cars on a regular basis, of course, but when you’re abroad, nearly everything is up for negotiation, and the Yamaha trick is still my ace in the hole.

I was in Belize, and I was miserable. My one concession to style while traveling is nice sunglasses, but I’d lost both my pairs in the first month on the road. Though ‘lost’ isn’t entirely accurate – I’m convinced an older woman who’d flirted with me in San Pedro swiped my Electrics off the bar when I wasn’t looking. OK, she earns 10-out-of-10 for taste, but negative 300 for decency.

So I’d been stumbling around for days, angry and blinded by the sun. On this particularly bright day I was drinking outside a bar next to a convenience store, and that store had a sunglass stand set up outside.

Remember what I said about car size being important, and it being doubly so for motorcycles? Well it’s quadruply (totally a word) critical that sunglasses fit your face. Which is a problem for me, because my skull is the size of most moons. I wear a 7 ¾ hat – about the size of a large salad bowl. Thus average-sized glasses on my face look like T-rex’s arms: worthless, goofy, and ridiculously out of proportion.

But from my barstool, I could tell that there was one pair towards the bottom that were huge. Probably comical for a normal head, but they’d look just right on me. They were objectively terrible, with yellowish-green reflective lenses and beat-to-crap frames – a far cry from my fancy pairs of yesteryear – but you know what they say about desperate times.

I closed my tab and walked over to the shop. There were two of those spinny towers, the ones with the tiny mirrors on top, each an unorganized scramble of men’s and women’s shades spanning the entire spectrum of time and good taste. The Indian shop owner was anxious to help, and explained that the first column weren’t polarized, so everything cost $5 US. But the second column, which held my ugly ducklings, were polarized, so they went for $10.

Of course, this wasn’t life and death by any stretch – only a bit of fun, like a kid annoying it’s parents, just to see what they can get away with.

I looked through the cheap column and found something similar to what I actually wanted. Showed they guy, and he lied through his teeth: “Oh, very good sir, they frame your face!”

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“You say that to everyone, don’t you?”

He didn’t understand that response, but he did watch me put those down, go look at the more expensive glasses, and try them on with a satisfied smile. Then I put those back on the rack and, with a touch of sadness, started to walk away.

I’m a perfectly fine actor so long as the cameras aren’t on.

“Wait wait, you like these?,” he quickly called, pointing at my future pair of glasses.

“Too expensive!”

Now reaching towards the cheaper pair, “OK, these!”

“No, they’re no good. Very ugly. I only like those,” pointing to the first set.

“OK, I give you these for $8.”

“No no, I only have $5. Bye.”

“You have $6?”

“Only $5,” and not wanting to drag this out anymore, “Is $5 OK?”

“Yes yes, $5 OK”

I had to open my wallet very carefully to not show the small stack of $20s I’d just gotten out of an ATM. Afterward handing him a bill, the Indian gentleman handed me the glasses and said, “These very good, frame your face!”

He was still lying. But I saved five bucks, which I also blew on useless crap.

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photo: a street in flores, guatemala that had no business being this charming

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Malcolm Freberg
Malcolm Freberg
American writer living permanently on the road. Believes rye whiskey is superior to bourbon, Belle is the best Disney princess, and that selfie sticks should be snapped in half on sight. Hosted a travel documentary for AOL & played Survivor a few times.
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Stories from abroad by Malcolm Freberg. All the joy and scares and barely believable nonsense you can find after stepping out your front door, and some other written work besides. Gratuitous drinking mentions throughout.
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