Reflections: The Red Light – Part One

2013-07-04 George-by-Trent-Ernst-001George Rowe

I had just come out of Bible College, went to a small rural community in Central NL and accepted my first church as a brand new pastor. My wife and I were married for just over two years and now would face some great challenges—one of which was a vehicle. We needed transportation and money was at a minimum.

My father-in-law Jim, worked as a mechanic at a local Dodge dealership and he knew a great deal about the mechanical condition and the fair value for cars. I spoke with Jim and explained our need and asked if he could check things out for me at the Dodge dealership.

Just a few days later I was informed that the dealership had a 1966 Dodge Monaco. It was in excellent condition with a slant six engine and a recent paint job. If I played my cards right I might get it for a reasonable price. Remember, we are talking about almost forty-five years ago.

I had a long chat with my father-in-law and explained to him that regardless of the price of the vehicle, the maximum I could pay would be four hundred dollars. He simply smiled and said, “You go in there and negotiate the firmest deal possible. Don’t let any salesman give you the run around. If four-hundred dollars is all you have, then four-hundred dollars is all you offer.” I felt good. My father-in-law believed that I could bargain a good deal and I would not disappoint him or myself.

I went to the dealership and sure enough I found myself looking at a beautiful, bright red Dodge Monaco that was in excellent condition. I figured it must be worth up towards a thousand dollars and I had no idea how I was going to negotiate a price of just four-hundred. Yes sir, I was prepared to bargain hard and not give an inch. In the meantime my father-in-law is working at the Dodge mechanical shop adjacent to the sales lot.

I approached a salesman and he gave me the regular run down on the vehicle. You know: low mileage, gas efficiency, new tires, a recent paint job and an automatic transmission, whatever that meant.

I was completely mesmerized by the fluidity of his speech and his manicured sales pitch. “Sir,” said the salesmen, you can have this great vehicle for just five-hundred and fifty dollars. Yes sir, for that amount of money your friends will be in awe and this vehicle will make you look like you have lots of money.”

“A great looking car,” I thought to myself, “but I only have four-hundred dollars and four-hundred dollars is all you are going to get regardless of your sales pitch. My friends might think that I have lots of money but I will be completely broke. In fact, I’ll not have enough money to put gas in the thing.”

I knew I had to be aggressive and decisive. I was not prepared to pay any asking price above what I was holding in my pocket. No sir. I’m going to show my aggressive spirit and after some further small talk I stood before the salesmen, squared my shoulders, set my jay firmly as if I was about to manhandle a bear and said, almost shouting, “Sir, I love the car.” He smiled. “It is perfect for us. I just want you to know that I drive a hard bargain and there is no way I’m prepared to pay your asking price.”

He stood back a little, paused for a moment and was about to say something when I blurted out my offer with such force that spittle spray almost reached his face. I quickly reached into my pocked and whipped out the four-hundred dollars in cash and said with a great deal of emphasis and pride. “Four-hundred dollars. Take it or leave it.” He was about to speak again and I said, “No further negotiations. Four-hundred dollars is my first and final offer.” I felt so proud. There was a silent moment of awkwardness but I know I won the battle and this big, beautiful Dodge Monaco would be mine. Yes sir!

Shaking my hand he said, “Congratulations! You really do know how to drive a hard bargain. People like you could put our dealership out of business. I’m glad there’s not a lot like you out there. However, I just want you to know that your father-in-law touched base with me yesterday and alerted me that you and your wife would be here today and he warned me about your ability to negotiate. On your behalf he negotiated a price of just three-hundred and fifty dollars. If you could drop your offer to that price, then we will sign the papers.”

I just about hit the floor. They are prepared to take less money that I offered? For the next twenty minutes very few words were spoken as we finished the paper work. I knew that both my wife and the salesmen wanted to give a thunderous laugh and passing me the final papers he simply said, “Enjoy your car and make sure you say ‘Hi’ to Jim.”

I wanted so much to impress my father-in-law with my ability to bargain basement low prices but my thunder had long sense passed. I enjoyed the wonderful ride from Grand Falls to Point Leamington but I was preoccupied with what I was going to say to Mr. Thompson. I was feeling silly and embarrassed with my wife’s snickering and small time jokes not helping.

By the time we left Grand Falls, Jim had already gone home to Point Leamington and I’m sure he just couldn’t wait for me to pull into the driveway.

The moment I stopped he ran out toward my Dodge Monaco for his make believe inspection. He smiled. He kept on smiling. He sat in the seat and then turned the ignition. “Nice sound,” he said. As if he hadn’t heard it before. He then gets out and casually lifts the hood to inspect the engine. He is still smiling. No conversation between us. “Nice engine,” he said. “Really clean.” Still no response from me. “Did you drive a hard bargain,” he asked? I knew he had me. I refused to answer.

This time his smile turned into a thunderous laugh and catching his breath he said, “Three-hundred and fifty dollars. I knew you would drive a hard bargain.” While my spirit felt a little cloudy, I knew that the sun is always shining.