When I retired, I wanted to give myself a memorable gift, something special
Rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley was an expert on fantasies. Not only did he live one with his climb from obscurity to become one of the most recognizable persons in the world, but he was famous for fulfilling the fantasies of others, sometimes even total strangers.
Imagine you are Menni Person, who was window-shopping in 1975 for a brand new Cadillac at a Memphis, Tenn., dealership. She is struggling with one of the most important buying decisions of her life.
With entourage in tow, Presley walks in, plunks down $140,000 for 13 new Cadillacs for family members and employees. And, oh yes, he says pointing to Person, a woman he had never met before, throw one in for her.
For us senior citizens, Cadillac has always been the embodiment of fantasy, class and luxury. To own one was announcing to the world that you had arrived.
When I retired several years ago, I wanted to give myself a memorable gift, something special, something I have always wanted, a fantasy gift that would remind me of my satisfying and successful professional career — journalist, editor and publisher — every time I used it.
When I saw the TV ad for the Cadillac CTS, all gleaming and shiny in crystal red tint coat, I yelled out loud, “That’s it.”
A sultry-voiced woman in the ad asked provocatively: “The real question is: When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” Now, that, I thought was the essence of my fantasy.
Did I immediately run down to the local Cadillac dealership and make a deal for the $43,000 CTS? Of course not; I second-guessed myself for two months.
“This is preposterous,” I told myself. “I have a perfectly good car — a 2-year-old Chevy Malibu. But, wait a minute. We’re talking fantasy, an acknowledgment of nearly 50 years of hard work, clawing my way up the corporate ladder to the top job in my profession. Don’t I deserve something outlandish like this?
This internal debate went on for weeks. Finally, I conceded that there would be no harm in walking into the dealership, look around, get the lay of the land and have the salesperson give me a quote, which I would reject, and that would be that.
Before I did, however, I checked the Internet for the invoice price of the CTS I wanted. There were only two must-have options: the crystal red tint coat model (a $995 add-on) and a moon roof — something my son, Paul, insisted I needed — (a $900 addition). With tax and destination charges, this would up the price to nearly $44,000.
I calculated dealer incentives, the amount in my GM credit card cashback account and a fantasy amount I wanted in trade for my Chevy Malibu. I was sure that my outlandish demands for the trade-in would be a deal-breaker, even if we got that far.
When I left home, I never told my wife, Marie, where I was going. After all, I was only going window-shopping. No use getting her upset with my fantasy that was unlikely to be fulfilled, at least not that day. And, who knows, maybe an Elvis type might pop in while I was looking and say, “Oh, by the way, throw one in for that bald guy over there — the one salivating over that red CTS.”
Salesperson Bob Blum met me at the door and told me to visualize myself behind the wheel of this beauty. I was turned on, but I played it cool and nonchalant. He insisted that I take her for a test drive. During the next 20 minutes, my heart was pounding; I was in love.
When we returned to the showroom, Bob and I started what turned out to be nearly three hours of negotiations. The model I test drove included my mandated options, plus a $3,350 “Performance Collection.” With generous manufacturer and dealer rebates, I was staring at a $43,000 car, including sales tax.
Next, I told Blum what I wanted for my Malibu. He looked up the car in the Blue Book, the dealer’s bible for used-car values. He gulped hard when he saw the gap between the Blue Book quote and what I wanted for my car. I told him my demand for the trade was non-negotiable — take it or leave it. Don’t forget: I had no intention of buying a car that day.
“Let me see what I can do,” he said dejectedly as he went to the sales manager’s office. He came back with an offer that was $2,500 less than my demand. Well, that’s that, I thought. I thanked Blum for his time and started to get up to leave. “Wait a minute,” he said. “Let’s compromise,” he suggested. No, I told him. I would not budge.
“Let me make one more try,” he begged. Off he went to see the sales manager again. About 10 minutes later, he returned. He quoted a number that was $1,500 less than what I wanted — a $1,000 increase over the original trade offer. I rejected it immediately and, again, started to get up to leave.
Blum suggested that the sales manager — Dave Mancinelli — talk to me directly. Fine, I said, thinking “talk is cheap.”
Mancinelli bounced into the room, shook my hand, and asked me for my rock-bottom number for my Malibu. I told him the same thing that I told Blum and advised him to take it or leave it.
“Can’t do it,” Mancinelli said. “I can throw in maybe another $500,” he added. Now, we were $1,000 apart. Again, I started to get up. “Give me a second,”Mancinelli said, as he started scribbling numbers on a notepad.
“I can add another $500 but not a penny more,” he finally said after about five minutes of calculations. As I started to leave, he flipped the pen into the air. “OK, OK,” he said. “I have some top-secret incentives I can use for occasions like this, so I am going to use two to get us together,” he said.
I couldn’t believe it. I was going to walk out of the dealership as the owner of my fantasy car with terms I dictated and — get this — no interest financing for 60 months.
I have been driving my CTS for nearly two years, and, yes, just in case you are wondering: It still turns me on every time I drive her.