Rick's mouth is moving again, so I tune back in midsentence. "…while we walk, let me tell you about some great deals we have on our other line. To be honest, they're built just as well as the boat you're interested in and even share most of the same components. We've discounted all the boats in that line in a special promotion…"
"I smell a rat," interrupts Oz. "Those great deals across the board may mean he's dropping the brand. If so, good luck getting service work or warranty coverage. Stall him while I get on the horn to the manufacturer's customer service department and find out if the dealer's sticking around. Be back in a minute."
"Uh, I'll think about it," I stammer, suddenly feeling mute without the brains in my ear. "In the meantime, let's talk about the boat I came in for."
The disappointment in the sales guy's face is obvious. Still, he recovers quickly and before long we're staring at the vessel in question. True to form, Rick heads for the bottom line with little struggle, then closes in for the kill. For some reason, however, he's obsessing about my trade-in. "We can't nail down a final price until I see your current boat," he says. "What year did you say it was?"
"I didn't," I reply, wishing Oz would get back on the line.
"Well let's get some particulars," Rick continues. "After I see it, then I can give you my best deal."
"Tell him you're not sure whether you're keeping it, trading it, or selling it on your own." Ah, my inner voice has returned. "It's important to keep everything separate. Never bring trade-in values into the initial bargaining-you'll lose track of what you're paying for the new boat. Better yet, get your butt out here. I called the manufacturer and found out this guy's dumping the brand. You don't want to do business with someone like that. Besides, I'm hungry-where did you say you were taking me to dinner?"
"Uh," I stutter to Rick, "not to change the subject…but is there a McDonald's around here?" I turn and run.
STOP 2. By the second dealership, Oz and I have gotten our act together. Oz's voice is becoming my own, with no awkward pauses and no salesperson looking at me like the voices in my head are winning. I find an eager saleswoman named Stacy. We do the initial tap-dance, and she even suggests I save money by not falling in love with expensive horsepower options I might not need.
"C'mon, let's go for a test ride. I think you'll find the base engine has plenty of get up and go. And why not save a little money, right?"
"Go ahead," yawns Oz, "if you want to work on your tan-or check out hers. But before you get serious, come back with that wife and kids of yours. Bring along some gear while you're at it, too. That boat might seem like a screamer with just the two of you aboard, but load it up with your average day's worth of stuff and I guarantee it won't seem as impressive. She thinks you're looking for a bargain-then she'll see you in a year from now ready to trade up for more power."