A Friend to Buy for You

Annie writes in with an interesting story worth talking about a bit:

I don’t like shopping for cars at all. I always get overly nervous and want to run away and feel like I’m just getting manipulated by the dealership. I knew I needed a replacement car soon and, like you and your Pilot, I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Toyota Corolla made between 2004 and 2006. I did my research and found out what I would expect to pay for this car. What I figured would happen is that I would go to the dealerships in my area, feel really uncomfortable and get pushed into paying at least that much, if not more, and then hate myself about it for a long time.

So I came up with a different plan.

I have two friends (a couple) who are very outgoing and are quite willing to negotiate and play hardball. So I called them up and made them an offer. I told them what I wanted to pay for the car and I said I would pay them the difference if they came up with a car like I wanted that had been checked out by a mechanic and had a good Carfax report. They ended up getting exactly what I wanted for about $1,200 less than what I asked, so they got to keep the $1,200 instead of the dealer. All I did was show up at the dealership, sign a paper, write a check, and walk out with the keys. Even better, they took me out to dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate the new car.

I might not have gotten the best deal, but it wasn’t anything worse than I would have negotiated for myself. I didn’t feel awful about the purchase and the extra money went to my friends instead of to the dealership and I didn’t have to spend weeks hunting for the right model and I got a nice meal with friends out of it, too. Perhaps some of your more timid readers might find the idea useful.

I don’t see a thing wrong with this and, in fact, I applaud Annie for doing it.

Essentially, what she did was pay her friends for an incredibly useful service. She did not pay her friends $1,200 for the service, either, as she would have likely paid most of that to the dealership. She also has an experience that built a deeper bond with her friends.

Is this a good angle for many people? No. Is it a good angle for some people? Absolutely yes.

The real key to this entire story is that Annie knew herself. She knew what her strengths were (being good with money, since she saved up enough cash to buy the car she wanted, and having good friendships). She also knew what her weaknesses were (negotiating with dealers). She simply took her strengths and used them to overcome her weaknesses.

What are you good at?

Are you good at negotiating? Why not offer to accompany your more timid friends to dealerships when they go to buy a car?

Are you good at carpentry or plumbing? Are you good at preparing documents? Do you have a great deal of patience with children?

We all have virtues that make us stand out, at least a little bit. These virtues have value, whether you directly turn them into cash or not. They can be used to build up or cement close relationships with others. They can be used to barter. They can sometimes be used to earn a bit of extra money.

Here’s what it comes down to. If you have a special virtue, share it. If you’re good at negotiating, offer to negotiate for those you care about. If you’re good at carpentry, offer to help people you care about with their carpentry needs. Sometimes, as in the story above, it can even be lucrative, but usually it’s just a good step for cementing relationships.

Then, when you need something, don’t be afraid to ask for their help in return. Seek the skills of your closest friends and family members when you need them.

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