Column Classic: The Mothership

By Lisa Scottoline

I’m a terrible negotiator. I’m too emotional, and I can’t pretend I don’t want something I really want.

Like George Clooney.

But today we’re talking cars, and this is the tale of my first attempt at negotiating.

To begin, I have an older car that I take great care of, and it’s aged better than I have, sailing past 100,000 miles without estrogen replacement.

But around 102,000 miles, things started to go wrong, and flaxseed wasn’t helping. I knew I’d be driving long distances on book tour, and I started to worry. I called up my genius assistant Laura to ask her advice, as I do before I make any important decision, like what to eat for lunch.

I asked her, “Laura, do you think I need a new car?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

“But it’s paid off, and I love it.” And I do. It’s a big white sedan called The Mothership.

“I know, but you have to be safe. What if it breaks down on tour?”

“That won’t happen.”

“Except it has. Twice.”

An excellent point. One time, The Mothership died on the way to a bookstore in Connecticut, requiring the bookseller to pick me up at a truck-stop on 1-95. I bet that never happened to James Patterson.

So, I needed a new car, and since I love my dealership, I went there. I thought they loved me, too, which they did, except when it came to the bottom line. They gave me a good deal on a new SUV, but a rock-bottom price on trading in The Mothership.

I asked, “How can you do that to her? I mean, me?”

I told you I get too emotional.

And I added, “Plus you’re supposed to love me.”

But they don’t. They run a business, and it’s not the love business. However, it’s my secret philosophy that all business is the love business, so I got angry. They had taken care of The Mothership for the past ten years, at top dollar, and it was worth so much more.

Guess what I did.

I walked out.

I took my business elsewhere. That very day, I called up another dealership, who said, come on over, we love you, too. In fact, we love you so much that we’ll give you a better deal on your trade-in. And they did, after inspecting The Mothership and calling her “the cleanest 100,000-mile car they had ever seen,” which we are.

I mean, it is.

But just when I was about to say yes, my old dealership called and told me that they still loved me. I told them I was already rebounding with my new dealership, but they said they’d top the offer on The Mothership, and after much back-and-forth, I went back to my old dealership, like ex sex.

But long story short, the day came when I was supposed to pick up my new SUV, and I felt unaccountably sad. I took final pictures of The Mothership. I stalled leaving the house. On the drive to the dealer, I called daughter Francesca and asked her, “Wanna say good-bye to the car?”

“Mom? You don’t sound happy.”

“I’m not. I love this car.”

“Aww, it’s okay. It’s probably not the car, anyway. It’s that you have such great memories in the car.”

I considered this for a minute. “No, it’s the car.”

By the time I reached the dealership, I was crying full-bore, snot included.

My sales guy came over, and when he saw me, his smile faded. “What’s the matter?”

“I love my car. I don’t want to give it up.”

“So, keep it,” he said, which was the first time it even occurred to me. I know it sounds dumb, but it simply never entered my mind. I’d never bought a car without trading one in.

“But what about the money?”

“We’re only offering you a fraction of what the car’s worth. If I were you, I’d keep it.”

“But I’m only one person. Why do I need two cars?”

“They’re two different cars. The old one’s a sedan, and the new one’s an SUV.”

I wiped my eyes. “You mean, like shoes? This is the dressy pair?”

He looked nonplussed. “Uh, right.”

“Really?” My heart leapt with happiness. I decided to keep The Mothership. It’s strappy sandals on wheels, if you follow.

Thus ended my first attempt at hardball negotiations, which backfired. Having bargained for the best price on a trade-in, I couldn’t bring myself to trade anything in.

Because I love it.

It sits in my garage, aging happily.

Soon we’ll both be antique.


Copyright © Lisa Scottoline