Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Are You A Winner Or A Loser?

Disclaimer: This article is going to seem like a commercial for Carmax, but my purpose is to encourage those who have incorrectly been labeled “losers” and suggest that winning can happen without winning at someone else's expense where we have a champion who competes for us. Carmax here is just used as an example. They are not the only dealership of their kind. They are simply the one I am familiar with.

I haven’t been able to verify this, but I have an inside source that indicates that used car prices are higher in cities that have a Carmax dealership. In the event that you are unaware of Carmax’ touted operational distinctive, they advertise no-haggle no-pressure sales, explicit levels of quality of reconditioned used cars backed by warranties, and competitive financing. I’ve bought my last three vehicles from Carmax. You would think I’d go where I can find similar value for prices I could haggle lower than at Carmax. The problem is, I’m awful at haggling.

The kids’ soccer season is coming to a close. All three of my kids show signs of my apparent "disease". I’m not aggressive. Neither are they. I have a very long fuse, but make me angry and I turn into the incredible Hulk: someone is going to get hurt. My step-brother is the only person who has been able to best me and that’s only when I was fighting someone else and he used his body weight to hold me down until I cooled off. He never won fighting me directly. But don’t rile me and I’m not inclined to push myself on anyone. For my kids, they’ve spent more times than not on the bench. They’re not aggressive and consequently not very competitive.

Hope has had the best… well… hope. She has wanted to play forward, but the coach kept her on defense all season. She begged him and he denied her. So I told her she had to work at being aggressive on the field. She finally did and the coach offered to play her on offense in the last game. She did so well her first time out at it that the coach sent her in another time or two that same game. She did better than some of the other kids who had played offense several times before. But she had to try to be aggressive.

There’s a sense in which there are winners and losers. I’m certainly in favor of objective grading in education for example. Either you learn the material or you don’t. Don’t compare me against other students using subjective grading unless you want to teach me to always compare myself to others. But there’s the rub. Competition IS comparison. Objective education is comparison only against the material. As it is, we have schools passing kids who have neither mastered the material nor bested their peers.

Incidentally, there’s a Christian therapeutic admonition not to compare oneself to others. I’ve noticed that this is often made by those Christians who are very competitive. (The winner telling the loser not to be a winner.) Since competition is comparison, this is a very odd admonition. Read Psalms. There’s plenty of comparison there. God, however, is the great equalizer. All competition is comparison, but not all comparison is competition. So compare, but don’t compete. Run the race as though to win, but rely on Christ for the victory.

However, in the “real world” competition is the stuff good economies are made of. It’s also the stuff interpersonal relationships are often made of, for good or for ill. But that’s another discussion. Most people seem impressed with aggression for some reason that escapes me.

Despite the revelation that Carmax tends to raise the price of used cars, it competes for those like myself who lack the interpersonal aggression necessary to haggle effectively. In the world of haggle, there are the winners and the losers. Dealerships can track and plan their median sales prices versus their costs and plan their rebate limits accordingly to achieve a profitable balance between margin and sales goals. Those customers who are aggressive hagglers can win prices below the median price. They are the winners. But those who are not aggressive hagglers must pay prices that exceed the median price so the dealership can make the median price. These are the losers. They are essentially paying the price the winners didn’t have to pay. (Sounds kind of like grace, doesn’t it?)

While the price may be higher than the median in used car dealerships that haggle without one, Carmax actually provides lower prices for those who are not aggressive hagglers. The large quantity of cars sold by Carmax testifies as to the high number of people who may otherwise have to pay more. We get to be winners without putting our savings off on someone else and making them pick up the tab. So, next time you brag about the low price you managed to haggle, just think of who might have had to pay what you didn’t. I get a clear conscience and a car for a good value while still maintaining the honor of paying my own way in this world.

That’s a winner in my book.

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Blogger Chris Knight said...

Jim, I guess I never looked at it that way before. Good Point. It's too bad that there are enough hagglers out there that keep all dealerships from being like carmax. Many have tried and failed. Somehow carmax has suvived. It's good that they are available for the purposes you mentioned. This coming from the "Other guy" :-)

Sun Apr 19, 05:50:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

You're a winner in my book, Chris.

Sun Apr 19, 09:12:00 PM GMT-5  

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