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Pretty Pleas to the Purchasing Department

By November 16, 2021Energy Rant
Used Cars and the Energy Industry

I have a lot of gray hair. It’s a little frightening to see the age setting in when I see myself on video, but the years of wisdom from living life are nice because I’ve had the midlife crisis (20-some years ago), and I have learned to roll with things easily. Don’t confuse that with being intense as hell and unyielding on a few straightforward business and personal standards.

One of the things I’ve learned is that if a person’s mission is to earn as much salary as possible, they should switch jobs every three to four years (red flag) and do something substantial at each so they can put it on their resume. This is not my MO, as I’ve been at Michaels for about 26 years. I’ve always been passionate about building things. I’m a committed, stubborn SOB, as I shared and chuckled with my former college neighbor recently. The dollars have always fallen in line naturally as a result.

Similarly, if a person wants a low cost, expect low quality. For example, the cheapest thing in the meat department that I’ve seen is a 79-cent package of turkey hotdogs. I use hotdogs to win over dogs, but I decided to use upscale Oscar Meyer over those turkey things because of the goo that sticks to the knife when I slice the turkey dogs. Eeew!

Tales of Used Cars

Who enjoys buying cars, with the haggling, wrangling, games, and BS that comes with it? When I bought my VW Golf GTI and spent too much on it, I had a crummy experience and will never go back to that dealer. To start, half of what the “sales specialist” told me was incorrect. For example, there is no two-door version. Wrong! (Although they may have dropped the option since then.) It doesn’t have hill hold for starting up a steep grade (manual transmission). Wrong! By the way, this is the car that I don’t know how to turn off the radio, so I simply turn the volume to zero. The former owner has the owner’s manual tagged and flagged with notes. Really? That’s too complex for me.

The second issue was around price. Car dealers always set the price higher than what it sells for. Why? It’s a game no one likes. But the biggest thing I’ve learned in this experience is to settle on a price for the trade-in if it’s more than nothing. I didn’t do this. I was emotionally hooked to the deal at that point and screwed myself out of $4k. If your car has any trade-in value, I suggest getting any apparent issues, like a check engine light, fixed first. “Well, that could be really major. One time… blah, blah, blah, we had to replace the engine, blah, blah, blah”. That was BS, and I should have walked away.

The final kick in the midsection was that I purchased some type of maintenance package. Normally, I’d never do that, but this one came with an endless supply of car wash cards – four per month. I just needed to stop by the store to listen to their oozing babble every month. Ok. I could do that. As soon as I “got my money back” on cards, they claimed that their convenience store partner, Kwik Trip, reneged on the deal. I didn’t buy that for a second.

Because of my miserable experience at the car dealership, I’ll never be back.

Utility Purchasing Takes Used Car Strategy

Unfortunately, some utility purchasing agencies have taken a page from the used car department. It’s a reverse purchasing game that car dealers deploy when we buy cars. “We like your proposal for the fresh-smelling sports sedan with leather seats, but your price is 20% higher than the rusted Corsica with ketchup and mustard stains in the back seat – the competition’s offering.”

What do we do next time? Enter the used car sales arena. Options include marking up the price ten percent on the front end to have room for a discount or stripping options like the entertainment center, turbo and aftercooler, heated seats, and air conditioning. Or, if it’s an EV, downshift from a 300-mile battery to a 200-mile battery. This is awful because the customer suffers in these decisions. Features and experience come with a price.

On that note, professional services in our industry are the furthest from buying products or systems. We’re not selling transmission systems or peaking power plants that come with massive planning documents, specifications, and performance requirements. We’re not even selling auto repairs or dry cleaning. We are selling the invisible – experiences, relationships, and assistance for whatever customers need.

Please. Let’s consider and put the customer at the front of the conversation so we can negotiate price AND service.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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