Jason Keil

Jason Keil is a writer whose work has been published in the Phoenix New Times, AZCentral.com, Phoenix Magazine, and OnMilwaukee.com. He also co-hosts the podcast What The Fork.

Fatherhood: Week Eight - My Son, The Bargaining Chip

I used my newborn to get a deal on a car.

I know my wife would have rather stayed home on a hot Phoenix evening, but I requested she join me to shop for our family’s second car. Since she would be driving the automobile most of the time to take our son to and from daycare and work, it was important to me that she took a test drive. If our son Beckett started crying, then we could bolt when the deal started going south. It was a foolproof plan.

In a former life, I sold cars (or attempted to). I couldn’t hack it. You are simply the person who tries to explain why the car the customer is looking at is the one they want. The salesman is the voice of reason while the customer has to endure all sorts of douchery from the sales manager and finance team. I never did anything dishonest, but saw myself walking down a slippery slope. On the plus side, I did learn a few lessons about selling tactics and I was prepared to use them against the dealership.

“Your life sure has changed drastically,” said the kindly older salesman with a nod toward the baby as he waited anxiously for us to get out of our car when we arrived.

He didn’t lay on too much pressure when we started talking. All we had to do was tell him the inventory number of the car we had researched online and we were on the road. I let my wife drive first while I stayed behind. My son won the love and attention of the staff and customers that walked by him. 

He took a turn for the cranky upon my return from my own test drive, which could only work in my favor as we started talking numbers. I knew exactly what I wanted to pay, but the salesman, speaking on behalf of his sales manager, was reluctant to give it to me. They claimed the price I had seen on their website would mean they were selling at a loss. I stuck to my guns and said we were headed out. My wife was tired and my son was hungry.

The sales manager then made his appearance. I have never encountered a sales manager who didn’t have gelled-up spiked hair, a goatee, a good suit matched with a bad tie, and a fast mouth. You’d think there was a factory where they molded all the assholes in the same image. 

He argued with me about a few hundred dollars, as if I were being the unreasonable one. While he made some good points, I tried to hold my ground as the cries coming from my nearly two month old kid were becoming audible. 

I said, “If you can’t go any lower, then I have to leave. My son is tired and hungry.”

The sales manager eventually caved and lowered the price a few hundred more after he got approval from “the owner.”  

I didn’t get exactly the price I wanted. Let’s just say I wanted a Bernie Sanders deal, but I ended up settling for Hillary Clinton instead. Now my wife could go home to get our son ready for bed while I dealt with the pushy finance guy on my own. I wish I had her around to be a second set of ears (and a BS monitor), but I once again stood my ground during his pushy pitch to sell me extras I did not need. Another good tip when buying a car: have your financing ready before you go (we did). 

So, should I feel a little remorseful that I tried using my son as a bargaining chip to make the second biggest purchase my family will make? 

If I am being honest, I have some regret about it. I didn’t outright exploit my child, but I know my wife would have rather been home where she could have tended to our son’s needs in a more ideal environment. Yet we have considered ourselves a team since we were married. Maybe it was too soon, but I guess I felt it was time for our little man to join in a fun team-building exercise.

I cannot shake the feeling that we reek of helplessness and desperation as the caretakers of this little person. Since he was born, we have been the recipients of the kindness of strangers whose hearts are melted by our son’s big eyes and adorable face. We’ve enjoyed everything from lovely conversation, unwanted advice, and free meals because we are new parents. I was raised to be self-sufficient. I am not supposed to rely on the kindness of the wonderful strangers we encounter when leaving the house and I feel guilty when accepting their generosity.

I know there are times when I should put my pride on the shelf, but I secretly wish I were capable of getting what we want and need through confidence and hard work. My son may have my smile, but I don’t want to use it to get floor mats. Do people just feel sorry for us because we look powerless when our son cries in public, or do they want to relive their child-rearing years through us, if only for a few minutes? 

I can’t answer the question, but the answer helped us get a second car at a reasonable price. With as hard as my son worked to save us money, maybe we can add to that college fund we’re starting for him. That would help ease my guilt.