Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Waiting Game - Please Wait!

Making you wait is often a means of establishing power in a relationship.

I have noted before that in many transactions, making the customer wait is part of the strategy used by the salesperson to establish power in the relationship and also get a client to "invest" time in the process, so they are less and less likely to walk away from a deal.

For example, the car dealership can take hours to sell you a car - five or more. Many folks report leaving the dealership at nearly midnight, long after it was closed.  My neighbor went to the car dealer, young children in tow (big mistake) to buy a convertible.  Eight hours later, they come home with a station wagon, two cranky children, and two clearly upset, low-blood-sugar parents.
"The thing about car dealers is they seem to like to keep you waiting. Later, I would find out how important it is for the salespeople to feel they are controlling the customer. If you are waiting for them they must be controlling you. This obsession with control extended to job applicants too. "  -- Confessions of a Car Salesman
And that is part and parcel of the game.   The average person's blood sugar levels will plummet within an hour or two of eating - which is why a small between-meal snack of about 100 calories is a good idea, at about 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon.   (In the old days, they said to lose weight to "cut out the in-between meal snacks" - this was really bad advice, as by the time mealtime rolled around, you would be starving, and over-eat).   Salesmen know this, and know that if your blood sugar is low and you are dehydrated, you are more pliable and easier to "sell" on a new car or hot tub.

In a personal experience, a car dealer tried to play this game on me, dragging out the process until everyone had gone home, and then tried jacking the price on the car.  When I asked for my "good faith money" check back, they claimed it was locked in the safe and the office manager had gone home, but that they would not cash it.  Guess what they did?

Making you wait has so many advantages for the salesman, and none for the customer. And pretty much, the more odious a deal, the longer they are going to make you wait.

I recounted in Buying Eyeglasses, how a chain store made us wait nearly three hours, before pitching us on spending $2400 on glasses - four hundred dollars apiece, for three pairs each!  We ended up buying two pairs each, at BJ's Wholesale, no waiting, for four hundred dollars total.  The waiting is essential for the salesman to make the closing work.  When people "invest" time in a deal, they get impatient and say, "Yea, whatever, make it happen!" and sign whatever you put in front of them.

And while we were waiting, what were the salespeople doing?  Talking on their cell phones, talking to each other, going to the restroom, tidying up displays - basically just killing time so we would have to wait.  And that pretty much is the plan.  When the car salesman says, "Well, I'll have to check with my boss on this!" and leaves for a half-hour, you know they are just shooting the shit in there, and not discussing your car deal.

I recounted in Problem Clients how I had a client who always demanded to speak to me immediately, whereas when I called him, he was never available, but his secretary would take a message (he was too important for voicemail!)  And when he called me, his secretary would call, get me on the line and say "Hold for Mr. Smith, please!"

It was all posturing, all a smokescreen, and guess what?  He turned out to be a con artist.  I walked away from that client - and he gave me full warning, with his games, what he was up to.

Waiting is power.  When you wait for someone else, the normative cue is, they are important and their time is important.  You, on the other hand, are unimportant, and your time is worthless. Before you even shake hands with the salesman, this normative cue has been established, and it is very, very hard to unwind this, once it has occurred.   You have basically surrendered before the battle has even started!

Now granted, there are times in life you have to wait for things.  You have to wait for a bus, or wait for a cab.  You have to wait your turn.   And for some busy professionals, like Doctors, whose time really is valuable (and no one wants to pay for) it makes more sense to have a "buffer" of patients, so the doctor has no downtime between appointments. After all, we all want medical care to be as efficient as possible, right?

A doctor, yes.  I can see that.   A car salesman?   A eyeglass salesperson?  Uh, no.

Being made to wait is not just annoying.  In fact, if you are getting annoyed, you are falling into the trap.   Because once you get annoyed, you stop thinking rationally and start thinking emotionally.   And they can use this against you to sell you crap.

No, waiting is more than just annoying, it is a sign that maybe something it up.  So, the next time someone trying to sell you something makes you wait for long periods of time (more than 15 minutes) then ask yourself why.  After all, it is you who has the pile of money that they want, not the other way around. Unnecessary waiting is like police tape around a bad deal, just as loud ads are (and guess what?  The people with the loud ads are the ones who will make you wait!).

Just quietly get up and leave - and don't let them persuade you to come back - because if you do, you've surrendered twice.  Chances are, if you think about it, whatever it is they are trying to sell you, you don't really need or want.  And maybe the time you spend waiting is a good time to think about maybe just walking away from the whole idea.

And you'd think that this waiting game would backfire in a big way - after all, if you make people wait long enough, they would eventually get fed up and leave.   You'd think that - but you would be wrong.

Say that Joe and Harriet Homeowner go to the car dealer to buy a new Camry.  They are shuffled around and made to wait hours, at each step of the process.  Just when they think the deal is finalized, there is some other manager who has to "sign off" on the deal, and each time, the price goes slightly higher.

Disgusted, Joe and Harriet leave - after all, it has been nearly four hours, already!  But the salesman intercepts them in the parking lot before they get into their car.  He is so sorry for all the delays, and offers to give them free floor mats as a consolation!  (the floor mats, of course, come with the car).  Joe says "no dice" but then realizes his car is missing and he can't leave.

The salesman explains that his "trade" has been taken over to their trade-in lot, an off-site location that is now locked up and the only person with a key has gone home.  Harriet says, "why not give this young man a chance, honey?  After all - free floormats!"

And they drag them back in, and give them the bad news - the deal can't be made to "work" and the cost goes up another $500, or their "credit score" is too low and they don't qualify for 2.9% financing.  But they can get them financing at 12.5% for sure!

Utterly worn down and beaten, Joe and Harriet sign whatever is put in front of them.

So the secret to winning The Waiting Game is to get out early - or not play at all.  Almost everything sold this way is a rip-off anyway. Joe and Harriet would be better off buying their neighbor's used Camry for thousands less - and financing it through their Credit Union - or better yet, paying cash.

And if you absolutely must buy a brand new car (I do not recommend this) you can price these things online and even buy online, in may cases.  However, don't act shocked when you get there and find that the internet price has changed for some reason, and you are still made to wait for three hours.

Yea, you really can't win The Waiting Game so don't play is my only advice.  When you are made to wait for something you don't really need in life then just walk away - or you'll be playing the crying game, soon!