The Choice To Walk Away and Negotiate Elsewhere (aka my Car Buying Experience)


Leah CevoliI recently bought a new car. It’s brand new.

This was a big experience for me. It’s the first time in my adult life that I purchased a new car from a sales rep that was not my friend, and did not have any family/friends with me. In California, my friend Riki Valentine (former Tour Manager/Personal Assistant to Bret Michaels), had gone into the car business and took care of me. Since moving to LA, Riki has sold me my last 3 cars.

Now, buying a car takes a lot of negotiations and paperwork, but with Riki by my side, I just supplied him with the information needed and trusted that he was getting me the best deal at the time, based on numerous circumstances like job history, pay stubs, and credit.   And as a newbie actress in this town, there wasn’t a lot of that information to provide, but somehow Riki always got the deal done.

This time around I’m on my own and I needed a car immediately. My little car was deemed unsafe to drive and the repairs were the same cost as the worth of the car (@ $3000), so it was time for Leah to walk into a car dealer on her own and get a car. Now the good news is, I was walking in knowing that my credit is now strong, my bank accounts prove a stable income, and I was pre-approved for a car loan online. All I had to do was walk into the dealership, test-drive a few cars and pick one out. Right?!

Turns out it wasn’t that easy.  I went to the Honda dealer, as I was hoping to stay in the same family. I had been happy with my Honda Insight, and very happy with the service department there. Plus, the week prior I had gotten an email from Robertson Honda that they were in need of used cars like mine, and would get me the best friends and family deal on my new purchase. No brainer, right? I had multiple emails back and forth with the woman in the finance department, and she was excited to meet me and get me rolling. What happened instead was, since I was an “easy sale”, and I really was determined to not end the day without a new suv; the finance woman, who was very nice, handed me over to the NEW GUY.

After FOUR hours, 3 test-drives, multiple texts with family members, barely a negotiation from this guy, and not even an offer of water to drink, I finally asked for my keys back (they had been holding them since I was trading in my car) and said I was leaving.   Only at this point, did the head sales guy come over and within seconds, he listened to my wants, needs, and budget, and came up with numbers that were much closer to what I wanted.  We finally had a good deal on the table, but I felt so drained, and so unimportant, I mean I had spent 4 hours while the original salesman had to keep going back and forth to his supervisors to give me any answer whatsoever, because he was so brand new he had no answers.

I got up to leave, and the main guy made one last offer, it was a good offer, on the car I wanted, the first one we had test-drove. A part of me really wanted to say yes, but my pride was hurt. I stated that I was going to take a dinner break, and come back and get the car after dinner.

Instead, I drove over to Kia of Glendale. I pulled up and a female saleswoman introduced herself. I told her how my day had gone, and that I had a great offer on the table. She replied, “You have an offer, I have to beat it. You are not leaving here without a car.”

And I didn’t. She listened to what I wanted. She explained things, the other guy hadn’t, she came up with ideas, and she really sold me on the car, and all while making me feel appreciated and heard. And I drove home with my new car.

Leah and new car

Okay, so how does this relate to the entertainment industry?!  Ready for this?

See, I was prepared when I went into the first dealership. My credit is good, my loan was pre-approved, I even had a trade-in vehicle, and a past-history with the dealership, yet no deal was made.  Was it me? Did I not know how to play this game? No, remember I’m prepared, and an easy sale! Plus, I had watched my friend Riki work deal after deal for me when I had no credit, savings, or proof of income years prior. The salesman was unmotivated, inexperienced, and frankly didn’t seem like he wanted to be there doing that job. It left me feeling unheard and unappreciated. Yet, an hour later, at another dealership, and BOOM, things are happening, things are moving along, we’re taking photos, making jokes, becoming Facebook friends, and I drove away with a brand new car.

How many times do we go into a casting or a meeting totally prepared, with all of the right criteria, resume, pitch packet etc., and yet something doesn’t click and we don’t get cast, or the deal falls thru? How many times, do we think, it must have been something I said (or didn’t say). Or, man, I didn’t say that line the way I wanted to. I meant to say it in a whisper, and instead I kind of yelled it.

Guess what? Maybe, just maybe, the casting director, the investor, whomever, was behaving (or having a bad day), just like my original sales guy. Nothing you presented them with, was going to make things go any smoother or click into place, because they’re off in unmotivated/uninterested land.   Yet, the exact same audition, information, pitch, to another person, 10 minutes later WILL get you the job.

Driving home that night, I couldn’t help but think of all of the many auditions and meetings I’ve taken over the year; things that I had poured my heart into, things I was so prepared for, right for, and yet didn’t get the job and somehow let that leave me feeling inadequate, when in fact, it just wasn’t a match.

Or how many times, have we forced a project or business relationship, even though something felt a little off… When in fact, the best thing may be to get up and walk out, like I did at the Honda dealer, because the very next meeting, may be the one that allows us to feel fulfilled, heard, appreciated, AND a great deal on a shiny new car, I mean project. Stand in your power. Know what you bring to the table. And if the person or persons you’re dealing with can’t see that, don’t respect that, aren’t willing to negotiate… Walk Out. The right one is just around the corner.

Oh, and if you are looking for a new car, I highly recommend Karen at Kia of Glendale. Tell her I sent you!