The title of the post is a bit misleading since the savings occur not so much to my negotiating savvy as to a momentary hesitation and near-tears panic…
I’ve been challenging myself to negotiate for discounts (or Just Ask!) in all situations. Nowhere is this more important than car repairs. As I was leaving work on Friday, my car stalled. AAA towed me to a nearby mechanic. After an hour of diagnostics, they determined that the problem was a faulty computer, or ECM, that affects 2005-2007 Corollas. There is a technical service bulletin for a free replacement of this part as long as it is still under warranty; if you’re unfortunate to experience this issue after the warranty period, you’re screwed. Toyota has kept this issue hush-hush despite the fact that the stalling can occur while the car is in motion!
When the mechanic showed me the technical bulletin, he quoted me a price of approximately $1,000. The ECM itself is $788 plus labor and taxes. At this point, my recollection of events is a bit blurry. I became upset about the $1,000 price tag. I remember getting indignant about the pricing since the problem is clearly a defective product. I blurted something about not being able to afford this and having to call AAA to tow the car again. My parents live nearby and I figure I could get their advice and buy some time to make a decision. At my hesitation, the mechanic said he’ll check again. After 1 minute, he returned and said that the repair should be covered under warranty and that I can get it fixed for free at a dealership. I’m happy he told me BUT I was thisclose to authorizing the repair. If not for my hesitation, or what I would like to call my “Just Cry” moment, I may have been on the hook for an expensive under-warranty repair!
The car was repaired by the dealership and is now working fine. Unfortunately, the ECM issue has happened to me before on the same car. This is something that is supposed to be a simple one-time fix so now I have to write some letters to Toyota headquarters and document the situation in order to protect myself (and warn others).
I guess the moral of the story is that even at your weakest moments, hesitation is a powerful negotiating tool. I guess the near-tears tactic may not work if you’re a burly male but I’m an average-looking older female so you don’t have to be a cute young woman either. And it helps that I was not faking my distress.