Imagine you’re buying a car. You do some research, learn the range of prices versus features you like, and check your finances. The bus pulls up, and you hop on board to make your way down to the only dealership in town. You apparently live in a crappy, one-dealership-having town.
A large man—maybe 6’3”, 239 pounds, if you had to guess—approaches you as you exit the bus. His Chinese-made suit is ill-fitting. His Mexican-made red tie is far too long. He resembles an anthropomorphic raccoon if that raccoon were a serial sexual predator.
He rattles on and on about nonsense as you peruse the inventory. You find a car you like, and ask him about the features.
“This one is just tremendous. A lot of people are saying it’s the best car that has ever been made. Believe me, I went to the best schools. Really it’s just fantastic.”
Because you’ve dealt with car dealers before, you know he’s just doing what salesmen do when they don’t know what they’re talking about. No big deal, you already know the features of this ride, anyway. You ask him instead of the price.
“It’s a beauty, just incredible. Made in America.”
Yeah, it’s a Japanese car, made in Japan in 1998 and shipped here, but okay.
“The guy before me couldn’t get cars like this. He was a total loser.”
Okay, but what does that have to do with anything? You ask again for the price.
“A lot of people are saying this car should go for $10,000 or even $15,000. That’s because they don’t understand how to make deals. I love making deals.”
Well, let’s make one, then! What’s the price?
“Low mileage. My friend Jim owned it, and he used to drive it to the city, but it’s so sad what they’ve done down there. It’s not the city anymore. Drugs, rapists, duct-taped-women, MS-13, and MS-13’s scarier cousin, MS-14, everywhere you look. Sad!”
GOOD LORD, MAN. WHAT IS THE PRICE?!
“I can get you into this car for $3,000. You’re going to love it, believe me.”
Wow! That’s a good price for this car. You smile and reach out to shake the dealer’s hand. Deal!
He looks down, scrutinizing your extended hand.
“This car is $4,000, that’s the best I can do. Take it or leave it.”
Umm…okay, wasn’t it just $3,000 a few seconds ago? Still, honestly, $4,000 is a good price, and $3,000 seemed a little too good to be true. Deal!
The biped raccoon in a suit seems taken aback by your willingness to pay more. He’s growing certain that you must be taking advantage of him.
“$75,000, and don’t waste my time if you don’t have that kind of money. I have so many good people lined up just waiting to buy this car.”
WHAT?! This car is a 1998 sedan, and he just offered it to you at $3,000 and $4,000. You look around for another salesman, but they’re all gone. They must have left with all the “good people” who were lined up waiting to buy a 1998 automobile for $75k.
It sucks, but it seems your best course of action is to continue riding the bus until this dealership gets a new salesman. The bus is approaching, so you head toward the bus stop.
“Wait, where are you going? You can’t just walk away, we have to make a deal!”
Okay, this guy’s clearly losing his grip on reality, but screw it. Offer him $3,000, his original price.
“Don’t waste my time, okay? Buh-bye,” he says as he walks away, pulling an unwrapped Filet-o-Fish sandwich from the pocket of his topcoat. The sandwich looks huge in his tiny hands. He takes a bite, muttering with his mouth full of fried “fish” and tartar sauce, “I can’t believe I wasted my precious executive time for this.”
The days pass, and you read a blurb in the local paper: the dealership is temporarily closed. Apparently, the car dealer decided that he wouldn’t do anything at all until someone bought the 1998 Japanese-made car. Everyone who worked at the dealership is laid off. The contractors who did the landscaping and maintenance work are all sent packing.
The bus system, reliant on car dealership employees’ fares, drops down to minimal service. Restaurants and stores near the shuttered car lot suffer historic losses as much of their clientele stays home. Journalists decry the stupidity of the shutdown – sure, he needs to sell that car, but is it worth screwing over the entire town? Besides, before this stunt, he had multiple offers for that car, didn’t he?
You contemplate your next move. That happens to be the very car you want, and it seems like the nut job might be in a position to make a deal. Offer him $3,000 again, what the heck.
“I’m not taking $3,000 for this beautiful car, it’s really just tremendous. But I will reopen the dealership and give you some time to think about coming up with a deal that I can agree to. If you can’t, I’m going to close the dealership again.”
Ugh. This guy is exhausting. But hey, at least the busses, restaurants, and stores can reopen now that the dealership is back to work.
A few weeks later, you offer him $3,000. He gleefully accepts, then goes on a tweetstorm about what an amazing negotiator he is.
The problem with negotiating with someone like Donald Trump—besides the risk of getting self-tanning crème on your hands—is that he assumes everyone else is just as neurotic, corrupt, and dishonest as him.
He assumes that your good faith acceptance of his offer is proof that he’s getting screwed. Because if the roles were reversed, he’d most assuredly screw you. And if he can’t screw you on the price, he’ll make you dance for it.
And if he can’t make you dance, he’ll shut the whole thing down and blame you for being unwilling to come to the table…the very table he just flipped over.
In Trumpworld, no victory is legitimate unless it is at someone else’s expense. Someone has to lose in order for the “master dealmaker” to feel like he has made the best possible deal.
If he were a car salesman, you wouldn’t deal with him. After all, even if you could get a “good deal,” he’d make you jump through a thousand nonsensical hoops just to get there. He’d make damned sure someone lost, whether it’s you, his employees, or the businesses around him. Any rational person with a choice would view the entirety of the transaction realize the costs of doing business with him are far greater than the financial price. And they’d then make the choice to do business with someone else.
Unfortunately, at this exact moment, he’s the only salesman in town. If we want anything, barring a few exceedingly difficult workarounds, we’re stuck dealing with this guy.
The good news is: he’s embarrassingly predictable.
Our best course of action—other than waiting him out and replacing him with someone who is not a hundred pounds of horsesh*t stuffed into a fifty-pound sack—is to use his predictability against him. Understand where his considerably underreported weight is moving, and guide him in that direction…while tripping him.
Fortunately for us, and most unfortunately for Mr. Trump, Madam Speaker is a first ballot hall of famer in the world of political judo.
Get used to that up-close view of the mat, sir.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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