Talk to Allan Stark once, and you're adopted.
It doesn't matter that you're just another bargain hunter who wants to save a few bucks on an immense plasma TV or a state-of-the-art refrigerator or a hybrid Lexus SUV. Allan adopts your aims as his own. He'll negotiate the deal for you and split the savings with you fifty-fifty.
He may end up caring more about your goals, you'll discover, than you do.
He'll call to tell you trivial yet useful information.
He'll definitely call to tell you a joke.
His enthusiasm for negotiating is so contagious that, by the time you have your new flat-screen TV or refrigerator or Lexus, you'll be thinking of other big-ticket items you want to buy. You'll check your cell phone for contacts who might be in the market. When you're out shopping, you'll ask the salesperson whether he can get you a discount.
When you pick your children up at soccer practice, you'll tell them Allan's jokes (provided they're clean). And the kids will laugh - harder than they do at your jokes. They'd probably laugh even more if Allan told them the jokes himself.
By the end of my first conversation with Allan, he is inviting me to visit him in Boca Raton, Florida, offering to pick me up at the airport, and planning where we'll have lunch and dinner. "I tell you, you'll like it here," he says. "It's a garden spot. And I'm a good guy. I'll take you on a tour of the town. It'll be just like visiting your uncle Allan."
After a few conversations, I lose the ability to refer to him as Stark, the way by-the-book journalists do in their stories. I can call him only Allan.
Soon after the few conversations, he offers to introduce me to his daughters.
He adds me to his e-mail list.
He memorizes my phone numbers.
He even offers to negotiate a sweet deal for a new BMW. This is while we are chatting with Ted Levine, a sales guy at Lauderdale BMW in Pembroke Pines, Florida, a huge dealership carpeted with shiny new luxury cars, each sparkling hood reflecting the Florida palms and blue sky overhead. Lauderdale moves more BMWs a year than any other dealership in the United States. Since Allan started Negotiate4U in October 2005, he's put two clients into Lauderdale's BMWs, both through Levine.
Levine explains why he likes dealing with Allan more than selling a car directly to a Josephine Consumer like me. "When I deal with Allan, I don't have to worry about a customer running store to store," he says. "I don't have to spend time explaining. I don't get annoyed because he won't take no for an answer."
"Once Ted says to me, 'That's it,' that's all I have to hear," Allan says. "He'll never hear me say, 'Oh, come on, Ted!'?"
"Exactly. Customers never give up," says Levine. "They want something below cost. Even below cost isn't enough."
Then Allan suggests that perhaps I need a new BMW. I demur. "Not on a writer's salary."
"I can get you into a brand-new one for as low as $529 a month," Levine says.
"How about $519 a month?" Allan says.
I promise them both that, when I want to buy a BMW, I'll give them a call. "But I do live in Texas," I remind them.