Emotional decision-making

We all like to pretend that we make rational buying decisions. That it is the features-clearly-stated-as-benefits that makes the most impact; not that whatever it is we are contemplating purchasing comes in our favorite color. But the truth is

, all those rational things help us justify the emotional feel we get in our gut.

Thinking about this reminds me of my first car dealer buying experience. The event itself was shrouded in drama – a breakup with a boyfriend, my old car exploding in rush hour traffic in a time before cell phones, forcing a single gal in a new and unfamiliar city to rely on the kindness of strangers, not to mention having no idea where to even tell the tow truck driver to take the car. I was early twenties at the time, with no previous car-buying experience, living in Kansas City, some 500 miles from my parents in the Chicago suburbs.

The old car was determined to be unfixable and the rental car fees were growing rapidly. My father, the most rational and practical man I know, decided he had not adequately prepared me for a purchase of this capacity. He called in a few favors and ended up flying standby to Kansas City on a day’s notice to accompany me to Kansas City’s version of “The Miracle Mile,” a place where you can pretty much only purchase a car or fast food, not fancy shoes or household goods like the Chicago version.

We ended up at the Ford dealer, test-driving a 1997 silver Ford Escort LX. My dad gave me death stares and a stern, “Carrie!” when I enthusiastically kept locking and unlocking the car with the remote keychain. Apparently my clear excitement for this new-to-me feature wasn’t the “game face” my dad instructed me to have in the car on the way over.

I ended up purchasing that car, which I affectionately dubbed “The Silver Bullet.” It was an American-made car, a year old, only one previous owner, well maintained and had less than 30,000 miles. The dealership offered an excellent extended warranty program, which included free oil changes for the next three years and upgraded the radio to a tape deck before I drove off the lot. Though he believes those things to be important, my dad did not mention them when he recommended I purchase this particular car.

Instead he said, “For a small car it still has enough space around you to make me think that you’ll be safe in an accident. Plus, the car dealer automatically knocked the price down without us having to negotiate, so I feel like he’s giving us a good deal.”

It wasn’t the features-described-as-benefits that ultimately drove his decision after all. It was that when he looked at that car and interacted with representatives from that dealership, he felt confident that his favorite youngest daughter who lived hundreds of miles away was safe.

Kind of shatters the power of the extended warranty . . .

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