Misadventures in negotiation - MoneySense

Misadventures in negotiation

My powers of persuasion are directly linked to how badly I want something.



I realized over the weekend that my negotiation skills are an elusive bunch.

Properly motivated (read: excited about a purchase but strapped for cash), they provide masterful displays of cunning and guile, outwitting adversaries and leaving them mesmerized at my charm and charisma. Despite the low price paid for their product, vendors who have witnessed these skills in action report experiencing a warm afterglow, not unlike that which follows a first kiss or bungie jump. It is a magical thing to behold.

However, for the remaining 98% of my waking existence my skills stay on the couch watching Jerry Springer reruns and making jokes about each other’s moms.

Case in point: A few months ago I decided I’d get myself a flat-screen TV. I researched diligently, spoke to technophile friends and colleagues and decided exactly which model I wanted. Armed with this info, I drew up a hit list of five retailers to approach, all of which were offering the model for the same price.

Walking into the first shop, I felt my skills stirring to life as I chatted up the salesman and explained to him that this would be the easiest sale of his day if he could give me what I wanted. As if possessed by the combined spirits of the global salesman hall of fame, I quickly turned the tables on the poor guy and convinced him to sell me that TV pronto, lest I walk away with my credit card and award his competitor with my business.

It worked. Not only did I get a discount, he threw in the delivery for free.

Compare that to the sad spectacle on display over the weekend, where I sheepishly walked into my local bike shop for the third time in as many weeks to buy a bottle of chain lube. I explained to the owner that, yes, I was there to buy more lube and, yes, I’m aware that a bottle should last quite a bit longer than one week. I tried to summon my legendary skills, but at the moment of truth they were nowhere to be found. It was just me, the shop owner and a pathetic story of how I lost two $10 bottles of lube a few minutes after purchasing them.

“So how about a discount?”

For a moment, I put myself in his place and wondered how I would react. He was far more charitable than I would have been.

I handed him a $10 bill. There was no change.