You can call it haggling, dickering, bargaining, or whatever you want; but negotiating gives me purpose.
And sadly, it is becoming a dying art.
Time and time again friends will say they don’t feel comfortable negotiating a price. They just pay whatever is being asked.
A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new car and managed to get $8,000 knocked off the sticker price. To me, that’s enough money to warrant an hour at the negotiating table even if you don’t particularly like it.
But I love it.
I was brought up in a home where negotiating prices was not just an act of frugality but an art form, a point of pride.
I remember when I was a young reporter in the Quad-Cities with a postage stamp yard and a need for a lawnmower.
I told my grandfather to keep an eye out for me at yard sales. A week later he called me up and said he found an old manual reel mower. The owner wanted 50 cents, but Grandpa said he talked her down to 25.
Yep, that’s my family. A price tag is just a starting point.
I’ve bought shoes, exercise equipment, hardware, a piano, and clothing using this technique.
More businesses are refusing to negotiate. That’s ok. Others will. Recently, my nephew recruited me to help him buy a used car. We made an offer at the first dealership we went to and the salesman said, “No.” I asked if he would at least run the offer by his sales manager. Nope. How about a counteroffer? Not interested.
In a rather imperious tone, he told us his only job was to make sure we were “happy.”
We went to a competing dealer and made a purchase for $2,000 less for a comparable model. (I’ll let you in on a secret: the salesman at the second dealership made us a whole lot happier than the fellow who said our “happiness” was his only concern.)
When on vacation, I’ll find an area with several motels side by side, and then I’ll go from front desk to front desk and dicker. I often can get more than 50 percent knocked off the room rate doing this.
Remember, a hotel earns nothing off a room that sits empty. So, 50 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing.
My wife, by the way, finds this whole process unseemly and stays in the car while I haggle. Sadly, her reaction is not uncommon.
“Girls are taught to be nice and not to talk about money,” said Elizabeth Austin, co-author of “The Good Girl’s Guide to Negotiating.”
“Unfortunately, when a woman negotiates for a higher salary, she is more likely to be called ‘pushy.’ When a man does it, people will say things like, ‘Look at how much value he’s bringing to the organization.’”
Girls are also often taught not to be confrontational and to be more empathetic to the opposing party, she added.
My father had me sit through I don’t know how many sessions where he negotiated the price of farm equipment, cars, or who knows what else. I learned through observation.
But failure also is a good teacher.
In 2017, I launched, Suspect Convictions, a major podcast, and hired a firm to sell advertising — after I negotiated down their sales commission.
The result? The salesforce devoted themselves to selling higher commission projects and made mine a lower priority. In hindsight, I believe I would have brought in much more revenue if I had been more generous on the front end.
The lesson? Drive a hard bargain when negotiating the price of a tangible product but if it is a service, it helps if you put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Scott Reeder is a veteran Illinois statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.