Striking the DEAL

At my house the channel du jour is the History Channel.  Mostly because of the above-pictured show, American Pickers.   I started watching because of the history angle– I was hooked by the byline “uncovering America’s history, one piece at a time.”  I watched every episode, waiting for the stars of the show to uncover some true and little-known American history.   Once in a while, they stumble across something memorable and old. . . which rates a silent-movie-like information board in the middle of the show, giving additional details.   But much of the time, they just haggle and bargain and generally try to get unique “stuff” they can sell to collectors and decorators for a lot more money than they paid.

I started out watching eagerly, but over time I’m finding my tolerance for the bargaining is wearing thin.  I mean how long can you watch two good old boys try to put one over on reclusive oldsters who should be top contestants for a spot on “Hoarders.”   I mean, really.   Some of these people are certifiable.   They live in junk yards.  Under piles of stuff that make me itch just to watch.  Bugs– there have to be bugs and spiders and bat poop in there!

I digress.  This probably wouldn’t bother me, except that the program Pawn Stars comes on right after it, and Pool Boy is crazy about that one too.  He visited the Vegas location of the featured pawn shop last month.  Bought a T-shirt.  I shake my head.  These PAWN STAR guys drive hard bargains.  Really hard.  I squirm at the deals they strike.  But then, people bring in items to sell of their own accord; nobody is holding a gun to their heads.  I have to believe the camera lights blind them to the way they’re being fleeced.   Yeah, they only got $50 for a chest of civil war maps used by none other than General Robert E. Lee, but at least they got fleeced on TV!

Maybe it’s just “bargaining” overload.

I realize that part of my discomfort rears its head out my own history.  My mother was a world class “bargainer” who actually enjoyed making an offer and striking a deal.  Whenever I watched her enter a furniture store with a gleam in her eye, I cringed inside.  The sign on the chair said $300; I figured that was the price they expected to get for it.  My mother, however, saw that sign as a posted challenge.  A gauntlet thrown in the sport of haggling.  And most of the time, she’d get that chair for 25% less than the posted price– sometimes even 50%.  I was astounded.  I was embarrassed.  I was not tempted to follow in her footsteps.

I am not a bargainer.  Just post the price and I’ll decide whether or not I want to pay it.  End of transaction.  I don’t want to have to psychoanalyze somebody and go nose to nose with them just to buy something.  And there must be lots of people who feel the same way. . . ergo the car lots who advertise “no haggle” sticker prices.   I avoid garage sales and flea markets at all costs.  I never developed the fine art of feigning only slight interest in something and offering less than I felt it was truly worth.  Of “talking something down” while the seller “talks it up.”  Of positioning myself as needing and wanting nothing.  I’m more the drool-visibly and telegraph-how-badly-I-want-something-so-that-the-seller-starts-recalculating-his-boat-down-payment type.

Real bargaining takes moxie, a poker face, and a firm conviction that you deserve to get things at your own price.  Free-market chutzpah.   Fortunately, my lack of said poker face and capitalistic acumen has not hurt me career-wise.  I hired an agent to do the haggling and “talking up” and positioning.  That’s one of the dirty little secrets of the publishing world: a book is worth exactly what somebody (anybody) is willing to pay for it.    Bargaining is the very bedrock of publishing.

Experts say there is actually very little in life that you can’t bargain for.   Houses, cars, boats, auto repairs, medical bills, lawn services, credit card interest rates, rents, home improvements, furniture, tools, major appliances, services like carpet cleaning and furnace maintenance, clothes, food, dental services, haircuts, hotel rooms, vacations. . . the list goes on and on.  Ever asked for a “case price” on wine for a celebration?  a discount on the 80 candles you ordered for a wedding?  a special price on a roof cleaning or some landscaping?  Honey, you’ve bargained.  And yes, you can even bargain for things like engagement rings and jewelry and artwork.

Come to think of it. . . I’ve “arranged” for many of those things myself. . . just didn’t consider it bargaining until now.  At least, not the kind of toe-to-toe, don’t-blink-first negotiating my mom did.   There was this one time. . . we were negotiating for a pre-owned car and wanted them to come down on the price about $700.   So I wrote down this offer for the salesman to take to his manager:  $5,151.51.  He laughed and took it to his manager, who was seen laughing through the windows of his office.  We got the car for exactly my price.

Whoa.  I guess I have been known to bargain a bit.  Only, I put my own twist on it: if I can make somebody laugh, they’ll give me a better price.   Is that a tried and true technique of the deal?  Or is it just me?


I am turning into my mother.

Are you a bargainer?   What do you like to strike a deal on?   Do you watch the “pickers” and “pawners” and think you could have gotten more?  What was your best deal EVER? Have you ever tried to bargain only to have the object of your desire get away?

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12 Responses to Striking the DEAL

  1. kylie brant says:

    I am soooo not a bargainer. I won’t even haggle in Mexico. And I like that my husband gets our cars cheaper than the listed price, but I refuse to stay in the room while he does so. I find it demeaning and embarrassing. So I’ll never be a haggler, I’m afraid!

    • Betina says:

      I know the feeling– though, since I’ve been on my own, I’ve had to learn to do more bargaining. I guess you do what you have to do. Demeaning– that’s the word. It’s like we’re afraid someone will think we don’t have the money to buy what we want or need. Even when we know better.

  2. Leanne Banks says:

    Betina, great post! I don’t watch either of those shows and I am a sometimes bargainer, although I don’t enjoy haggling. I’ve been told that the key to getting a bargain is the ability to walk away. The older I get, the more willing I am to walk away.:) Good for you getting that car for the price you wanted!

  3. Betina says:

    I agree, Leanne. I think the key IS being willing to walk away. In fact, I’ve done that. . . walked out of an auto showroom saying it was just too much. Really didn’t plan to buy the car at all. Then two days later the sales person called with. . . a fairly reasonable price– my price– and I thought about it and said yes.

    Which means. . . you get good deals on the stuff you sortof don’t need? Are probably does have something to do with it, at least for me. Because with age comes experience, and that’s key.

  4. Helen Brenna says:

    My dh is into Pawn Stars, so I’ve seen bits and pieces. I’m continually amazed by the fact that the pawn shop owners get the first bid from the owner of the object! Why would you be the first to show your hand?

    Okay, so I like to bargain. A little. I don’t haggle. Ever. I totally get what you’re saying, Betina, but I look at it like this. I want to buy something, but I’ll walk away from it before I’ll pay the posted price. So I either walk away and the seller comes to me with a lower price, or I offer what I’m willing to pay and the person either accepts or declines.

    Most often, I just pay the posted price for things. But there have been plenty of times I’ve walked away from something that seems too high priced and that’s that. Often, though, the seller WANTS to deal. They’re still going to make a profit or they wouldn’t be willing to deal.

    The best deal I can think of happened quite by accident on the first brand new car my dh bought a looong time ago. I had a baby in a stroller and the salesman wouldn’t come down on the price. In frustration, I turned around with the stroller, said, “I’m leaving,” and started walking. Dh followed and so did the salesman. “Wait, wait, wait!”

    We got a really good deal.

    • Betina says:

      More testimony from the “be willing to walk away” side.

      After all it is your money. . . your object, your antique, or whatever. If the deal doesn’t fit, don’t buy it!

      You know, as I watch the pawn stars, they always ask the person what they want to get out of their object. It never occurred to me that it was getting the person to tip their hand. Interesting bit of strategy there. It sizes up the person (realistic, knowledgeable, etc.) as well as lays the ground work for the negotiation. Interesting!

      • Betina says:

        And again, there is a difference between bargaining and haggling. Hmmm. Anyone care to differentiate?

  5. lois greiman says:

    🙂 I like the IDEA of haggling, actually, though my wee daughter CANNOT be in the same room when said haggling is happening. And though I consider it something of a competitive sport, I’m afraid I’m not very good at it. I wish I could have taken lessons from your mom, Betina.

    • Betina says:

      Now I kind of wish I had, too. Though, like Leanne and Helen I really dislike haggling. . . which I take to mean arguing and getting adamant about your demands. My mom was mostly a bargainer, but there were a few times she might have slipped over the line. . .

  6. cindy gerard says:

    Fun post Betina
    It depends on my mood. If I’m feeling ‘sassy’ I’ll haggle – at least on vacation. But for the most part, I just shell out the coin :o(

    • Betina says:

      Right, Cindy! Bargaining (and haggling) are pretty emotional engagements, I’m coming to see. Maybe you have to work yourself up to it. . . or be in the right mood. Yeah, there are some days I couldn’t be bothered to bargain for anti-venom. . . especially if the bitten one was a politician!

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