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?