Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art of the Deal

The rubber floor mats in our truck here are quite a few years old, and the one under the driver’s feet was literally in pieces. So after several months of continually rearranging those pieces so that the mat could at least pretend to continue to fulfill its function, I decided that I really needed to get new ones. So I headed downtown to a place where the street vendors sold auto accessories, everything from steering wheel covers to sunscreens to seat covers to entire vehicle covers.

A half dozen of them came running when I pulled over to the side of the road, asking what I wanted. When I told them that I wanted new floor mats, several of them ran off to ransack their inventory and bring some back. After trying a few different models to see which one fit the best, I finally chose one. Now began the art of price negotiation!

The vendor began at 30,000 francs (about $60). I smiled and offered 10,000. He laughed and said that this was an impossibly low price, that I needed to offer something more serious. I laughed too and said that since he had given me a ridiculously high price, I was sure he was joking and therefore felt free to joke back! This brought grins of appreciation from the other vendors. The use of humour is an important and much appreciated part of the art of price negotiation.

Now I asked him to get serious and give me a reasonable price. He dropped to 25,000 francs. I raised my offer to 15,000. The vendor shook his head, saying it still wasn’t enough. After all, these were quality floor mats! Not like the junk that other vendors were selling! We all laughed and I raised my price to 17,500 francs. He dropped his to 20,000. I stuck to my price of 17,500 francs, but he wouldn’t budge. So I raised my offer to 19,000.

He looked at me woefully and said that I only needed to add another 1,000 francs and I could have the mats. I searched my mind for a humourous response that might induce him to accept my price. Finally it came to me.

“If I give you 20,000 francs for these mats, I will not have any money left. Since I have worked so long and hard at negotiating here with you, I have become extremely thirsty and will need to buy a Coke to recover. And when I go to drink my Coke, I will also need to buy one for my wife who is with me today in the truck. That will cost me 1,000 francs. So that’s why I can only you pay you 19,000 francs for the mats, so I can have enough money left over to buy a Coke for my wife and me.”

All the vendors stared at me... Then they all burst out laughing uproariously. Why? Because this is a line that vendors will often use on buyers like me to get a little extra money for the item they are selling! But I had turned the tables on this vendor and used it on him instead! “Okay,” said the seller, grinning and sticking out his hand to seal the deal, “I’ll take it.”

Those Cokes sure hit the spot!

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