Monday, July 11, 2011

How low can you go?

"Every limbo boy and girl
All around the limbo world
Gonna do the limbo rock
All around the limbo clock
Jack be limbo, Jack be quick
Jack go unda limbo stick
All around the limbo clock
Hey, let's do the limbo rock

Limbo lower now
Limbo lower now
How low can you go?"

Limbo Rock - Chubby Checker

My mother is a consummate horse trader. She's a tiny woman of four-foot-something and I have seen her strike terror in the hearts of large, fully grown men trying to sell her a car. She loves the challenge of the deal, the give-and-take of negotiations and the final victory of getting what she wants at the price she wants. If she doesn't get it, she can and will walk away, leading at least one salesman to chase after her in the parking lot, begging her to come back inside.

Me, on the other hand? Well, let's just say when Saturn introduced their "no haggle" pricing policy I was a happy girl. Still, I have learned with time to appreciate my mother's wheeling and dealing approach. She helped my husband negotiate the purchase of my last car - I was home sick from a viral-something-or-other I picked up in the hospital after being treated for the wreck that totalled my car before this one. (A wreck that was not my fault, I'll hasten to add!) She walked out of the car salesman's office with a price that was well below the current book value of the car we were buying and a year's additional warranty coverage. I ended up with a very reliable car that I've been driving for the last seven or so years.

My father is a conniseur of flea market shopping. Growing up, nearly every Saturday in the summer, my sister and I would go with him to a local flea market held in a nearby town. He'd always tell us that if we wanted something, no matter how badly we wanted it, to look at it once on the table and move on. If you still wanted it when you'd walked through all the booths, then go back to it. Chances were good, he'd say, that the seller would cut you a deal. I tried to follow his advice, but patience has never been my strongest virtue and at the age of ten it was practically non-existant.

So, I appreciate the fine art of negotiations in the pricing of an item. I appreciate that sometimes, if you ask nicely, you can get a lower price for an item, or if you're intent on buying a lot of one particular item, the seller can cut you a deal for the larger quantity purchase. I take advantage of this all the time as a buyer of supplies, and have made it a habit to develop relationships with the sellers I deal with often, regardless of whether or not I get an additional discount from them. As a seller of items, I also understand their position on pricing and appreciate it when they do offer me a lower price.

But, that being said, as much as you may love the "high" of striking the deal, there are some times when a seller won't, or simply can't offer you a lower price. Is it worth it to you to alienate a seller and create a bad relationship by continuing to push for a lower price? Maybe yes, and maybe no.

In my case, when it comes to my suppliers, the answer is "no." I see many of these sellers several times a year at the shows we attend, and I want it to be as pleasant for them to see me as it is for me to see them. If they've seen me enough times to recognize me and I recognize them, then having a negative relationship isn't good for either of us. They have something I want - supplies, and I have something they want - money! When we deal together to get to a bargain that satisfies both of our needs at a price we both think is fair, it's the best possible outcome.

If you're never going to deal with that seller again, then maybe it is worth it to you to get that super-low price at the cost of a pleasant relationship. After all, the thinking goes, you're not there to make the seller feel better, you're there to get your money's worth! But the show circuit in your area is probably a small one, so if you attend a lot of sales and shows, chances are good that you'll see that seller again. I promsie you, they will remember you, and even if they are pleasant to you at the table, they are also thinking "No way am I going to let that person take me to the cleaners again." Your interaction will not be the best it could be for either of you.

As a seller, especially as a seller at an in-person show, I face the "thrill of the deal" all the time. Regardless of the show's venue, and regardless of the tone of the show, you are always going to have people who will ask you for a discount. Sometimes, I'm willing to make a deal with the buyer. Sometimes, I just can't. It used to be that the terror of losing a sale would lead me make deals that were not in my best interests. Even now, the word "yes" is on the tip of my tongue and I have to clamp down on saying it. The thing I had to learn, and what every seller has to learn is that a bad sale can be worse for you than no sale at all. Keep these things in mind when you are asked "Can you go lower on this?" Go through it in your head before you ever open your mouth to answer that question:

Your time matters
Your supplies costs matter
Your expertise matters
Your work matters


Then, and only then, do you answer yes or no on making that deal. If you can, great! If not, then be pleasant and professional about it, no matter how crabby you may feel, and no matter how many times you've been asked that day. And now I will tell you that I intend to have this blog post link bookmarked on my phone so I can pull it up and look at it when I'm at a show, to remind myself to practice what I preach!

By all means, indulge in a little horse trading. Haggle to your heart's content. But as a seller, don't sell yourself short. As a buyer, don't let the prospect of a super low price blind you to what it could be costing you in the long run.

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