How not to bargain

January 10th, 2008 by k8gu Leave a reply »

Bargaining is one of the great lost arts among individuals.  It is the process of arriving, quite literally, upon the actual value of an item or service.  As I write this, it occurs to me that by shunning bargaining, stores have shifted that burden from the seller to the consumer…we now shop around.  Would a bargain-based economy better for the environment?  Anyhow, I digress…

I mentioned recently that I posted an old ThinkPad that I built from eBay parts on Craigslist.  A (Vietnamese) woman very enthusiastically contacted me about it because her old ThinkPad of similar vintage had been recently broken by her daughter.  This whole experience is probably worthy of a post in itself at some point.  But, on the phone, she said, “I see you have ‘$45 or offer’ on the ad…how much you take for it?”  Here, let me show you my cards so you know I’m bluffing.  I told her that I had about $45 in the computer and would like to get that; but, she was free to offer me what it was worth.  “Forty dollah, thirty-five dollah, thirty dollah?” she said.  I told her I’d take $40 for it.

So, what’s wrong with this?  Well, lots of things.

  1. Never ask the seller what they’ll take for it…you don’t find that out until the end!
  2. If you have the opportunity to see the item before buying, don’t start bargaining until you’ve seen it.
  3. Don’t start bargaining at the top.  I don’t think I’d have let it go for less than $40.  But, when she said $40, I can’t go lower than that anyway.  She’s blocked herself in at $40-$45.

Maybe this is a cultural difference.  But, I doubt it.