“You’re a Jew! Are you Jew?” he screamed. He was going racist. Strong counter I thought.
But maybe I took it too far. Never had I seen all 12 of the negotiating tactics in one setting for something so pointless. Forty Five minutes in and we were still at $350 for the Alexander McQueen knuckle clasp clutch. But if I was going to suffer, he was going suffer. Plus Siri Om was burning cash at a remarkable pace even for her.
It was the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, circa 2011. The deals were just too good she said. At the crossroads of East & West, the styles were hot and the prices were low. Currency was in our favor. Siri Om was going hard. All the cash was gone already and she was starting on the plastic. Nothing is worse than a shopping fiend with the stamina of a Bikram Yogi. I started to pay attention.
Siri Om had put up with me working in India and she nearly died from food poisoning. I felt guilty enough that I agreed to go shopping in Istanbul. That’s basically the deal, if you almost die, I will go shopping.
Grand Bazaar is generally recognized as the first shopping mall ever, established in the 1400’s by the Ottoman Empire. These operators have 20 generations of doing business here. I have to admit I was slightly excited to test my skills.
With that much experience, I thought I better start with lesson 1 and take it all the way.
Making up my mind that I was going to decimate this shopkeeper with every tool in the kit is often the best way to ambush. I knew the early concessions would be large as it would take him time to realize that we were in a for a long ride. Plus the longer we were here meant we couldn’t be spending elsewhere.
The ambush was successful as we went from $600 to $450 very quickly. All I had to ask was, can you do better without giving my price. This established the unilateral concession without establishing my floor. Clearly his margins were great I thought.
Its so important to not negotiate when you get ambushed. I won round one.
It was time to move on.
2) Look at his hand
The other shop keepers had told me that rent was about $3000 per month for each little stall. So that put a lot of pressure on them to move product quickly. They have so much traffic in the space though that luxury goods really sell fast. I presented two problems for him. First, I was holding something he wanted to move and second I was slowing down traffic into his small space. By looking at his hand, I realized time was on my side. It was time to sugar sugar slice.
3) Sugar Sugar Slice
“Beautiful bazaar. You must have done well to purchase this space. Your margins must to be like 60% to make rent here. That’s really tough.” The clutch was priced at $600. I figured his cost on it was $240. The sugar sugar slice establishes a connection and then zeroes in for another attack.. “No no much less he said”
“Can we agree on your margin I asked?
Do you ever feel trapped here in your small store. Like even though you are the owner, you are really just trapped by the weight of having to be here each day.
Is it a knock off?” He was obviously very successful so this would surely mix it up a bit.
He got serious. Maybe I went too far.
“$425 and thats it. Buy it or just go. “
If we walk now, we win. Actually I win. No money spent and we killed time. One can dream.
“Just buy it Hargobind. Stop messing around. Even if it is a knock off, its perfect. It must be made in the same factory.” Siri Om said.
That was the opening I needed for the next step
4) Get Abused By a Woman
There is something called higher authority/ lower authority where you establish someone else as the decision make. You generally don’t want to be the main decision maker. You generally need someone else above you to avoid getting ambushed. Women need it too, but as a man, I find this effective.
Something changes in men when they see a man getting obliterated by a woman. Its like seeing a puppy get kicked. There is something wrong with it. It’s a collective shame either men hide or end up single. When it happens in public it hurts even more.
I got out of many speeding tickets this way. Seeing a man get berated by a woman is a far greater punishment than giving him a ticket. Next time you get stopped just get a woman to scream at you while the cop approaches. But I digress.
I said to the man,” I am in a very tough spot you see. Everywhere I go, I just carry stuff.” I lifted all the shopping bags.
5) Get Angry
Realizing I was dragging this on, he started accusing me of being unserious and disingenuous. He forced my price. I countered at $300. I had to calm him down and now I am working for him. Nice move on his part. “He said no way”. And then he brought the heat.
6) Go Racist
“You must be Jew. You are Jew.” Discriminating based on race is a weak way to take control of the negotiation. Playing on your opponent’s stereotypical insecurities can force the other guy to act against the stereotypes. Racism functionally is a cloak for classism. It is often used similarly against women to discredit them all together. As soon as you label someone or something it allows you to box them in on the negotiation, if they go for it. But it is also a sign of weakness on the discriminator. It shows they are out of control. When the other guy starts swinging wildly, there is room for another concession. However, they have to be brought back to a state of “ok”. I responded, ” Yes Jew. Constantinople, the greatest city in the world in 1453. What happened ? Everything here is fantastic but it’s like I am 500 years late for the party.”
7) …. and 2 coca colas
Throwing in something sweet into the deal that is thoughtful is a good way to diffuse the tension. I said let me buy coca colas for everyone. The human psyche is built on reciprocation. It’s one of the fundamental human traits of survival. We share. We give action to get action. Offering something simple allows the mind to reset to its generous nature.
Still $425 last price he said. I needed another pivot. He was good.
8) Play show for show
…..And be the smaller man. I watch so many negotiations that look like arm wrestling. Its painful for everyone. It needs to be more like Aikido or Capoeira . I noticed he had a very expensive gold watch. I have a very nice gold kara but clearly his watch was more expensive. I said “I will have to sell my kara to pay for this. And she will only use the clutch once. This is a gift from my teacher. There is only one in the world. “He asked what type of gold. He then showed off his watch. One day I will get a watch like that I said but not if I keep paying too much for things.
I came up to $325. That’s it I said and started in on the reverse sell.
We are too far apart I declared. Lets go. I started heading for the door. Walking away from the booth is a powerful motion as it introduces the reverse sell. When the seller starts to feel the like he is losing a deal, the reverse sell begins. Generally they then bite with another concession. I asked Siri Om to look at some other stuff.
She wouldn’t budge and he didn’t bite. If you don’t want to do a deal, that’s fine we can walk. I had to get far enough away to create distance but not leave him or you enough space to reconcile.
Still he didn’t bite. He let us walk. It was time to establish mutual superiority.
I went back and said, look at this idiot selling trinkets. Why would you take up prime real estate like this and sell junk. At least sell the high quality goods like you.
Its a sad part of human nature that we bond in agreeing on the criticism of someone else.
It makes it so hard to then put someone back down on the level of being separate from you though once you bond.
That’s my brother he said. I co-manage it with him.
And……that backfired .
I doubled down. “Every family has a range of intelligence,” I said. He laughed.
I can do $400 he said still with the grin. Siri Om was getting antsy. The guy could see the tension. It was enough that he felt like he could win.
11) Let ’em win
At the end of the day everyone wants to win. Never let a deal feel like someone lost. Making others feel powerless is the most direct path to irrationality. Irrationality leads to uncontrolled aggression. The path to mutual success is through empowering others.
To get the best deal possible the transaction had to be about more than the money. Somehow I had to let this guy win. I wasted 45 minutes of his time. I had also won the war of attrition both by reducing Siri Om’s spend per hour and got a great deal. Seeing the tension build on me was enough for him to come down further. I said final offer, lets split the different you are at 400 and I am at 325 so we meet in the middle at $350 because I bought the coca colas. He rolled his eyes and waved his hand We settled on $350.
When I got my price I graciously handed over the money. It was quick and easy.
It was time to be easy.
12) Be Easy to Do Business with.
This is the biggest mistake new negotiators make is to just piss everyone else off. There are 3 types of negotiators. Newbies. They are great and get good results because they are just so nice and sometimes people are merciful to them.
There are the intermediates who are just the worse. They want to use everything they know to earn their keep. Its like the guy who has a weapon and uses it just to show that he has it. Its really sad. Then finally there is stage 3 where you can be kind, make the right moves and make it effortless and peaceful. You have the tricks but don’t just go around pissing everyone off.
Be as easy to do business with as often possible. This is a bad example because I really was a disingenuous negotiator. I was just trying to kill time. If I had to buy the Alexander McQueen for any price, I was losing.
The purpose of most negotiations is to build the relationship by displaying you care about the value of the deal. People that don’t negotiate at all haven’t fully appreciated the value of the transaction. That’s bad for both parties. On the flip side, if you constantly harass the other party, you violate the ultimate rule that people want to do business with people that they like. So don’t use the tricks to piss people off to the point of simply just not wanting anything to do with you.
Good luck out there!