Hi. In fifteen minutes today I wanted to share another negotiation technique that I find is very important when buying from someone who is emotionally invested in what they sell.
Nowhere is this more apparent than at antiques shows. Let me tell you a story…
I have to admit that I hated, really hated antiques as a kid. I didn’t have anything against the objects themselves, but I loathed getting dragged to flea markets, antiques stores and garage sales to find the diamonds in the rough.
My sister and I used to moan, “Oh, no! Not another garage sale!” We still tease my mom about it. (But go see my parents’ home and you’ll have a complete attitude adjustment about antiques. They truly do not make furniture today like they did 100 years ago.)
About ten years ago, my mom got me out of the antique-hater phase by giving me a lovely little dark mint green colored bowl. It was made by the company Bauer, which manufactured cheerfully colored pottery for everyday household use in the first part of the twentieth century.
Not picturing it? Think Fiesta ware, but instead of small record-type grooves, Bauer has wider finger-sized grooves, as if the pottery was made by throwing (shaping) it on the wheel during the Demi Moore/Patrick Swayze love scene in Ghost. But I digress.
Anyway, right about the time that Mom gave me that one nice bowl (worth $40-$70 at an antiques show), I bought a 97-year-old Old Portland style house and really started grooving on historical objects. I saw my old-growth Douglas Fir floorboards and timber beams and I was struck by the weight and value of the old things. They endure.
Now imagine this reformed antiques-hater turned bowl-a-holic let loose in a massive antiques show that consumes the entirety of the Portland Expo Center and imagine how I’m going to wrangle the dealers out of objects that have both monetary and sentimental value. Remember, the key negotiating lesson here is Give before you take.
Many of these dealers put their whole lives into the practice of collecting, studying, and trading. It’s every bit as much social event as it is commerce (and I’ve braved it on various occasions either eight months’ pregnant, packing a six-month-old infant, and shortly post-tonsilectomy. Ouch.)
So it does not behoove one to simply charge in and low-ball a dealer, nor does it win friends (from whom you might buy in the future) to use harsh tactics or histrionics. My recipe for negotiating with this crowd is simple: start by giving.
Give a compliment. I might not want to say how much I like the particular object (wrought-iron animal theme child’s bench from the 1950s in desperate need of refurbishing) I am trying to buy, but I can compliment the dealer on his or her lovely taste in choosing the objects to sell, or the way they set up their booth.
Give a reason. I often tell the dealer how I intend to use the object, or if I plan to modify it or use it in a project or give it as a gift. For example, “I love this little (vintage leather child’s cowboy) vest, and I’d like to buy it for my son’s Halloween costume. But you know how kids are, pretty messy, and I just can’t justify spending X dollars on something for that purpose.”
Give an out. Sometimes when I make a fairly low offer, I try to cushion the blow by providing the dealer an escape route. For example, “I’d love to have this (1880s handmade wooden child’s chair) for my 3-year-old to use at our dining table instead of a yucky plastic high chair, but it’s far beyond what I can justify spending for that purpose. I totally understand if you can’t come down this far, but would you be open to getting closer to the X dollars I could spend?”
I think you’ve got the picture. Before you “take,” that is, before you seal the deal and get the right price for the item you’re buying, consider what you can give to the seller beyond money that will make the entire transaction more palatable.
There are many more things changing hands in a transaction besides money. When you consider the emotional and personal component, you might just find that with a little less cash and a little more charm, you’ll have yourself a deal.
I’m out for now. See you soon for more on negotiation: Know your real targets, not their differential.