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Negotiating and Culture

Firstly, my thanks to Million Dollar Journey and their entry Confessions of a Car Salesman which discusses negotiating techniques used by used car salesman. Reading that blog got me thinking on the topic of negotiation.

Through my travels, I have often been fascinated by cultural attitudes towards negotiation.

In a number of places in the world, prices are flexible. They can be negotiated, bartered or otherwise influenced. Some individuals are raised in a culture of negotiation. They always try to talk their way to a different price.

Many of us in North America have been raised in a culture of price tags. What we see is what it costs. We look for sales and can try to maximize our value through those, but ultimately, we pay the listed price. Now, is this bad? Not necessarily. It means that in day-to-day life, you don’t have to worry about negotiating. However, in a few remaining areas of North American life, negotiating is common and almost required. These areas include buying cars, arranging salaries and asking for raises, and buying houses. Also, in a not so coincidental way, areas such as these are ones in which many of us feel uncomfortable.

Why do we have issues with negotiating? There are a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, for many of us it comes down to issues of appearances. If we negotiate, we can feel poor or vulnerable. I have had the privilege of witnessing master negotiators at work, and they let no sense of shame interfere in their bargaining process. They will claim poverty, starvation, the need to support a family and many other items as they push the price in the direction they want. Frankly, a good negotiation between two skilled parties is a fascinating spectacle. Not all negotiations are showy and loud though, everyone has a different style of negotiating that can work for them.

We need to look past the “price tag culture” in which many of us have been raised in order to see the benefits that lie in negotiating. A fraction of a percentage point lower interest rates for a mortgage can lead to savings of thousands of dollars over time. A few well placed words can cut hundreds or even thousands of dollars off of a car. Price tags make simple things like shopping trips to the grocery store faster and more convenient. However, by accepting prices on the larger ticket items, we often might be throwing our hard-earned money away.

So, look past any insecurities you might have on the topic, and examine the benefits you might receive from negotiating. Rather than sacrificing any self-esteem, you might end up thousands of dollars ahead for putting in a little time. As a good starting point, take a look at the entry on Million Dollar Journey, it can help you see just how easily we get sold up on prices, and how we can turn those tricks to our own use. Remember, sometimes you CAN look beyond the price tag.

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One Response to “Negotiating and Culture”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I imagine people from cultures that expect negotiating are just as uncomfortable coming to the US and paying without haggling. I’ve also read tips from people who recommend trying to negotiate, even in situations where we Americans wouldn’t think to–for a bag of mulch that’s been ripped, for example, or a book with a stain on it. I wonder how much of that is the influence of a global community.

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