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When is Good Negotiating Just Plain Cheap?

With a sale of one home, a cross country move, and a purchase of a short sale condo under my belt this summer, I’ve done my share of negotiating. My hubby might say I’m getting a bit out of control with the whole negotiating thing. In fact, he accuses me of using the stated price on an item as a suggestion to be overruled.

Instead of talking about what an awesome negotiator I am (which in fact is true), I’m going to share a negotiating failure and how I probably definitely went too far!

First, some negotiating basics:

  1. Rule number one:
    Know the value of an item before you begin the negotiation.
  2. Rule number two:
    Everything is not negotiable.
  3. Rule number three:
    Consider the context.

The Story

After unpacking from our cross country move, the front patio of our condo was completely filled with empty moving boxes. Fortunately for us, the moving company said to call after unpacking and they would pick them up!

What they failed to state was that they only wanted “perfect” boxes, like big wardrobes, of which we had about eight. After they removed them, the front yard looked exactly the same.

I was thrilled when one of the movers offered to come back at night and take the remaining boxes. He asked how much I would pay.

Here’s where I totally blew rule number one; know the value of an item before you begin the negotiation.

I thought $40.00 was a good price.

The guy came back and informed me the dump/recycling site would charge him $40.00 just to take the load.

Oops, he said $100.00 was fair. In my obsession with negotiating, after a bit of back and forth I got him down to $90.00.

Great, I did okay, even if I did feel a bit guilty about being such a hard ass.

The guy never came back.

Who Wants a Yard Full of Boxes?

No worries, I’ll just go on Craigslist and find someone else.

Yikes, my first call yielded a quote of $475.00.

I’m starting to get a bit worried.

Fortunately, I came across a guy with a 7 foot truck who charged a flat $100.00. And he showed up promptly at 9:00 am the next morning.

After a full truck load and about 1 ½ hours working on the boxes, with only a small dent, he said he was calling a friend to help and it would take him almost the entire day to get rid of the boxes.

I knew what was coming next….. He needed to charge me $275.00.

We finally settled on $250.00 and by 1:00 he and his friend had taken all of the boxes.

The Takeaway

I learned my lesson! Don’t be greedy.

I broke rule number one; I had no idea what the going rate in my area was for trash/box removal.

Rule number two; Okay, this one didn’t apply here as this service was negotiable, but in a standard store with fixed prices it’s really hard and sometimes impossible to negotiate 😉

Rule number three; the context was that I moved to a highly environmentally conscious area. They are big in recycling and sustainability here. I’m all in favor of this….but; it means the trash haulers charge a lot to get rid of refuse, because the local government charges a fortune to dispose!!!!!

My assessment, you win some and you lose some. I have had lots of negotiating wins over the last few months, but as we all know, you can’t win every time. I learned my lesson.

What are your best and worst negotiating experiences?

Barbara Friedberg, MBA, MS is editor-in-chief of Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance.com where she writes to educate, inspire, and motivate for wealth in money and life. Learn about personal finance from a real life Portfolio Manager & MBA professor! Stop by the website and download a valuable free eBook, 20 Minute Guide to Investing. If you like the book, vote for me in the Plutus Awards.

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15 thoughts on “When is Good Negotiating Just Plain Cheap?

  • @Cashflow-We had an unbelievable number of boxes. And I didn’t even mention that we received a citation from the condo assoc. of the “gargage/boxes” in our front patio!
    @Moneycone-No, the moving co was really particular and didn’t want most of our boxes!!!

  • @Cashflow-We had an unbelievable number of boxes. And I didn’t even mention that we received a citation from the condo assoc. of the “gargage/boxes” in our front patio!
    @Moneycone-No, the moving co was really particular and didn’t want most of our boxes!!!

  • I don’t think you could have broken it down any simpler. I negotiate in my job daily. I have to make the call if I want a firm bid or a T&M bid. Some may think having a T&M will be more expensive but if I can see that the subcontractor doesn’t have enough information from me he/she will pad the bid (hence going for T&M will be less expensive).
    I think I’m going to tape these rules on my desk 🙂

  • I don’t think you could have broken it down any simpler. I negotiate in my job daily. I have to make the call if I want a firm bid or a T&M bid. Some may think having a T&M will be more expensive but if I can see that the subcontractor doesn’t have enough information from me he/she will pad the bid (hence going for T&M will be less expensive).
    I think I’m going to tape these rules on my desk 🙂

  • @Krantcents-Thanks for the reassurance. I don’t plan to move ever again 🙂
    @Molly-That is a really interesting perspective. I’ve always been averse to T&M, but sometimes T&M is cheaper because the seller doesn’t want to appear too expensive/greedy. Excellent point.

  • @Krantcents-Thanks for the reassurance. I don’t plan to move ever again 🙂
    @Molly-That is a really interesting perspective. I’ve always been averse to T&M, but sometimes T&M is cheaper because the seller doesn’t want to appear too expensive/greedy. Excellent point.

  • Some additional tips I like are to never name the price first (sometimes you’ll be surprised at where the other side starts!), and never engage in an “exploding offer” (pressue tactic like “act now or you lose out”), as that is always negotiating from a position of weakness.

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