Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I stink at negotiations especially ones concerned with money. Being an Indian, it shames me to say that I don't know how to haggle. My mother is an expert negotiator when it comes to vegetable vendors, servant-maids, plumbers, auto-rickshaw wallahs and every other person you deal with in everyday situations. What makes her particularly deadly is that she is a walking database of the "correct" prices for the day. Her view of the "correct" price is not just what the service is worth. It factors in practical realities such as the cost of running a family, "fair" profit the person can expect to make etc.. Most of the time, she gets whatever price she wants.

Unfortunately, I've not inherited this trait from her. Not that I am particularly sensitive but I hate, hate, hate confrontations even when they are absolutely necessary. Yesterday, at a car dealership, I sat squirming in my chair as S negotiated with the dealer. The dealer came back with horrifically low trade-in prices for S's car. S refused to accept anything below a certain amount and stuck to his guns. He even feigned outrage, anger and helplessness. The dealer mounted attack after attack coming back with very firm refusals and counter-offers. Just hearing the harsh tone in which these two men argued made me cringe. Left to myself, I would have just succumbed to a ridiculous price and bolted from there. I tried to help S but I was more of a hindrance than anything else blurting out unnecessary information to the dealer.

"I think the right price for your old car is $1000"

S, keeping a poker face, said, "No, I saw on the internet that it is $6000"

"Didn't you have a print-out of it? It said $1000"

S: "No no. This might not be accurate but I think it was around $6000"

Me, thinking that S couldn't really remember and trying to help: "Erm..S, wasn't it really like $4000?"

S glared me down of course. So I shut up after that.

Anyways, after 3 hours worth of hard negotiations, S got what he wanted.

After spending close to 4 hours there and completing the paperwork, we dutifully told the dealer we couldn't take delivery that day because of "Marana Yogam". As usual, we left him confounded and walked away.