In the deal! – The Hindu
Rarely do I feel as much undiluted joy as the euphoric moment when I close a great deal. Only seasoned activists will understand this. Non-negotiators will ask irritating questions like how much money did you save after all that bickering, but that’s not the point. Those who have cut their teeth on Mumbai’s Linking Road or in the legendary Chor Bazaar or their matches in other cities will attest that winning an intense mental game of negotiation looks like a million dollars, even if only a matter of a few rupees.
You’re trading for the thrill, and it’s no longer a means to an end, much like taking a stroll along Marine Drive is a way to understand oceanography.
You can understand the character well by watching a good deal live. On Fashion Street, for a T-shirt labeled ₹110, if you tentatively offer ₹100, all the time hoping you don’t cause offense, you are a gentle human with a tender disposition. If, however, you make the peddler apoplectic by offering ₹35 as your last offer, you truly belong to our tribe. Welcome to the blood sport of negotiation.
A benevolent Danish industrialist once said that no deal should be made except between a happy buyer and a happy seller. But such a sweet feeling belongs to another age. Today, when self-interest comes first, you can’t afford to be too concerned about the opposing party. If cricket is war minus shots, haggling is a duel minus swords. Its twists and turns bring out our hidden talents: patience and perseverance, the ability to plot movements like a grand master, and our histrionic ability to stagger and faint upon hearing the going price for an “authentic” painting by Tanjore.
There is a science-based low-risk, high-reward trading technique and there are books and materials online to show you how to put it into practice. The first thing to do is camouflage your intentions. If you walk into a gemstone store in Hyderabad looking for a set of corals, you should look at everything in the store except the corals. Your lure might just be a string of pearls, expensive enough to set you apart as a big spender. After carefully studying the pearls against the light, you put them aside for the moment, and ask for specimens of garnets, sapphires, lemon quartz, pearls… Almost after the fact, you throw in corals. Once you have a radiant pile on the counter, it’s time to haggle for discounts on each type. Now you know what the items are really worth (in technical trading this is called “price discovery”). Overflowing with bravado, you then grab the jugular.
Quickly discarding the other items as overpriced, you hold back the discounted garnets you wanted and also add that you have a flight to catch soon. Well, that’s how the classic formula goes, but discretion is key. Chances are, the trader went through the same book and the same website.
If you don’t feel ready to bargain hard right now, you can accompany your most diehard friends on shopping expeditions and get advice. You will learn about human psychology, mind reading and market trends. More importantly, you will learn the ups and downs of fate. Like a flea market, in life there are no permanent winners, no permanent losers. At the vegetable market, what you gain on cauliflower, you may lose on beans and bitter gourd. It’s possible that the antique water jug you’ve been assured is hand-carved turns out to have been machine-made at a nearby industrial gala. But that’s how the cookie crumbles. Even star traders have been scalped on rest days.
When we realize we’ve been sold a dummy, we live to negotiate another day.