Vase Wars!

Vase? Ma'am, this is a VOZ.

You’re a tourist. You’re exploring the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, looking for good deals in the local shops. Suddenly you come across this vase. Gorgeous! Your wife would love it!

(I realize the vase in the photo is butt-ugly. Work with me, here.)

Okay, so you want the vase. You’re looking to spend $100, maybe a little more. But the vase is marked at $275. What do you do?

It’s haggle time.

This actually happened to me on Monday afternoon, more or less. I was in a training class on how to negotiate, and this was one of the exercises. I was paired up with another guy from the class. One of us was assigned to be the buyer (the tourist), the other to be the seller. We were each given a sheet explaining our character, our background, our goals, etc. Then they put us on the clock to negotiate a deal.

One person wants to pay $100, the other person wants to get $275 (or as close as he can manage). As you’d expect, the deals wound up in the $140 to $180 range, for the most part. Nothing too exciting so far.

But check this out: after the exercise, our teacher told us the stories of the best and worst actual deals she’d ever seen from her students in past classes.

Before I go on, try and imagine the best and worst deals you could negotiate (from a real person) for this vase. Just take a second and think about it.


The all-time best deal: two vases, for free, shipping included.

How is that even possible?

In this case, the buyer told the seller she had a lot of friends back home who would love to buy this kind of vase, but wouldn’t be willing to travel to Brazil. She suggested a business partnership where she would set up a website and promote the shop at home, and send him lots of customers in the future. The free vases were just to get the ball rolling.

The all-time worst deal: $475. In other words, $200 more than the asking price.

Okay, how is that possible?

Simple. The seller convinced the buyer that he had misread his information sheet, that the vase actually cost $1275. He negotiated downward from there.

What do these two cases have in common? Shameless audacity. A boundless conception of what’s possible. And the will to make it happen.

That, and a butt-ugly vase.

Do you ever haggle over prices? What about other things: chores, assignments, free time, etc.? Do you have a strategy?

6 responses to “Vase Wars!

  1. I’m far too nice to be good at that. Also, on the few occasions that I’ve had the chance to, I’m usually been spending my parent’s money, so whatever.

    And when it comes to things at home… I can’t, really. I’ve got a lot of freedom, and I totally understand why I have to do the things I do. I’ve not got much to haggle over, honestly.

    I haggle most at school, with my peers and teachers. We have to write something of 75 lines, I’ll use 73 and get away with it, because I argue that I write really small, or I used a small font. It’s actually far longer than most other students’, as you should be able to see! And no, I don’t have to lend you a pencil for the day. But I will, because I forgot my binder and I need a sheet of blank, lined paper. Oh, and I need your eraser as collateral.

    Minor things, true. But still, it’s haggling- and it’s quite enjoyable.

  2. I’m a terrible haggler, however usually before I buy something I know its general price, so if the item is listed way too high I wont even attempt to bargain. If I see that it’s listed at a fair price I might bargain a little but give in at the first “no.” This way I never get great deals on things, but at the same time I feel like I never get swindled.

    This would actually be a great skill to acquire. How did you do in your class exercise?

    • Yeah, I never haggle in stores either. (Haggle is a funny word, isn’t it?) Actually I did pretty well in the exercise. I was the seller, and I got $180 (throwing in express shipping), which was one of the highest prices in the class.

      Earlier the same day, we negotiated our way through a galactic war. Both sides started with 100 missiles. Our team ended up with all the missiles, and no civilian casualties. Now *that* was fun. šŸ™‚

  3. The galactic missile negotiations sound like a lot for fun than haggling for vases and souvenirs. How did you end up with all the missiles?

    If I want something, I’m a terrible haggler, but if I’m indifferent and willing to walk away, I get better prices. I should try a little more shameless audacity.

    • Mainly, the other side didn’t have a consistent strategy. They started out acting like pacifists, not firing back even when attacked. Then we started talking about disarmament, and they consistently refused to disarm. Then they hit us with a strong attack, which took all talks of disarmament off the table. Then they went back to being passive again. When a big chance to attack came up, they stayed passive, while we launched everything we had and wiped out their defenses. It was pretty much over after that.

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