Several months ago I heard "tips" being offered in a National Public Radio (NPR) commentary for surviving the recession. The big tip of the day was that there's not only nothing wrong with asking a vendor for a price adjustment, it's actually good business for you to ask for and expect a discount.
This piece of advice rubbed me the wrong way.
Like most people, I love a good bargain. I love feeling I got something I value for a price I feel is a really terrific deal. However, for the most part, I don't like haggling over pricing but I'll do it--readily--when I don't feel there's equal value in my purchase. For me, it's all about the fairness of the value, not the art of the deal.
And that's why I was irritated by the NPR report. Though most people are well-intentioned, when it comes to parting with their money too many people become possessed by some demon that is anything but altruistic. The fact is that many people absolutely love haggling because they get a high from it--not from getting good value but from beating out "the other guy," from bettering or taking advantage of him. It's a competition.
In certain circumstances--such as street fairs and bazaars--it's an expected part of the experience though I have to say that the supposed charm of even that now, for me, is gone. Since my sister-in-law began selling her beautiful pottery at craft fairs, I look at the bargaining that goes on at these events with a different pair of eyes. I see, instead, the work she puts into her pieces and then see that most fair attendees don't appreciate the time and talent that went into their creation. On some levels, she's competing with items you can sometimes find at HomeGoods or TJMaxx, meaning that when it comes to pricing, there's no contest, so she stands there making deals for way less than the value of her time and talent.
There are many circumstances in which bargaining--or asking for pricing considerations--makes for smart business. In these instances, both seller and buyer are negotiating a contract that creates win-win solutions and opportunities for both parties. In these cases, both "sides" give up a little to get a little.
I'm well aware that writing this is a ticklish affair. I clearly realize the issue is far from black and white. Everyone--e-ver-y-one--at some time or another offers discounts and, as I said, most of the time neither party feels disregarded at all! Yes, I know this.
As I said, like everyone else, I too love a good bargain. BUT.
The raw fact of such a transaction, though, is that the buyer-bargainer is asking the seller to give up, to lower--discount--a portion of his profit in order to save the buyer money. The very word itself--discount--implies dismissing the value of the seller's financial well-being in order to enhance the financial well-being of the buyer. Dis-count, i.e., disregard. The word itself is a put-down.
The BUT is in the intention. It's in the integrity of the request. It's a reaction to the hagglers who do it because they don't have "fair trade" in mind. And when NPR instructs its listening audience to feel it's an expected way of doing business, that the prices we set for our products and services are regularly negotiable, it's like suggesting that we, as business folks, have no foundation on which we base our prices and that it's all up for grabs, may the best haggler win.
That's not for me. And I know it's not for you. Our community has been through the ringer with discounters in our midst. Yes, our community has come a long, long way from its mom-and-pop hobby shop image of yesteryear and we're going places we've never gone before.
So imagine how doubly irritating it was to read the cover story of Dentaltown's May issue in which a 28-year-old dentist claims his profitability was so affected by his lab bills that he decided to form a partnership with a lab in China "so [he] could help pay for [his] kid's college education." Now he's offering these low-cost services to other dentists.
It isn't enough that he blames the lab fees for "crippling [his] profitability," eating away at his ability to make a living; he takes it a step further and says all dentists know it's become difficult to find qualified technicians in the U.S. and he wants to save other dentists from getting "the same lousy treatment" he was getting.
Yeah, go ahead: read it and react. The author is only one guy but there's culpability in how a magazine edits an article and what it chooses to print. It is misleading, inflammatory and downright irresponsible to print such blatant yellow journalism. Think about it and let your voice be heard.
Don't let anyone ever discount you.