Journalist and author Sarah Wildman searches archives, history books and European capitals for her grandfather's "true love" -- a young doctor he left behind when he fled Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938.
Haggling is alive and well in many countries, but it’s not a skill most Americans embrace outside of car dealerships. The tough economy could be changing that. From chain stores to hotels, people are realizing that with a few well-chosen words they can reap big discounts. And thanks to the Internet, comparison shopping has never been easier. We explore the surprising places where people are negotiating better prices.
- Sara Laschever Co-author of "Ask for It! How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want" (Bantam, 2008)
- Jeff Yeager Author of, "The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means"(Three Rivers Press, 2010)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Although it's common in markets and shops around the world, the idea of haggling makes many Americans uncomfortable. Even at a car dealership where it's standard practice to negotiate, a lot of people are embarrassed and fear being seen as cheap or just plain rude.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut in this economy, more people are embracing their inner cheapskate and whether it's a chain store, a hotel, or even the supermarket, they have no problem asking for a better deal, a discount or an upgrade. Their motto, it never hurts to ask and it just might save you some money. Joining us to discuss haggling is Jeff Yeager. He is the author of "The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means" and "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road To True Riches."
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJeff has also written for a number of publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and AARP magazine. Jeff joins us by phone from (word?) Maryland. Jeff Yeager, thank you for joining us.
MR. JEFF YEAGERThank you for having me on and thank you for calling me on your dime, you know. Call me cheap. Just never call me collect.
NNAMDIThat's right. We take care of Jeff. Also joining us from studios in Watertown, Massachusetts is Sara Leschever. She's a journalist and the co-author, along with Linda Babcock, of "Ask for It! How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." She and Linda Babcock also co-authored "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation And The Gender Divide." Sara Leschever, thank you for joining us.
MS. SARA LASCHEVERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIIt's a conversation you can join, too, at 800-433-8850, channel your inner cheapskate. Are you comfortable haggling? And if so, in what kinds of stores or situations? 800-433-8850. Send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tweet @kojoshow or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. Jeff Yeager, car dealerships are where most Americans first experience the possibilities and the pressure to negotiate a better price, but it makes many people uncomfortable. Why do you think that is?
YEAGERWell, it's definitely a cultural thing, as you said. I mean, as you know, in most countries around the world, haggling, negotiating is expected and, in fact, the lack of it, in some countries, is considered to be impolite.
YEAGERAnd it's bad form not to negotiate. But here in America, we have just the opposite. And, you know, it's funny because really car sales and maybe when you buy a new home, are the only times that you're expected to negotiate so Americans are poor negotiators. They're embarrassed by it. My whole point is is that a wide range of things can be negotiated on successfully and if you do it correctly, if you're the nice guy, if you do it politely, it's actually kind of fun.
NNAMDIWell, a lot of people, Jeff, may feel intimidated, especially in car dealerships, and sometimes even if you're buying a home. After all, you're going up against trained sales people.
YEAGERYes. And that's part of the problem so, you know, it's not a pleasurable experience as it is in many other countries, where it's, you know, a chance to get to know the retailer and sort of bond with them. But there are a lot of things, you know, sort of baby steps you can take to get more comfortable. You know, a couple of things if you're planning on buying a car is just when you go to buy a car. Try to go on a rainy day. Try to go at the end of the month or towards the end of the year.
YEAGERThese are times when the dealer is more inclined to give you a better price. The negotiating field is more open at that time so, you know, that's a simple one, is just when you go, not even so much what you do once you get there.
NNAMDISo what's it about the rainy day that makes it so attractive?
YEAGERPeople don't go shopping for cars on rainy days so they'll look after you...
NNAMDIA slow day.
YEAGER...they're not going to sell many cars. So, you know, that simple stuff, just when you go, not even so much what you say once you get there.
NNAMDISara, while car dealerships make almost everyone uncomfortable, it may be a tougher atmosphere for women. Why is that?
LASCHEVERWell, women, in general, feel more uncomfortable negotiating even than men in this culture. A man will often describe negotiating as kind of a fun game, while women are more likely to think of it as sort of like going to the dentist, really unpleasant, something they'd like to avoid. Car dealerships are particularly difficult because research has shown that car salesmen actually quote higher prices to women and to minorities right when they walk through the door.
LASCHEVERSo women have a tougher adversary, if you will, someone who assumes that he can take advantage of her or, you know, do better against her. And really the key there is for women to really prepare, to do their research, get on the web, find out what the right price is for that car and maybe even doing a little role-playing in advance with someone. That can make the whole experience easier, more pleasant. You prepare your responses when the salesman pushes back and you're not thrown so much if you've already had that response in your role-play.
LASCHEVERYou're prepared to go forward and stick to your guns.
NNAMDISara, why do Saturn car dealerships seem to be so popular with women?
LASCHEVERWell, Saturn advertised, from the beginning, very famously, that there was no haggling required. The price was the price. The sticker was, you know, what they were going to take, what they were going to offer. There was no haggling accepted and unnecessary. And as a result, something like two-thirds of Saturn buyers, from the beginning, were women. Women didn't want to have to negotiate. They liked the idea that this was a fair price that Saturn was affixing to the car and that they could trust it and just go in and pick what they wanted and walk out the door.
NNAMDIWell, what's the result in price if someone pays when a person avoids negotiating, for example, at a car dealership, which many women apparently do?
LASCHEVERWhat's the penalty? Well, it depends, of course. Sometimes women will think, I really do have to negotiate the price a little it. I'm uncomfortable. I'll push back a little. But as soon as they come down on the price a little bit, I'll accept it and say okay. So they will concede too soon thereby leaving a thousand, couple thousand, you know, three, four, five thousand on the table. But then, they also won't realize that you can negotiate everything else about the sale. You can negotiate the finance package, what kind of interest rate you're going to get.
LASCHEVERYou can negotiate the price for all the peripherals and the add-ons, the subwoofer, the better stereo system, the splash backs, the, you know, guard cover for the trunk, whatever.
NNAMDIThe floor mats.
LASCHEVERAnd the floor mats, exactly, what kind of upholstery you get. All that is negotiable and can be part of the package. And women will often heave a sigh of relief, he came down a couple thousand bucks, and not negotiate anything else.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're having a conversation about haggling or, well, negotiating. 800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to join the conversation. What are your best tips for getting a discount? 800-433-8850. We're talking with Sara Leschever. She's a journalist and co-author, along with Linda Babcock, of "Ask for It! How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want."
NNAMDIAnd Jeff Yeager, he is the author of "The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means" and "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road To True Riches." Jeff, you mentioned earlier that in many other cultures, negotiating is not just accepted, but expected. And you have seen examples of this all over the world, particularly, I guess, in markets, being the most obvious example.
YEAGERYeah, sure. I mean, markets in other countries and, you know, it's European countries. It's African countries, Middle Eastern, South American. Almost everywhere other than the United States, people are expected to negotiate. And what I find if you do it right, again, it can add a very positive interaction with a retail person. You know, here in the United States, we're just so cold about it.
YEAGERWe just shell out the money and that's it.
NNAMDIWhy do you think we're not as comfortable haggling, Jim?
YEAGERIt clearly just a cultural thing. I mean, it's the way that our markets are set up and so on. Let me tell you something I do. And I really do this on a wide range of items I buy. When I go to check out, I say, hey, can you do any better on the price? Can you give me a nice-guy discount? I'm asking for a discount only because I'm a nice guy. And I say it with a smile. And we have a little chuckle.
YEAGERAnd, you know, I rarely get anything in return for that, but that little sort of, you know, funny gesture at least kind of perks up everybody's day. And, you know, I would say maybe one out of 10 times they give me something in return.
NNAMDIOne out of 10 ain't bad.
YEAGERAnd, you know, there was a study by -- you talk about the impact of this and, of course, it varies by product, but Consumer Reports did a study, I want to say, a couple years ago that showed that of people who tried to negotiate a better price on, in particular, bigger ticket items, electronics, appliances and so on during a one-year period, 90 percent of the time they were successful at least once.
YEAGERSo in average saved more than $50 off the price of those items. And we're not about cars. In this case, we're talking about all the other stuff we buy.
NNAMDISara, in many cultures, women are the ones who go to the market and make most household purchases and haggling is part of the cultural fabric. Why do you think it's different here in the U.S.?
LASCHEVERWell, women make most of the household purchases in this country, too, but we have had a standard where you paid whatever the sticker said. Compounding that problem, that cultural problem described, is the fact that negotiation is perceived in our culture as an aggressive interaction and we don't like women we perceive to be too aggressive in our culture. It's very clear from the research, both men and women don't like other women who they perceive to be too aggressive.
LASCHEVERAnd so women often wrongly worry that they will be perceived as too aggressive and be rebuffed when they negotiate rather than approaching it as, you know, asked and answered, a nice conversation, I'm smiling, I'm, you know, putting something out there and if you can't do it, we can still be friends. Women worry that this negative interaction, this conflict about the meat of the negotiation actually will turn into an interpersonal conflict.
LASCHEVERAnd women actually, for reasons that are not completely clear, are perhaps programmed, genetically, socially, to protect relationships more. So we worry that if there's a little discomfort, a little, you know, antagonism that arises around a negotiation, that that actually could be damaging to the relationship. And we worry about it even when it's a relationship that has no future, even when we're talking to someone we may never see again.
NNAMDIAre there styles of negotiation, Sara, that women are more comfortable with?
LASCHEVERWell, it turns out actually, that women typically do make really great negotiators when they're negotiating on behalf of other people, when they're negotiating on behalf of their children, for example, or someone they supervise or, you know, a patient, a student, something like that. And one of the reasons women make such good negotiators when they're negotiating for others is because they tend to take a more collaborative, problem-solving approach.
LASCHEVEROkay. What's the situation here? How can you help me? What can you get out of it? How can we emerge from this with joint gains, those famous win-win solutions? Women tend to ally more with the other negotiator rather than come at it as a zero-sum competitive interaction. And that works really well for women, style so, so critical, smiling, using, you know, your social skills, coming off as warm, friendly, likable, very, very useful for women in negotiations.
NNAMDIWell, I was going to go to the phones, but now I have to say this because it's my understanding that you got some pushback in talking about women needed to focus on being nice and likability. But women who do negotiate are also seen differently than men when they do play hardball. How are women seen who use identical tactics to a man?
LASCHEVERWell, it is so tricky because behavior that in a man that might be described as, you know, he's just goal focused or he doesn't suffer fools gladly, he's a no nonsense guy, and a women might be perceived as, you know, overbearing, difficult, high maintenance, she's not a team player, lots of uglier names that spring to mind. And so for women, it really is pragmatic, it is strategic to try to come off as more likable when they are negotiating. The research is very clear that in order to be influential or persuasive, women need to not just make a good argument or not just, you know, propose something reasonable, they need to seem likable while they're doing it.
LASCHEVERNow, as you said, a lot of women don't like that. A lot of them say, they're not going to do that. That's a big step backward. That's regressive. Why should I have to work so hard to make sure that the other person or the other people are having a good time? And it's not fair. And it's kind of dumb but it is, as I said, pragmatic and will enable women to get more out of the negotiation if they feel comfortable using their social skills, using those behaviors people respond positively to when negotiating.
NNAMDIA lot of our listeners would like to speak with you both, but first, we've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll allow you to join the conversation, maybe even dominate it if you call 800-433-8850. The lines are now filled up so shoot us an email to email@example.com, send us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website kojoshow.org, ask your question or make your comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Jeff Yeager. He is the author of "The Cheapskate Next Door: Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means" and the "Ultimate Cheapskates Road to True Riches." He joins us by phone from Accokeek, Md. Joining us from studios in Watertown, Mass., is Sara Laschever.
NNAMDIShe's a journalist and the co-author, along with Linda Babcock of "Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." The number to call, 800-433-8850. Going directly to the telephones. Here is Joan in Leesburg, Va. Joan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Joan, are you there? Oh, I'm sorry, Carol. Why am I calling you Joan? Carol, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLOh, hi, how are you?
NNAMDII am well, Carol, and apologies for referring to you as Joan.
CAROLThat's okay, that's my mother's name.
NNAMDISee, I was thinking ahead.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Carol.
CAROLWell, when I was in college and I'm now 55 years old, I was always a haggler. I went to auctions and all kinds of places and always tried to get the best deal. And as I went into graduate school in Boston and traveled up north one day to a flea market with a friend, we entered the flea market and I spotted a lamp immediately that I fell in love with and it was priced at $18. I had a $100 bill and I thought, well, I'm certainly not going to pay full price.
CAROLSo I went up to the shopkeeper, who was a middle-aged gentleman, and I said, listen, I'd like to give you $12 for this. And he looked at my hand, saw that $100 bill, said you're going to pay $12 for something that's $18 when you have a $100 bill, I don't think so. And he took the lamp and he threw it toward me, luckily didn't hit me, but got very angry. And I ran out, learning my lesson that it's a tricky thing to haggle.
NNAMDIAfter avoiding the lamp, however, you did not desert haggling, did you Carol? You kept on.
CAROLThat's right. So that's my story.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Carol. Jeff, care to comment on that? Anybody...
YEAGERThat's a great story. And, of course, what you want to do is to play it just the opposite, which is to show up with that $12 in your hand.
YEAGERWe all know about the old tip, that if you're going to put something on a credit card, many times a merchant will take off a couple percent if you pay cash instead. Because they're saving that credit card...
YEAGER...merchant credit card fee.
YEAGERBut we've also found that, if you physically show a merchant, particularly a mom and pop shop, the cash, wave it in front of them, a smaller amount than what they're asking for, they'll often accept that. And along those same lines, in this rough economy, there's nothing wrong with saying, you know, I really want to buy this, but I simply can't afford it. I mean, to make the deal happen, can you come down on the price? There's nothing wrong with that.
NNAMDIThere's nothing wrong with it, Jeff, if it's the truth.
YEAGERAnd yes. I'm a very truthful -- I'm a cheapskate, but I'm a very truthful cheapskate. And but that is the truth for a lot of people these days.
NNAMDIThis is true.
YEAGERYou know, that we would like to have something but times are tough and we really can't afford it.
NNAMDICarol, thank you very much for your call. Now, onto the real Joan in Ellicott City, Md. Joan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOANHi. I have a question. It's not really haggling, it would be negotiating. How would a woman, after being offered a job, negotiate for a higher salary then might have been initially offered?
NNAMDIYou know, Sara, it's important that women, I guess, do master the art of negotiating. We all know women make something like 70 cents for every dollar a man makes. And exploring where that gap comes from, you and your co-author found that negotiation plays a crucial role. So what advice would you offer to Joan?
LASCHEVERWell, Joan, I would say the first thing you need to do is do your research and find out what other people who are doing that work, what they're getting paid. They're great resources on the web, lots of sites with salary information, both general sites like Monster.com and sites that are specifically focused on different industries or different professions. Talk to anybody you know, someone who has worked for that company or someone who works for a competitor. Try to find out what the going rate is because if they offer you less, then you know the market will pay. That's a pretty good argument for more.
LASCHEVERYou also want to go in with having sort of assessed and organized what the sources of your value are. What prizes you've won, what degrees you have, what your credentials are, your experience, you know, whatever it is that makes you more valuable. So when they lowball you, you can say, well, you know, I think because of these reasons, because of all this value I'm bringing to the organization, I think I actually merit a higher salary, a little bit higher up in the range or even closer to the top of the range.
LASCHEVERAnd then, it's really crucial not to back down immediately if they push back, to assume that, no, may be a gambit and isn't necessarily the final answer. And say, well, I'd really appreciate it if you could think about it. I'm so honored by the offer. I'd really love to work at this company. I think you'd be a great boss. Whatever it is, positive, you can say, but it'd mean a lot to me if you could think about upping the salary a little bit. And then give them some time to think about it. And having offered you the job, they obviously want you, they think you're important and valuable. There's a good chance they'll come back and sweeten it a little bit.
NNAMDIJoan, thank you for your call.
NNAMDIWe move onto Patrick in Winchester, Va. Patrick, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATRICKYeah, hey, Kojo. I just wanted to share a story. Recently I was in the Whitefish Point Shipwreck Museum, which is in the upper Peninsula of Michigan. And there was a blanket that my wife wanted. So it was $25. I work in retail. I was kind of getting an idea of what things are worth. I went up to the desk with the blanket and I say, I'd like to buy this, but I really don't want to pay full price. Will you take $10 for it? And the woman just looked at me with a blank stare and said is there any particular reason that you want $10 for it? I told her, I said, yeah, it's not worth $25. And I ended up getting it for $12.
NNAMDIYou eventually got it for $12?
PATRICKYeah, yeah. I got it for $12. She marked it down at the register and she didn't question it at all. She sold it to me for $12. She said it's the best she could do.
NNAMDIJeff Yeager, I wanted to talk about that because you have pointed out that more and more, authorities being given to sales clerks and cashiers, even in department stores and chains, to do the markdown themselves. How come?
YEAGERAbsolutely. And this is not just true of, again, mom and pop shops which of course can negotiate freely. But even some of the major retailers are empowering, in many cases, their frontline employees to make some price concession. Now, a lot of that has to do with, you know, if it has a scratch or a dent in it or something like that. Some of it is just simply, simply make the sale. One simple thing for people who are shy on negotiating is to simply ask the question, always, are there any discounts that might apply to this item? I mean, how harmless could that be just to say, are there any discounts that might apply?
YEAGERSometimes there's a discount if you're a member of an organization. But, you know, sometimes there's a discount that's going to apply because the item's going to go on sale next week. So this doesn't need to be confrontational at all. And, you know, there are kind of these little baby steps that you can take as I described before. One is to say, are there any promotions or discounts that apply? And you'd be surprised, when that starts to work and it will start to work, you'll start to get some discounts. All of a sudden, you become much more comfortable, you know, negotiating a little bit.
NNAMDIPatrick, thank you very much for your call. We move onto David in Washington, D.C. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi, yeah, there was some talk about sellers taking advantage of buyers. But I think that in certain circumstances, and mom and pop stores are certainly in markets in foreign countries, there's a moral obligation for the buyer not to take advantage of the seller. And in some cases, might be a game to us to negotiate down, but these people are trying to earn a living and every dollar that we don’t spend is a dollar that they're not earning and that they're not making to provide for their family. And I think that if you want to buy a poster or a wooden -- if it costs $20 and you think it's worth $20, then you should pay $20, if you can.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to that, Jeff Yeager?
YEAGERIt's a fair point. The other way of looking at it though, particularly in this tight economy is if the transaction doesn't place at all.
YEAGERSo how is that benefiting a merchant if you're not able to buy it at all? And that's why I'm saying, particular -- and I'm not talking about lying, but if you truly would like something but can't quite afford it, there's nothing wrong, in this economy, with telling that to the vendor. Because trust me, the vendor would more often than not, like to make the sale at some level rather then make no sale at all.
NNAMDIGot two other points of view in that regard. We got an email from Brian who said "I find I perceive negotiating price as an insult to the quality of the product, both when I'm the buyer and the seller." And here is Allie in Silver Spring, Md. Allie, your turn.
ALLIEHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I'm calling because I agree with the previous caller. I'm an artist and I create fine art mosaics. And I do a lot of the festivals and shows. And I constantly have people coming in who admire my work, want to buy it, can probably afford it and want to get a price, you know, get a price decrease or some type of deal on it.
ALLIEI find it completely offensive because I would never walk into a gallery and go up and say, oh, I want to buy that painting, give me a deal on it. And, you know, artists aren't making a lot of money doing what we do. We do it because we're passionate about it. So we're here to try and make a sale and, you know, as I said, people come up to me and try and haggle for prices. So I...
NNAMDIWell and I'm going to ask both Sara and Jeff to deal with that because what happens internationally when people go -- who live in cultures that involve negotiating price, going to art galleries or what happens when an artist decides I have a piece of work here that I have invested time, energy and creativity in, and decides to set a price for it. Can that artist include in that price, the possibility and in some cultures the likelihood that this is likely to be negotiable? First you, Sara.
LASCHEVERWell, I have several things to say about this. One is, I think, at a lot of craft shows, antique marts, that kind of place, that there is an expectation that many people will try to negotiate and the prices are inflated, perhaps, 10 percent in order to allow for that. That there's an expectation, I think, particularly in the antiques market, that they will knock off, perhaps, 10 percent. So I guess that's one point.
LASCHEVERAnother point I would make is, I wouldn’t say go out and negotiate absolutely every single transaction that you are trying to make. I think you want to pick and choose. You want to evince respect for the artist, for the artisan, for the craftsperson, when that seems appropriate. But I would also say that there is a risk for women, in particular, of worrying too much of taking too much care of the person on the other side.
LASCHEVERWomen worry too much that whatever they're asking might be hard for them to do or might be burdensome for them. And my general advice is, usually let them take care of themselves. If they can't do the deal, if they can't drop the price, they can say no. But there's no harm in asking. Worry about your side of the table.
NNAMDIAnd what do you say, Jeff?
YEAGERI agree very much with Sara's last point. It takes a willing buyer and a willing seller to make a transaction happen. And sometimes that chemistry doesn't come together and that's fine. As we've been saying, in other cultures, often times that involved the negotiation, here often times, it doesn't. But I don't see any harm in asking. And to the caller, let me say one thing that I very much believe in. I think it's unacceptable to allege or imply any inferiority in quality of a product that you're buying, whether it's a painting or a dining room table unless there's clearly some damage to it.
YEAGERI mean, if the dining room table is scratched then, of course, I would say because of this scratch, I'd like a discount. So I'm never talking, I think, it's poor form, I think it's counterproductive, I think it's untruthful to somehow imply that the product is inferior and so therefore it ought to cost less. Again, having said that, if you get truly poor service at a restaurant, I think as a customer you should bring that to their attention. You shouldn't imply or lie about poor service unless you actually had it.
NNAMDIAllie, what do you say to someone who really likes something that you have created and would love to have it but simply cannot afford the price that you're charging for it and would like to see if it's possible to get it at a somewhat lower price?
ALLIERight and that happens. And for those customers or clients, I offer to make them something else. I always want my art to be, you know, universal. And I can't even afford some of the pieces I make so I'm always all for that as an alternative. But I think as a whole, as a community of artists, you often see that. And if one person starts to drop their prices, then it's expected of the other person you're next to or the other fellow artists to do the same.
ALLIEAnd, you know, we're all struggling and I understand what you're panel says and I respect that but I do think that, you know, there comes a time when we have to say "OK, this is what our work is valued at." I don't -- I try and negotiate with my plumber and he never drops his prices. So, you know, there is this -- it's a cultural acceptance of certain things are negotiable, certain things are not. And it increases with value. So that's all but, thank you so much for taking my call, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Allie. And, of course, we do have discussions on this broadcast about how to get a better rate from your plumber and your electrician and the likes. So negotiation can exists in a variety of ways. Jeff, you've got a lot of advice in your books on saving money, including how to negotiate a better deal on just about everything. You probably didn't start out as an expert haggler. How did you learn?
YEAGERI spent my career before I started writing for a living in the non-profit sector, 24 years managing national non-profit organizations. And in that environment where cash is always so tight, negotiating was, frankly, almost a daily routine. You know, asking the printer if they could come down on the price. You never paid full price for anything. You know, you were a charitable organization working with limited means. And you were also in the business of asking donors for money which is a form, certainly quite an art form, of negotiating, if you will.
YEAGERYou're offering little in return but you're asking them for something of value. So that sort of how I approach it. And Sara said earlier, something I'd like to comment on where she said that women -- research says that women come out further ahead in negotiating by being nice, establishing a friendly relationship with somebody. In my experience and I don't have research to back it up but I think that's true of both men and women. We have this image of the Donald Trump being the hard edge negotiator.
YEAGERI think, for most people, that simply doesn't work. It turns off the other party, it doesn't turn them on. Again, I think you want to be nice, you want to be polite, you want to be honest, you want to engage them. You know, we've all seen people who were jerks about this. And in my experience, those jerks rarely end up getting what they're after.
NNAMDIWe have a lot of callers on the line. And I will get to all of you, I promise. But first, Sara, I'd like you to respond to these two emails we got. One from Shirley in Alexandria says "Please emphasize that American women's problems with negotiating and confrontation are not universal. In many countries for instance, women run the markets, Nigeria comes to mind, and do all the hard bargaining that's needed with no problem."
NNAMDIThis email we got from Ken. "My wife and I spent a 35-year career in the foreign service, mostly in the developing world. Having been burned in her first market experience in West Africa, she did not realize she needed to bargain, having just gotten off the plane the night before. She quickly became an extremely effective haggler overseas and back in the D.C. area. I disagree with your guest that women are not inclined to haggle. Most markets in the third world are run by women, and in the U.S. my wife has been able to ask for discounts, et cetera, and get them, but I would have been laughed out of the store had I suggested them." Sara, care to respond?
LASCHEVERWell, of course our research looks at general trends and the research looks at the U.S. and western European countries. It doesn't really look that closely at the kinds of cultures that the email -- that the writer is talking about. And there is a lot of haggling by women in those cultures. The only caveat I would add to that is that in those cultures, women are basically haggling on behalf of their families, on behalf of their children, and I have met women from those cultures who say it's easy for me to negotiate when I'm trying to get, you know, a better price on food for my child, or to get a better price on the schooling for my child, but it's really hard still for me to ask for things for myself.
NNAMDIWell, here's the exception, Sara. We got this email from John here in Washington. "Americans and women in particular do excel at haggling in at least one scenario, flea markets and secondhand shops. Why is this so different from other buying situations?"
LASCHEVERWell, it's because they're expected to negotiate. It's part of the culture of those particular interactions, that's a given it's good, it's what you're allowed to do. But there's so many other interactions and Linda and I look particularly at negotiations at work where women lose a lot by not negotiating because they're heavily socialized. We are heavily socialized not to do that in our culture, and although, of course, there are women like the email writer's wife who are terrific at it, they really are the exceptions.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation on haggling. If you have called, stay on the line, I promised I would get to your call. The lines are busy so shoot us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send a tweet @kojoshow, or go to our website kojoshow.org, and join the conversation right there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on haggling. We're talking with Sara Laschever. She's a journalist and the co-author along with Linda Babcock of "Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." She and Linda Babcock have also co-authored "Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide." Also joining us is Jeff Yeager, author of "The Cheapskate Next Door: Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means," and "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road to True Riches."
NNAMDIIn the studio next door, somehow students from Ballou and Eastern High School have negotiated their way into the studio, and seem to be haggling with our managing producer, Diane Vogel, about how long they should stay. Hello, if you're Ballou raise your hand. If you're from Eastern, raise your hand. Jeff and Sara also say hello to you. Back now to the broadcast and to the telephones. Here is Joe in Silver Spring, Md. Joe, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOEHi. I just wanted to say that it's a really great program. I enjoy your show quite a bit, and I've been trying to adopt the principles of haggling for a couple years now. I read an article a couple of years ago that said basically that's all you have to is just ask, you know, can you come down on the price, can you do anything on discount. It worked a couple of days ago when I bought a shirt and tie at a local department store, asked if there was a discount, the guy gave me the (word?) code, and bingo, 20 percent off of a purchase.
JOEIt worked yesterday when I went to a restaurant and wanted to try some falafel and I told them I just wanted to have a taste. And he said well, I'll just give you some, and here's some extra on the side (unintelligible) like it, because they want you to come back. But remembering, it even started even further when I was in high school applying for colleges, and this is something that could probably be useful for parents. When you have to apply for college, at least back then, you had to submit a $30 check with each application, and my uncle said, well, why don't you just ask them to waive the application, and they did. And so every time I applied for college, I said, would you please waive the application and bingo, 30 bucks saved.
NNAMDIWhoa, that one I've never heard of before. Sara, had you heard about that one before?
LASCHEVERI hadn't heard of it. I do see there are often little, you know, small print at the bottoms of websites or application forms saying, you know, if you have a financial problem let us know, but I think many people don't take those. They think, well, I could afford it, it's tough, it's a stretch. It's even appropriate to say could you waive half the fee if you don't feel comfortable asking them to waive the whole fee.
LASCHEVERThe other thing I would say about that last caller, and in general is, I bet whenever he asks can you do anything on the price, he makes eye contact and he smiles, and that is so key. Just establish that quick connection with the other person, look at them, let them know you're not trying to bully them, trying to pull something over on them, you're just having a little quiet, friendly interaction, is it possible for you to lower the price.
NNAMDIIf there was anyone who I would have thought would have thought of asking for a waiver of the application fee, it would be Jeff Yeager, because he was dubbed the ultimate cheapskate by Matt Lauer on "The Today Show." Did you consider that a compliment, Jeff?
YEAGERMy college career was so long ago, I think $50 was the tuition, not the application fee. But a couple things, often times, one off kind of service fees can easily be waived just by asking. Banks of course these days are notorious for all kinds of service fees, and I'm not saying they're going to waive all the service fees on your account, but if you have, you know, once in five years overdraft of you account and they put a fee, ask the teller. You usually don't even have to go to the manager, you know, can you do something about that.
YEAGERI don't have a history of doing this. I've been a customer for a long time, you know, banking is a very competitive industry. They'd rather keep you happy as a customer than lose you.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Anifa who says, "I was in line with a woman at Five Guys wearing a t-shirt that said, I'm a senior citizen, now where is my discount? I thought it was cute. The cashier said they don't have a discount, but gave her a free drink. It can't hurt to ask," says Anifa. Onto Mark in Silver Spring, Md. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARKHi, thank you, Kojo. I just want to share an insight that I got by living in Indonesia for many years, and it's well known as a bargaining culture. Well, I got good enough at the language, I just hung around the market for a while just to see how it worked. And eventually, I asked one of the women, I said, why not just set the price at what everybody kind of knows it is? Why do you go through this back and forth? And she looked at me incredulous. She said, oh, because this back and forth is a way of making sure that both sides are satisfied.
MARKAnd I've carried that with me. You know, a lot of times there are other things that satisfy people besides price. So the first thing is, going into a negotiation is understanding what your own understanding is of what you'd be satisfied with, and I'll give you an example. If it's a person who's gonna do a personal service, say some kind of craftwork, you don't want the lowest price. I mean, people have offered me a price and I've said, no. That's too low.
MARKI wouldn't be satisfied with that price. I want to add some, and I want you to do a great job. So that's just an example. But, well, for example, maybe somebody has the rent due the next day...
MARK...and they need $200. Maybe you're buying one thing and they want a hundred dollars. Maybe they'll sell three things for $200 because they need that $200. So there are many applications of the insight.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Any comments on that, Sara or Jeff? Sara, you first.
LASCHEVERWell, I would like to say that it's an important point to go in thinking about what would work for you or what would be, you know, most meaningful to you, and getting back say to the woman, the artist who called in, say you want to buy a piece of art and you can't afford it. Maybe you can ask her to let you pay over time.
LASCHEVERMaybe there's another way for you to pay for this thing or to get this thing that will make it possible for you to have it. So it's really good to think creatively about, you know, if they can't give you just a lower price, or they can't give you exactly what you want, whether there's something else that would make it possible.
NNAMDIMark, thank you for your call. Here is Marie in Columbia, Md. Marie, your turn.
MARIEHi Kojo. I actually wanted to make two comments. One is, every time I've gone haggling and I've had a male with me, I've actually -- worse than when I've done it by myself. I bought my car, and I had one of my closest friends go with me, and he sat in the room with me telling the guy he was giving me a great deal. I'm looking at him like, are you crazy? I'm trying to get this rate lowered.
MARIEBut then with my boyfriend to get his car, I got his car down by almost $3,000, I got a lower interest rate, and I haggled the daylights out of the gap insurance. I got them to decrease the price for that. And the sad part is I actually asked my boyfriend -- say much, and I was able to do that, and I don't know a thing about cars at all.
NNAMDIAre you sure that the friend you took wasn't getting a percentage from the car salesman that you were dealing with?
MARIEI actually felt like he was, because when I came back to it, I was said, I was like, what are you doing? You're supposed to just sit there and know about the car, not tell the guy he's giving me a good deal. I'm trying to lower the price, and he was just completely lost. But my family is from India, so I've been taught haggle since I was a child. My mom's always told me, you always try to get the best price, and I think that maybe there's a culture divide with that where in the U.S. you kind of like pay the price of the sticker.
MARIESo I was gonna ask you guys about that. Why is society here always accepting the current price -- going and be like, hey, can I get a better deal?
YEAGERI'd say a couple things. One, the price of the situation you described with having your boyfriend present and getting a worse deal, that's actually quite common in my experience when you have more than one person representing a side in a negotiation. Oftentimes the outcome is worse unless it's a highly, you know, trained team of people who sort of have a routine to play off of each other. In general, you should have one person doing the negotiating. You'll generally come out ahead, and your second question was? I'm sorry, I forgot.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
MARIEIt's more about the culture divide over here. Why is it in America people take the sticker price? Because in India, I was recently there, and I was able to haggle everything from taxi rides to food at the restaurants and even in the store, the items.
NNAMDITaxi rides. That's a new one. Sara, care to respond to that?
LASCHEVERWell, I read something recently that said this became -- there was a shift in the late '50s, early '60s to this kind of sticker price mentality, and I don't know exactly why that happened, but it is definitely changing. There have been a lot of pieces in the national press since 2008, since the meltdown scene that a lot of the big box stores, particularly are advising their associates quietly to negotiate with customers if they try, because as you said, they'd rather have that air conditioner or that refrigerator walk out the door than not. So I think it is a big cultural shift that we're in the middle of, and we should all take advantage of it in a, you know, in a respectful way.
NNAMDIHere is Hagai in Rockville, Md. Hagai, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HAGAIWell, Kojo, great show. So glad to be on. My belief and thought about negotiating is that contrary to common belief, it is for the benefit of the seller even more so than the benefit of the buyer.
HAGAIWell, someone just mentioned how much someone wants that appliance to walk out the door, and the only way to find out if it's not that far away is to have some sort of a negotiating session, and it's with everything else. So it makes more sense really for the seller's benefit to have that openness, and once you set the sticker price, and if there is no, then maybe just because of a few percentage points or dollars, you may lose a whole sale.
NNAMDIWhat do you say about that, Sara?
LASCHEVERI think that's right. I think a lot of retailers would like to know that somebody would buy this TV for 350, but they're walking out the door because it's priced at 425, and if they could afford to sell it for 350, they would do so. But there's no way of knowing that they could make that sale unless people ask. So more and more I think sellers do want to know what people are prepared to pay, and hopefully the associates are well trained enough not to sell something for less than it's worth to really know where the cutoff is and make the deal when they can and not when they can't.
NNAMDIJeff, looking for a better deal does have limits. You talk about the coupon craze. What's the issue?
YEAGEROh, the coupon craze is sort of off the chart. You know something's become a fad when it has reality TV shows devoted to it. I'm not a big believer in coupons myself, unless it's for something that you're actually in the market to buy. I mean, the reason they're producing a coupon is to get to buy something, and if it's not really something that you need or would normally buy, what does it matter if you're getting 50 percent off? It's still not something that you need.
YEAGERI'll -- the previous caller kind of touched on this. I'm interested to see whether the recession that we've been through or are still in has a lasting impact at all on the way retail transactions happen in America. Negotiating is becoming more common. Is that something that's here to stay or not, and something that's very common, and big, big business now is the related field of bartering. People bartering for what they need rather than paying in cash. And in fact businesses bartering in a very big way for the goods and services they need. That's really sprung up since the recession, and it'll be interesting to see if post-recession the way we do business changes fundamentally.
NNAMDIAnd finally we got this email from Jessica. "I'm a Chinese-American woman and I love negotiating. People getting offended by negotiating seems to be an American or Western affectation. My husband is Caucasian, and without fail anywhere, anything, I can out negotiate him. Part of it may be my experience, but I also think people both here and abroad are less willing to negotiate with him since he looks like he shouldn't be negotiating, looks like he can afford it." And that's all the time we have.
NNAMDIJeff Yeager, thank you very much for joining us.
NNAMDIJeff Yeager is the author of "The Cheapskate Next Door: Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means. Sara Laschever, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDISara is co-author along with Linda Babcock of "Ask for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want." Produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney, with help from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. The engineers are Andrew Chadwick, Timmy Olmstead and Kellan Quigley. A.C. Valdez is on the phones. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website, kojoshow.org. To share questions or comments with us, email email@example.com, join us on Facebook, or send a tweet to @kojoshow. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. And a shout out to the students from Anacostia High School.
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