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Jim Green's blog

For New Buyers #6

February 17, 2012

In April 2010, I wrote this blog which seems highly appropriate in this little series, ‘For New Buyers' so I have decided to repeat it. In my last post, ‘Negotiating with a Plan' some readers seemed incensed at the notion that a retail furniture merchant might be so bold as to attempt to negotiate the terms of a furniture sale with a vendor. While I could not disagree more, I do appreciate the input and of course their right to differ.

The experience I am going to relay occurred nearly 35 years ago at the beginning of my career in this industry and provided me with a very great lesson. I had the buying and merchandising responsibility for a large, regional furniture retailer. At the time we frequently sought out closeouts to use in our advertising as loss leaders. I fancied myself a savvy and talented negotiator. At market with my boss, we went to the showroom of a small manufacturer of promotional merchandise. Of course, I wanted to show off my skills to my boss and the manufacturer did, indeed, have closeouts to offer.

Never Take the Last Nickel

I bobbed and weaved, glibly talking circles around the company's president with whom I was dealing. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I walked away with the farm. Through my immense talents in negotiating, I got the best deal of my career. I was so proud of myself to have done this in front of my boss. He just nodded.

Flash forward to the next market. We needed more closeouts so I ventured back to the showroom where I had done so well for my company. I spotted the President and was content in the certain knowledge that I would reprise my previous stellar performance. He would barely look at me. He had no closeouts to offer and probably wouldn't have for the foreseeable future. Then, he extricated himself from the conversation and went on to another customer.

It hit me like a train wreck. The last time, I had taken the proverbial "LAST NICKEL" on the table and inwardly at least, gloated about it. This time, I could barely get a civil response. I deserved it.

I never forgot that experience and it has served me well over the years. The fact that I could not walk into that showroom again without feeling the target of a degree of animus was proof enough that I had gone way too far. Never mind that I would never be able to strike even a good deal again with this man. I left him with nothing, the classic WIN-LOSE scenario.

I never took such advantage, again. The lesson I learned was that, if at the very least it wasn't a reasonable deal for the other it was not a good deal for either. I always tried to be sure that I could walk back into any showroom a second time and receive a smile. Could I have gotten more in some negotiations in my career? Probably. But then I would have been taking the very last nickel, again.