At the Mall…

I was walking through the mall with my family this past weekend, well, “with” is a bit of a stretch.  All you parents know what I mean…

Anyway, I was focused on making my way out, through all of the other shoppers and buyers and people watchers (oh my!) when words jumped through the white noise and caught my attention.

I was near one of those temporary stands that seam to fill every corridor these days.  You know the ones, for phone cases, jewelry cleaners and such.  This one was for hair accessories (weaves, scrunchies, barrettes, pig-tail holders, etc.).

As I approached I heard the proprietor say, in a very direct tone: “I might be able to do that, but what are you going to do for me first?”

And then there was silence.

My wife, who had also overheard the conversation, and gave me the look that told me in her head her inner voice just screamed: “AWKWARD”

And so I stopped, partly because observing and understanding human dynamics is a passion of mine and partly because I clearly stumbled across a negotiation in progress.

My wife mentioned how odd it was that the proprietor would dare put a potential customer in an awkward situation – jeopardizing a sale. To which I explained, there’s a part of the conversation we’re missing. The potential customer did NOT have awkwardness thrust upon them, they actually CREATED the first awkward moment (one which we did not overhear) by asking the proprietor for something out of the ordinary in the first place.

Awkwardness aside, I applaud BOTH the proprietor AND the customer.

The customer for looking beyond the price tag and asking the proprietor to “do better.”

The proprietor for realizing that the customer MUST have wanted the product, enough to start the awkward conversation anyway, and trying to get something in return for the potential discount they were considering.

Both sides were fearless.

Both sides were Trying.

And the proprietor had evoked what we refer to as “The Golden Rule of Negotiating" which is; "Never give anything without getting something in return".  We teach this concept in every one of our Negotiation Training Workshops.

Let me ask you, if a customer and proprietor at the mall can do it, can you?

By Mike Inman

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