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June 3, 2016

Lessons in Negotiation at the Bazaar

Natalie Benfell

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If I'm being honest, negotiations have never been my strong suit. I find them daunting, and saying the wrong thing can be embarrassing in any situation, never mind when you're trying to remain professional. Most of all, I quite often make the mistake of being afraid to offend anyone.

But this means that I'm often left with the short straw. My lack of confidence causes me to close up and I find myself giving in, even though I'm not happy with the outcome. There have been so many times where I've left these situations disappointed – but how can I stop feeling bad about saying "no"?

When I imagine someone negotiating, I always think back to summer vacations with my grandfather. As a factory owner, he was used to handling tough business deals on a daily basis. He was always after the best price, and he never stopped until he achieved it – even when on vacation.

As I was coming up to sixth grade, my family took a trip to Antalya in Turkey. I had never been to the country before, so I was excited to experience the culture and enjoy some precious time before I'd have to go to a new school. While exploring the local bazaars with my parents, I spotted some beautiful handwoven friendship bracelets – the perfect gift for my school friends. The seller was extremely friendly, and carefully helped me to choose the right bracelets for each of my friends. Happy with my selection, I began to open my coin purse to search for the correct change. At that moment, my grandfather looked at me with a slight grin, gently lowered my purse, turned towards the seller, and confidently asked, "How much?"

Having never been exposed to this kind of bargaining before, I was confused. The price for the bracelets were clearly marked but, without hesitation, the two men began haggling with one another. I was taken aback slightly: I mean, who knew that Granddad had such a vast knowledge of friendship bracelets or their worth? But here he was, seemingly appalled and unimpressed every time the seller offered him a price. Even though the seller would give his "best price" each time, the offer was quickly rejected and the cost of the item continued to drop.

I was certain that the battle was over when the seller refused to go any lower, but it wasn't. Not by a long shot. "Not good enough!" Granddad exclaimed. He grabbed my hand and started to walk away, claiming to have seen it "half that price" down the other end of the bazaar. The seller looked disgruntled before finally giving in with a simple, "Fine."

He beckoned my grandfather back, the negotiation came to an end, and I collected my bracelets for about two thirds of the original price. As we walked away, I was concerned that we had hurt the man's feelings. Granddad assured me that haggling was expected in that situation and that it was "nothing personal."

As I look back, I have to admit, I'm quite impressed. He showed me that anything can be up for negotiation, as long as you're not afraid to ask and to put yourself out there. His hardball "distributive" negotiation style isn't appropriate for every situation but it's very effective where you're likely to never see the other person again. Granddad had the confidence to go after what he wanted – and what he wanted was the best price!

Do you want to reach an agreement that works for you? Our latest article, "Essential Negotiation Skills," will help you to choose the right style, for the right situation. Share your own experiences of negotiation, and any questions or comments you have, below.

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6 comments on “Lessons in Negotiation at the Bazaar”

  1. My dad loves negotiating and one day he was so proud at a after some handicrafts purchased. However, I didn't need to spend much energy to get some discounts too, I just played aloof and the seller kept outbidding himself.

  2. "Two thirds of the original price"? After my experiences in Egyptian bazaars, I'd be amazed if the seller hadn't been ready to go down to below half. Not that I was able to do much better. 🙂

    1. Negotiation can be a tricky thing in any situation, be that a bazaar or in the workplace! The key in my mind is to know where your 'walk away' point is. Where do you drawn the line?!? Any thoughts?

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