View Full Version : The negotiator

Moses Yoder
08-03-2014, 5:33 AM
I was raised to be a negotiator of prices. Never pay the asking price. This has stood me in good stead, as I have found most people mark their stuff up in anticipation of being chewed down and will gladly lower the price if you ask. This is embarrassing to Meg I think, but it is one of the things that define my character and make me the person I am.
About ten years ago my in-laws bought a place and soon after they told me there was going to be a steam show next door. I thought it would be interesting to see and went. I found a rust hunter’s heaven. A large section of the steam show was dedicated to the flea market where you could find all sorts of treasures. Well, they were treasures to me; Meg just shook her head.
This weekend is the steam show, Friday Saturday and Sunday. A lot of the flea market people are not there until late Friday setting up their stuff, I have found the best time to go is early Saturday morning. Yesterday (Saturday) I got around a little later than I should have and it was past 8 when I walked through the gate and paid my $4 to enter. I assumed the good stuff was already gone, but it turns out I was still an early bird and there were worms to be had. A little ways down the first isle I saw a nice Stanley miter box without the saw, I figured easily worth $20 with the saw I had at home. No prices on the stuff so I held it up and asked “How much?” and he replied $5. Well with a price that low even I am not going to negotiate. I also found a nice set of Allen wrenches in a steel box, $2, and paid for them both a little gleefully amazed at my luck. I turned to go and saw a Gold Bond Coleman stove, a 413G made for Gold Bond flour coupons. He said $10 for that and since I knew it was worth quite a bit more again I just thanked my lucky stars and paid the price. Later I bought a nice fully etched Disston thumb hole rip saw for $3 and just handed over the money not believing my luck.
I was about to see a real artist in action. I wandered around the rest of the flea market and came upon a table with a man across from me looking at an intake manifold with a carburetor attached to the top. We will call him Pete. The owner of the booth is Ananias and he came over to see if we needed anything. Pete to Ananias “You know, I am working on one of these at home and the only reason I would like to have this is to see what the float looks like.” Ananias; “Well what’ll you give me for it?” Pete; “Well I don’t know, what do you think it’s worth?” Ananias;”Well how about twenty bucks?” Now Pete was the kind of guy that was probably a millionaire but he replies “Woah, that’s not what I was thinking at all!” Ananias replies “Well how about fifteen?” And Pete just looks at him and says “Well at least you are headed in my direction!” Ananias says “What about ten bucks?” And Pete replies “Now you’re talkin’ “ and reaches for his wallet.
Here he had gotten an intact and usable intake manifold with a complete carburetor for $10 and had never once suggested a dollar figure to the seller; the seller had set his own price. I walked away realizing I had been in the presence of a real artist


Rich Engelhardt
08-03-2014, 10:09 AM
A wise man (Bill Doraty - owner of Doraty Chevrolet in Parma Ohio) once told me:

"Everything is negotiable".

How right he was.

Stephen Tashiro
08-03-2014, 10:21 AM
Watching people negotiate at flea markets can be amusing, but I do not like to watch them negotiate in front of me at the cash register in the checkout line.

Dan Hintz
08-03-2014, 11:53 AM
Ananias; “Well what’ll you give me for it?” Pete; “Well I don’t know, what do you think it’s worth?” Ananias;”Well how about twenty bucks?” Now Pete was the kind of guy that was probably a millionaire but he replies “Woah, that’s not what I was thinking at all!” Ananias replies “Well how about fifteen?”

Yep, there's the mistake... instead of offering a new dollar value, Ananias' reply should have been "What WERE you thinking after all, then?" Classic shot in the foot maneuver.

Brian Elfert
08-03-2014, 12:51 PM
It amazes me when people go to buy an item, typically used, and the first price presented is less than they expected to pay, but yet they still offer 50% less than what the seller is asking for.

I almost always pad the prices on anything I sell on Craigslist. Hardly anybody wants to pay full price so I still get what I wanted for my price and the buyer feels like they got a deal. If I get full price I get a bonus.

Jim Koepke
08-03-2014, 1:55 PM
Often if an offered price is good I have found that just keeping my mouth closed an mulling it over for a moment will get the seller to drop the price.

Silence can be a good negotiating strategy.


Rick Potter
08-04-2014, 3:12 AM
I usually just ask "how married are you to it?". It's a starting point. My brother has always said he wanted "Always ask for the discount" carved on his tombstone.

I was in a thrift store a while back and they had a brand new cap with "Don't forget my senior discount" embroidered on it. I simply had to have it.....after negotiation, of course.

Rick Potter

PS: Don't tell anyone, it will ruin my reputation. I have occasionally paid more than a seller asked, because they simply didn't know what they had.

Jim Matthews
08-04-2014, 7:26 AM
PS: Don't tell anyone, it will ruin my reputation. I have occasionally paid more than a seller asked, because they simply didn't know what they had.

Never educate your seller.
I find that dressing down for flea markets gets me better prices.

Too many of our local resellers are cleaning out houses, and they have no idea what is on display.

I find that the item is either worth their asking price, or we're so far apart that it's pointless to haggle.
My bargains come in bundling, when they can see that more things will be sold if there's a discount.

It's regional, I'm sure.

When I get the "It's worth a thousand dollars at an auction." I agree that it might be worth more to the perfect buyer.
I just walk further along until they call me back. I never counteroffer at these sales - I just wait for my price to be named.

Rick Potter
08-04-2014, 1:59 PM
I would normally agree with you Jim. Those few occasions where I paid more were when it was a relative selling off mom and dad's stuff. I have never seen an auction near me, there are a few estate sales run by pro's, but not that many. Most all of my acquisitions are from CL. Flea markets around here are organized businesses, I don't bother going to them, as it is mostly shoes, Chinese toys, and other items that don't interest me.

I hear about auctions in the Midwest, and get very jealous.

Rick Potter

Ryan Mooney
08-04-2014, 2:34 PM
Heh, some people really want to negotiate - being more of an introvert I've never been as excited about it and personally prefer a fair price to start. If you're asking $40 for something I think is only worth $10 the odds that I'm going to simply walk away without even talking to you are basically 100%. If its closer I might talk if you look willing to deal but if its too far off you won't even get my eye.

A while back (this spring maybe?) there was a flea market down town that I went to rust hunting and found a really nice little set of letter stamps (1/4") which would round out my collection of different sizes quite well. The seller wanted $5 which I thought was more than fair so I pulled out my wallet and started to hand over the cash. He looked at it and said "aren't you even going to TRY to negotiate?!!?" and seemed fairly offended that I'd just paid asking price.

David Weaver
08-04-2014, 2:48 PM
Moses, my parents grew up PA dutch (not amish, just protestant pa dutchy folks) and so did my wife's parents. Prices are always scrutinized, and there were some folks we knew from home who were downright ruthless when they buy and refused to budge when they sell. My mother will always ask "are you firm?" if it's anything other than a retail establishment, and in mom and pop retails, if she thinks the price is high but she likes the item, she'll try to get folks to move to what she thinks is reasonable and if they don't budge, she always puts it back.

I personally pay people what they're asking if I know they're low, but they will often cut you a deal themselves even if you don't ask for anything. I do like my mother otherwise - I will ask and see if the person is willing to get reasonable. I had a guy sell me a 6" machinist vise three years ago for $35. It looked like it was hardly used (no dings or hacksaw marks it in or anything, no wear, etc), made in the USA and he looked at me like I was high when I said I'd take it at $35. I *do* want the man to keep looking for the things, and make a few bucks for his effort when he has something good. What I don't love a lot is dealers who don't tag anything, especially when you see them in the same place more than one time with a whole bunch of stuff that's the same each time you see them. If they have something good, again, I'll ask, but they're almost always high and I whistle when they give me the high number and walk - if they're looking for a target but are willing to deal, they will call you back and say "let's talk". Most of the time, they're looking for a target, though - they want to sell a couple of things to dummies and nothing to anyone who knows what they're looking at.

I figure that all of the flea market dealers have set their prices where they will have some room, and if they have firm written on every tag, then you know they won't talk unless you at least put some things together.

It's the way of the pa dutch ancestors (anabaptist or not), though - keep your friends close and your money closer.