Jewish Journal


by Annie Korzen

July 7, 2011 | 12:04 pm

A lot of people are embarrassed to question the price of something because they’re afraid of looking Cheap.  But there’s a big difference between being Cheap and Frugal.  There’s nothing shameful in trying to get the best price for something, but it is evil to have your house guests suffocate because you refuse to turn on the air conditioning. 

Negotiating a price is not always about money.  There are often more personal elements at play.  My friend Laura was house-hunting and found the place of her dreams: a sprawling ‘60s home on a hill in Glendale with a panoramic view.  The house was not in great condition, but Laura is passionate about mid-century architecture.  The competing buyers saw it as a teardown.  Laura promised the elderly woman seller that she would respect the integrity of the design, and gradually restore it to its original glory.  She got the house even though the other offers were higher than hers.

I buy so much stuff that I’m forced to have a ginormous yard sale twice a year, with hundreds of tasty items. It’s a great opportunity to study people’s bargaining skills. Here are some approaches I do not recommend.

“How much?  That’s ridiculous. I could get it cheaper at K-Mart.” 
“Thirty dollars? I’ll give you five.”
“I can’t pay ten dollars. Here’s one-fifty, but my money is special. It’ll bring you good luck.”
“Twenty dollars? Oh gee, I only have eight bucks with me. Will that do”?

These bozos are being insulting, aggressive, and manipulative.  Why would I want to give them a break?  Here are some techniques that do work:

“You have such cool stuff. If I buy a lot, can you give me something off?”
“That’s a fair price, but it’s a little high for me. Any chance you could do better?”
“I love your hair!”

That last one gets me every time.

It helps to give the seller some insight into who you are. I happen to have a soft spot for teachers. They are undervalued and underpaid for the important work they do. A pleasant young women at my sale said “How much for the big box of construction paper and charcoals? I teach special needs kids and they love crafts projects.” I gave it to her for free, and she’s become one of my regular customers. She always buys clothing for herself, and I pick up paper and art supplies throughout the year to donate to her class.

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Annie Korzen is a comedy writer and performer. Her humorous essays have been printed in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. She has...

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