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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

A Negotiating Lesson from My Dad

Written By: Carol Roth | No Comments
Once again proving that street smarts is often more handy than book smarts… 

My dad can’t spell banana (literally, he spells it “banna”), but he can negotiate a mean deal.  Sometimes this is by annoying the hell out of the other party, but in this story, it was something different…

In the early 1990s, when my parents got divorced, my father had to sell our house.  Because the lawyers ended up with a good chunk of what was a fairly small asset pool to begin with, that meant downsizing. So, my father had the task of selling off some furniture.

One of the pieces was this “lovely” wall unit from that fine French furniture company “The House of Tackee’” from the late 1960s or early 1970s, complete with orange drapery behind wrought iron and wood, smoked mirror accents, a built in turntable/sound system and a flip-on fireplace (you can discuss the merits of this piece in the comments section…I know, I have no idea how this was ever considered hot or trendy) .

 

As you can imagine, there wasn’t a lot of demand for this type of furniture, so my dad had to be resourceful.  When he was at the local bagel shop one Saturday morning, the lady behind the counter mentioned she was looking for some furniture and so my dad asked if she wanted to come over to view the wall unit.

Apparently she had been smoking crack, because when she came to view it, she liked it.  She looked it up, down and all around and finally asked my dad what he wanted for it.

My dad said, “Why don’t you make me an offer?”

She paused and after several seconds held up two fingers.

“Two hundred dollars?” my dad thought to himself.  He knew he probably would have a hard time finding anyone else, so he said, “Well, it was less than I wanted, but if you throw in some bagels for a few months, it’s a deal”.

She agreed, handed him a wad of cash and said that she couldn’t pay for it all at once, but that she would pay it off in installments within a few weeks. My father was confused and counted the cash.  She had given him $500.

After another few seconds, it occurred to him that when she held up the two fingers, she had meant two THOUSAND dollars, not two hundred.  He put the $500 in his pocket and said, “No problem, you can pay the rest in installments.”

He actually got $2000 for something he should have paid someone else to haul away.  So, how did he do that?

-He had the other woman make the offer first.  This way, he didn’t place any limit on it.  He only wanted about $400, but by letting her go first, he didn’t cap out the upside.

-He wasn’t greedy.  As the saying goes, pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.  If he held out, he may not have found anyone to take the darn thing.  In this case, by not being greedy, he got more than he ever dreamed of.

-He also kept his cool until he understood the circumstances.  When she handed him the cash, he could have blurted out, “But I was talking about $200”.  By taking the time to process what she was thinking (which was obviously different than he initially thought) he ended up with a deal that they were both very happy with.

-Oh, and he got her to throw in some bagels, which was something that was easy for her to do, but still added value to him.

So, thanks to Bernie for this great lesson.  I will share in the future another time that I used the same strategy with much success.

And as a side note, when he was selling his king size bed, the first guy that came to the house looked at the bed and said, “How many people can this sleep”? 

My dad said, “How many people do you want it to sleep?” [notice a pattern here?]

The guy said, “Eight”. 

My dad sized up the bed and said, “It seems like it can fit eight…”.

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth