The Negotiation Paradox

I use the word paradox informally, because what I'm about to describe to you is not a paradox. It's more of a negotiating secret that eludes many people; and that's why I've decided to write about it.

Not long ago I lamented via social media about a disturbing trend amidst the world of Craigslist. I peruse Craigslist when I'm bored just to see what's floating around out there for sale. It's better than playing Candy Crush!

The real reason I do this is to keep an eye on the market value of items that interest me--not items I want now, but things I might be interested in someday. Here's what I observed...

People overprice their stuff.

For example, my wife and I have toyed with the idea of new living room furniture over the last year or so. Some of the sets we liked were priced around $700-900--NEW. Nothing fancy, just comfy furniture. I would jump on Craigslist and see very similar furniture priced at $600-800--USED. And by used, I mean used. So what are these people thinking?

I would love to say they're not successful, but they must be, or they wouldn't keep doing it. I'm afraid many people think a Craigslist price is, by definition, a good deal; but it's not. In fact, I think sellers play on this gullibility and are able to get buyers to pay top dollar for old stuff. 

You've probably heard similar type schemes at used car lots, in which the dealership sells pre-owned vehicles for almost the same price as brand new ones. People instinctively believe they are getting a better deal because it was used.

I don't make a career of negotiating. I'm a scientist. But science has taught me to be observant. Here's what I've observed...

Counter-offering high priced merchandise with near-insulting numbers can often get you a good deal. 

It might make you feel like a jerk, but there is a time and a place to impolitely imply that the "pricing manager" was on crack. Again, I'm not an expert negotiator, but every once in awhile I come out ahead. For example...

My wife and I just purchased a dresser and crib for the new baby's room. The dresser had crayon marks on it, but it was a solid piece of furniture. The crib was exactly what we wanted--convertible and white. So great! 

They were asking $400. Not great. In fact, you could get this combo BRAND NEW for about $450 + tax. To me, that's not worth it to get used stuff with crayon marks on it. And it needed to be repainted. So I sent the seller a text and said...

"We like the crib and dresser, and we'd like to look at them; but our offer will be $250, just so you know."

That might seem rude, but somebody had to say it.

Two days later we picked up the set for $250.

Do your homework, and don't get swindled. 

I'm not saying this person was evil, but they were certainly not pricing well. Perhaps they were ignorant. It's not my job to figure that out. It's my job to get baby furniture. Done.

Image credit:
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  1. I love the idea of giving the seller a "heads up" about your offer. That way you don't waste anybody's time, including your own.

  2. Yep. We watch American Pickers all the time, and those guys are constantly offering WAY LESS than the original stated price--and getting it. People throw out crazy high numbers, and you just have to tell them where you're at!

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