Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Here's a quick quiz.

You are about to entrust all your earthly possessions to a company, expecting them to move them safely and without damage or drama from one place to another. You ask two well-established businesses to quote for your business. Which one do you choose?

Company A) The one whose rep told you when he would get the quote to you (via e-mail) and then missed his own deadline by 24 hours?


Company B) The one whose rep told you when he would get the quote to you (via e-mail) and met his deadline. But then had someone in the office ring back 24 hours later saying the quote contained an error and they needed to send a revised quote.

I suppose we could choose C) None of the above, and continue to look for a company that fills us with confidence but frankly there is no more reason to think we'll strike good luck on the third or fourth or fifth time. So we will probably go with one of the original pair.

The quotes are somewhat close on the bottom line, but are surprisingly different in how they arrived there. One is lots more for the packing, but lots less for the actual shipping. I think we prefer Company A because the guy seems to want the business more than the other.

That company is higher in the moving part, so I suppose we could tell him he needs to match the other guy's quote for that part. That would save about $1000. Or, we could just tell both of them that their quotes are too high and we're going with another company unless they want to come back with a last-and-best offer that beats that. Or, as LK suggested a moment ago, we could just ask them both for a better price.

The problem is that LK and I are lousy negotiators. We both hate haggling, and neither of us has ever won a bargaining contest nor are we likely to. (Actually, that's not true. LK won the matrimony negotiations when I said I did not want to get married again, she said she did, and I said OK. From zero to life in 15 seconds!)

Part of my problem is my approach to the negotiating process. Take this house, for example. Within 10 minutes of walking into it 10 years ago, LK and I both told the agent we wanted to buy the house. No wonder, the price kept inching upwards during negotiations. Or when we bought our car and I told the sales guy I didn't want to test drive, just wanted to buy it - how much is it? Amazingly close to the sticker price, you will be surprised to learn.

I was that way in business. Pretty quickly the folks who worked for me learned to never let me negotiate a contract. Except when it was time for their personal compensation contracts. Then they seemed all too eager to have me be the one who negotiated.

And that's the rub here. Obviously these moving companies are open to some sort of to-and-fro on price -- it's just a matter of figuring out how to extract the best deal from them. The other night I outlined a great negotiating strategy to LK - how we'd not bother to call them, argue this, point out that, haggle over whatever.

"Sounds good," she said, "but I don't do that sort of thing well. Are you going to?"

"No," I said, "I'm no good at it, either. That's what I used to have people do for me when I was working."

I suppose we can just act pathetic and ask them to give us a break. I will let you know if that works soon.

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