Monday, January 18, 2010

Lying for Fun and Profit

Much too late to matter in my life, I have discovered the secret of being a good negotiator. You lie.

With nothing to lose except money and integrity, I decided to see if I could get the movers to lower their quotes. Not having much heart for it, I decided to make the process as short as possible. So I chose the guy (whom I will call Monty) who had put in the slightly lower bid and I told him the other guy (whom I will call Sid) had underbid him by $900.

It wasn't quite a lie. What I said was that Sid had underbid his quote for packing by $900. Which was true, except that I neglected to add that Sid had charged so much for the actual move that Sid's bid was in fact the higher of the two.

It's what the ad agency calls "Truth Well Told". Lying but without the guilt, in other words.

Anyhow, Monty - the guy with the slightly lower bid - said he couldn't match that $900, but he would talk with his manager. (Apparently this is standard practice in every company except those I run.) And to no one's surprise, he came back with a $450 cut. He still thought he was behind in the bidding, but those of us who can see behind the curtain know that he just increased his lead by $450.

So now I had to figure out how to lie to him so it would make sense that I would accept his bid even though it was higher than Sid's. I told Monty we would prefer to deal with him since he seemed to want the business more, and would take his bid.

I know. To people who love negotiating, I virtually jumped in the sack seconds after the first kiss on the cheek. To them, that's not really negotiating. More like premature capitulation.

But look at it from my point of view. I hate negotiating, but I had already got the lower bidder to go lower, cut some bucks off the price and earned Linda's respect. (Well, OK, that's a lie, too. But she was happy we were saving money.)

And then Sid called. I told him that he had been underbid by a lot. It was something like $650 in fact, but I told him $900. He said he couldn't match it.

Then he called back ten minutes later. He had talked with his boss. Of course.

Apparently Sid's company was tired of getting underbid by Monty's company, so they were going to beat their bid.

He cut his original bid by $1,250. He was now truly a couple of hundred cheaper.


Monty didn't think so, of course, as he realized that when this lying old fat guy told him he had the business he was - well - lying.

Monty talked with his boss again, and they could cut a little more. Since now - for the first time - they really were behind, that got them very, very close, but not enough to get their nose in front. Funny enough, they might have won if they had put that number up right from the beginning.

But of course I could not tell him this because he thought he was way behind. And I couldn't really even discuss it with him because I was having trouble remembering which lies I had told whom.

Monty seemed to take the defeat with good grace, but he had a bit of spite for his competitors.

"Tell them I came in $200 lower than their bid," he said. "I can guarantee you they will lower it one more time."

"You may be right," I told him, "but I can't do it. It just seems so tacky to lie in order to save a couple of hundred bucks."

God, I even amazed myself with that line.

Then I realized. I was no longer negotiating; I was just flat out lying for the sake of telling a porkie!

I felt kind of bad.

Until it occurred to me that I may have been lying to Monty but he was urging me to lie to Sid. And from there it all gets too complicated.

So I will just relax and enjoy the fact that I am more than a thousand bucks ahead. And as penance for my sins, I will re-read Al Franken's book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" while listening to endless replays of Charles and Eddie's "Would I Lie to You, Baby?" That should cure me.


PS I know the last post promised this one would be about the financial reasons we are moving to Hobart. But I guess after reading today's post, you're not too surprised that I didn't tell the truth. Anyhow, I will try to get to that tomorrow.

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