Stretching Your Dollar: Learn how to negotiate

Robin Pinkley, a professor and director of the American Airlines Center for Labor Relations and Conflict Resolution in SMU's Cox School of Business, talks about the importance of negotiation in a tight economy.


 When the economy turns down, your power as a consumer turns up.

If, that is, you're willing to do one thing: negotiate.

You can stretch your dollar by negotiating a lower price on almost anything.

At a Masters' level class at SMU, Professor Robin Pinkley teaches the finer points of corporate negotiation.

But, you don't need a B-school education to master this skill.

"So many things you think are not negotiable are negotiable," she said.

"Popcorn at the movies is negotiable. I've negotiated with Neiman Marcus, I've negotiated with liquor stores, I've negotiated in bakeries, I've negotiated with real estate agents."


Well, just as her classes prepare and strategize in advance, you need to, as well.

So, you need to do some very basic market research.

Does the store you want to deal with have competition nearby?

If so, you're 'creating alternatives' and stores will compete for your business and you have the power to walk away.

"In most instances, except in the selection of one's spouse, you want to fall in love with three and not one," said Pinkley.

Identify the person who has the authority to make a deal - the manager or the owner.

Pinkley teaches her students to find common ground where both sides get something they want.

It's not about getting something for nothing.

In many cases you can ask for a volume discount for buying more, offer to become a regular customer, or buy products with a short shelf life, at a discount.

Like Fernando at a bagel shop.

"We wanted to see if we could negotiate buying all the bagels you have left at night," he said.

But maybe Pinkley's most important advice is: Have fun and be likeable.

"If I like you, I'm going to be much more willing to do something for your than if I don't," said Pinkley.

With a little time and patience, Fernando eventually cut a deal.

And as with any good deal, both sides should always feel like they gained something in the process.

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