Chisel, Chisel, Chisel…BOOM!

Haggling and bargaining is more common in Australia than it was 30 years ago. I won’t say from whence came the practice, nor to where I wish the practitioners would go, but let me record my admiration for Japanese commercial culture – the price stated on their retail goods is the price that is paid. Would that this were the norm for other people.

Haggling is also known in Canada as chiselling – and it has a bad connotation for many of us. We put up with it when necessary, but it is the sort of behaviour that causes us to reconsider whether or not the sale itself is necessary.

I recently put some items up for sale on the Gumtree site. A couple of items sold, a couple of them did not – one piece was offered as a trade or swap and it resulted in a very pleasing bargain for both myself and the other party. I’m delighted with the model airplane I got in the swap.

This cycle of ads brought what I can only describe as an onslaught from another would-be buyer. The price asked in the advertisement was routinely halved by him. And then on each refusal he upped it by $ 5. A final price given from me was underbid by – you guessed it – $ 5. All the while urgent messages came that he would call in in half an hour, etc.

Upon reflection, I went back and scrubbed the price from the advertisements and substituted an offer to trade the goods for unbuilt model airplane kits. It worked a treat before, and it might work again – and no more $ 5 haggling. I added more goods into the offer.

Today I got a message from the chiseller. Was I still interested? He was figuring that I was under some sort of pressure and would cave in overnight. I’m actually curious to see if he reacts at all to the new terms of engagement or whether he realises that he chiselled himself out of a good deal by being greedy for $ 5.


Benevolence And Charity In The 21st Century


Whenever I find myself getting too hardened to the human condition and too skeptical of the motives of the populace at large, something comes along to restore my faith in mankind. Just such an encounter on last Thursday in our camera shop.

To set the scene, it was a moderately busy afternoon – customer after customer with price enquiries, small purchases, and requests for technical assistance. It was getting along half past feet-hurting time when a young man and his lady companion came in. They were both well-dressed, if a trifle theatrical, but interesting for all that. It is not that common to encounter an oriental Elvis – you do tend to take notice.

Well, he was pleasant, and interested in a camera that the Nikon company sells for about $ 7500. We had one and he spent some time examining it -he seemed quite familiar with the controls and sounded satisfied with the item – so much so that he expressed the desire to buy it. As you can imagine, my heart leapt with joy to hear this. All that was needful was an agreement upon the price.

The Nikon recommended retail price might be $ 7500 but I cannot imagine this being the final price Рthese things tend to be bargained down these days. Fortunately we have been provided with some instruction in this and have been advised by our management of the sort of leeway that we might have to bargain with. We have an accurate computer record of what our shop paid for the item. In this case the lowest price that could be offered for this professional equipment  was $ 6700. Pricey, but the sort of investment that this sort of thing requires Рit is the sort of camera that is used to earn high fees and is like to pay for itself inside a year.

Elvis thought that the price should be $ 6200. I explained that this could not be, as the item had cost more than that to our firm – I had seen the computer record. He countered with the assertion that he had seen it on the internet for the lower price – and then explained that he really wanted to do me a favour by supporting a local shop. I hardly knew what to say – I was devastated that I would not be able to sell it to him at the lower price – putting my employers out of pocket in so doing – and could only lamely tell him the truth. The expression on his face told me that, for him, truth was a novel concept, and that he would need some time to become used to it.

Then he told me that he had bought a large amount of equipment from us, and expected a discount. I checked on the computer records and the truth inconveniently obtruded itself again – his only purchase was a small lens two years ago.

Then it became a question of charity. He was a poor man. Oh. Oh. Indeed, I believed him. After paying for the Elvis outfit and haircut, and the dress, nails, and two iPhones that his lady companion constantly tapped on and talked in, I could well believe that he was poor. He was probably down to his last $ 6200 and that was needed for the camera. Goodness knows where the next bowl of rice was to come from. I shared his anticipated pain…but was unable to relieve it.

You see, I am a hard man. Not courageous, just cynical. I have no objection listening to Hong Kong, Hindustan, Hanoi, or Halifax, but I refuse to listen to Hooey. I do not expect the customer to be concerned with my welfare – I recognise that their primary loyalty is to their own pocket – I do not need to be condescended to. But I expect them to listen to the truth and to speak it themselves.