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.

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Bumtree

I have made use of the free selling site and app called Gumtree on several occasions in the past and have been delighted with the results.

While not everything has sold quickly, in most cases something has gone within a three week period, and if I have priced things fairly, it has all been good. But I am wondering about the thing lately.

I accept that there are some items that cannot be sold over this medium. I do not seek to sell them. Yet, when the rulemakers start to be arbitrary about the things – accepting one item and rejecting its brother – you wonder whether they are really smart enough to understand the difference between legal and illegal.

Further, while the listings are easy enough to put up, the first response to many of the careful prices is a flat 30% offer. That’s desultory and predatory at the same time, though not illegal in itself. I always thank the responder for the offer and if I can make any accommodation, I will do so…but the accommodation is a final thing.

Then it starts to get interesting. As soon as the accommodation is suggested, a series of barriers or extra demands are raised. Can the item be sent to the other side of the country at the accommodation price ( ignoring shipping costs ) and is there a vast range of accessories included free with it? Can a friend pick it up and pay by cheque? The odour of fish grows stronger with each text message.

The only saving grace with this is the fact that the advertisement is free in the first place and no goods ever have to be handed over without cash being exchanged on the spot. On all occasions when this has been the case, the deal has been good.

Well caveat emptor et vendor. It is the sort of activity that can be carried out while other things are going on, and no-one can force a sale either way. But if the buyers really do want to do business, they’ll have to do it with dignity. It ain’t a verge collection.