PawnFilter March 2, 2010 6:33 PM   Subscribe

Mathowie's lessons in negotiation was featured on Lifehacker
posted by emilyd22222 to MetaFilter-Related at 6:33 PM (63 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Weird. I kind of knew that lifehacker would pick it up. I probably should have just offered it as a guest post over there...
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:36 PM on March 2, 2010


I wonder if I went into a pawn shop and asked the owner, "Are you a friend of Matt Haughey?," what would happen. Would that work as a negotiation tool? I think I'd end up with a banjo and a pile of cat claws.
posted by emilyd22222 at 6:44 PM on March 2, 2010


This is very much like the strategy I use when I try to convince people to make deals with me. The third situation is great once you've gotten enough practice because you have a lot of leeway, in lieu of facts, to present your offer as an excellent bargain in some way that the other party had never considered.
posted by invitapriore at 6:46 PM on March 2, 2010


To make deals with me in Monopoly*. I'm not such a shyster in real life, promise.
posted by invitapriore at 6:46 PM on March 2, 2010


No offense, but did I miss a big chunk of the post? It was interesting but didn't really hack my life...

(Also, the pawn shop near me is as rundown, empty and depressing as you can imagine. Hardly the wonderland of treasures countless Christmas specials and O'Henry stories have led me to believe.)
posted by DU at 6:57 PM on March 2, 2010


I just hacked a roll by adding Jarlsberg cheese and hummus. 1337 s4ndw1ch yo!
Pawnstars in great fun but it doesn't add a drop to the empty pool that symbolizes the volume of my desire to live in Vegas.
posted by Babblesort at 6:59 PM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


but it doesn't add a drop to the empty pool that symbolizes the volume of my desire to live in Vegas.

My wife and I have been arguing for several minutes over what this means. I'm pretty sure "the empty pool that symbolizes the volume of my desire" means that you have no desire, i.e. the volume is zero because the pool is empty.

But mathematically that's wrong, because the volume is the same either way. Plus, it is common vernacular to indicate a desire or yearning as an emptiness that needs filling.

The initial clause to the sentence "X is great but doesn't add a drop" doesn't clear it up any because there's an interpretation either way. Under the first meaning, you could be saying that X is great but you still don't want to live there. Under the second meaning, you could be saying that X is great but hardly sates the enormity of your desire to live there.

Please clarify.
posted by DU at 7:06 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Either way, the fave was for that sentence not the one about the sandwiches, although that joke is endlessly funny to me.)
posted by DU at 7:07 PM on March 2, 2010


DU's comment doesn't add a bean to my.. empty plate... of ... thinking about things?
posted by deliquescent at 7:09 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was walking really really fast but was sure I could walk faster. I adopted a style of walking that involved pumping the arms synchronously with my footfalls as I used my mighty hip flexors to lift the forward-moving leg substantially, while bending it at the knee. I also discovered that if I lift my back leg before the forward leg has struck the ground my velocity increases substantially! And I appear to levitate briefly! I call this new method of locomotion hack-walking!

Also, yeah, people need to learn how to negotiate.
posted by Mister_A at 7:15 PM on March 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Symbolism is tricky.
The volume of the [absent] water, not the [available due to emptiness] water container, is symbolic of my desire.
posted by Babblesort at 7:17 PM on March 2, 2010


No wonder I ended up paying $6 for my account.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:37 PM on March 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


What. the. fuck. lifehacker.
posted by odinsdream at 7:42 PM on March 2, 2010



No offense, but did I miss a big chunk of the post? It was interesting but didn't really hack my life...


Yeah, I was expecting some bodacious hacking, but it was more of a brief observation.
posted by mpbx at 8:08 PM on March 2, 2010


You really don't have to watch too many shows to pick up on the process by which the pawnshop guys operate. Mathowie did a pretty good summary of the negotiations. It's almost slap your head stupid when it comes to expectations of people after they hear an expert offer what they think it's worth.

Expert: "It's worth 5k!"

Rick: "So what do you want for it?"

seller: "5k!"

I mean, c'mon folks, it's a PAWN SHOP. They aren't going to buy something they can't make a profit it, which means having to buy it under its estimated value to sell at that value.

The toughest negotiator is actually the Old Man, he pretty much never negotiates. He offers a price, generally at 30% of the value and won't budge. He has no qualms with saying no.

I understand the Pawn shop process of negotiating. It's better than the "American Pickers" people who go knocking on people's doors to steal buy things out from under folks noses. The worse people on Pawn Stars, in my opinion, are the people who so carelessly sell incredible items. Yesterday featured a father who sold a genuine silver spoon crafted by Paul freakin' Revere, passed down through the generations, just so he could fund his daughter's expensive wedding. (Listen daughter, wouldn't you rather have a Paul Revere spoon to show to your kids than that five tier cake and wedding dress that cost an extra 3k?!)

So many items are described as having been precious to parents or grandparents, only to be shrugged away by those who inherited them and are looking for some extra cash. Drives me just nuts.
posted by Atreides at 8:30 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: great fun but it doesn't add a drop to the empty pool that symbolizes the volume of my desire
posted by eddydamascene at 8:44 PM on March 2, 2010


The Lies household is addicted to the show. We suck at negotiating, so we love to see how the experts do it. We also feel bad for all the people selling amazing antiques to pay for weddings, tuition and other frivolous stupid shit.

Yesterday we saw an interesting negotiation in Pawn Stars, I forget the exact figures, but it went like:

Customer: Give me $6,500.
Rick: I'll give you $3,000.
Customer: $4,500.
Rick: $4,000.
Customer: $4,500.
Rick: $4,200 is the most I can give you (Doing the "if you don't want to sell, it is OK, we can still be friends" gesture).
Customer: This is Vegas, lets flip a coin, if you win, $4,200; if I win $4,500.

They flip and Rick loses.

This is the part that I don't understand, the customer had already been offered $4,200 and it was clear he wanted to sell right there. The customer had nothing to lose, why did Rick take the bet? If I were him I'd counter with something like: $4,000 if Rick wins, $4,500 if customer wins?

I was also surprised yesterday when they are discussing a sculpture and Rick explains Art Deco as opposed to Impressionism to Chumlee as "Something that would look good in your living room". Chumlee says "Anything looks good in my living room" and Rick says something like "The centerpiece of your living room is a bong". What is the pot situation in Vegas? Will the police be knocking on Chumlees door soon?

Finally, we loved the guy that goes in to sell an old gun. He explains that now that they have a baby, his wife made him get rid of the guns, but will let him put the proceeds towards buying an electric guitar. The guy expects a couple hundred dollars, the gun ends up being worth $4,000. Instead of taking $2,000 cash, he trades it for a $4,000 sweet vintage Fender. My wife an me were laughing a long time trying to imagine his wife's look when she sees the show.
posted by dirty lies at 9:18 PM on March 2, 2010


(Listen daughter, wouldn't you rather have a Paul Revere spoon to show to your kids than that five tier cake and wedding dress that cost an extra 3k?!)

Someone's never met a bridezilla.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 9:31 PM on March 2, 2010


why did Rick take the bet?

He was on TV. It is a TV show.
posted by birdherder at 9:42 PM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The secret to negotiating is quite simple. Know your limits and be willing to walk if outside those limits. I have negotiated car purchases for two of my sisters-in-law. I always ask them one question. How much are you willing to pay? It is actually a more complicated question than it appears. Most people have a number in mind, but if you tell them you walked away from a deal that was $1 more than their top they get upset. "Hey! One friggin dollar? I would have paid that!" My response is, "Then why didn't you tell me that when I asked?"

On my most recent truck purchases for myself, I went in and gave the salesman a choice. EIther he could give me a take-it-or-leave-it price or I could give him mine. He opted for me giving him a number. I had done my research and knew not only what the actually cost was to him including holdbacks and his floor costs, but also what the salesman would get. He listened to my price, and then did the "I need to speak to my manager" trick. I told him he had exactly 3 minutes and 33 seconds to come back or the deal was off. At 3 minutes I started getting my coat on. At 3:30 I started toward the door when they came rushing out to give me a counter offer. I laughed. I asked if that meant they were rejecting my bid. They said, "No, we are negotiating" I told them I was not negotiating. They mumbled something about how I was taking advantage of them, yada yada. I got my trucks at my price because I was willing to walk. And because the sale of those two trucks put the dealer over a factory incentive plan that gave him a bonus for selling over a certain amount of units.

I have also always been of the belief that if a trade happens, then both sides to the trade think it was worth it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:38 PM on March 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


JohnnyGunn, was your time limit arbitrary? It seems kind of random.
posted by pecknpah at 10:59 PM on March 2, 2010


mathowie: I need $10.00 for member ship
noob: I think the internet should be free
mathowie: OK, I'll meet you halfway - send $5.00 to the odious PayPal and pick out a nickname which shall be yours forever even if you hate it.
noob: Gee, thanks Mr. Howie.
posted by Cranberry at 11:12 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I only negotiate my lowest bargain rate on a tv show when I know for sure that I am going to attempt a nosedive straight into the shitter.

All of the sudden, in last minute turn-around I'll pretend and go, "Wasn't that cool?"'
Super-Dave Osbourne style Double hopper reverse jackass three sixty Mc Meta flavor nugget.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:15 PM on March 2, 2010


Yesit was arbitrary but enough time for them to make a decision.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:15 PM on March 2, 2010


Then I land it.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:18 PM on March 2, 2010


Oh, ok. I was concocting this whole theory about how long an average person would wait before taking an offer (would it vary from culture to culture? would gender make a difference?). I'm intrigued now.
posted by pecknpah at 11:24 PM on March 2, 2010


I haven't been in a pawn shop for years but any counterparty to a transaction that starts out with "So what do you want for it?" isn't playing fair. A honest negotiator will tell you at the outset what price they're willing to offer. Anything else and they are taking advantage of information asymmetries, and to your detriment.

I purchased a flat here in London in 2001; the English woman who lived here, went slowly mad here and died here was a hoarder. I got the flat for a 40% discount to market at the time, partially because it was full of rubbish, partially because I negotiated, but also because I had built a price list for about 100 similar properties (two bedroom, two story garden flats in London's East End) and thus knew fair value. So being in possession of knowledge of your market can't be overstated.

Upon clearing the flat I found lots of interesting stuff, including a pair of exquisitely carved oriental figurines. A man and a woman, each were carved from ivory, were very, very dusty but upon being cleaned up looked superb.

I was sorta curious what they were worth so I carefully packaged them up and visited Grays Antiques in The West End, where there are dozens in individual antiques dealers under one storefront (sort of an mall for independent dealers).

One of The Old Dears in my building had recommended a specific dealer at Grays, to whom I presented the ivory carvings. I wasn't sure if I wanted to sell (I sorta liked them and really hate the idea of making a market in ivory) but I surely wanted to know their value, as I'd already sold lots of stuff from the flat, and was getting a kick out of driving my purchase price even lower as I realised revenue from selling off stuff.

Unwrapped the carvings from a towel, he looked them over and then he opened with "How much do you want for them?".

So that got my alarm bells ringing. "Uhh, I don't know they were my grandmothers I countered with ... " I trailed off, as I was really trying to acquire pricing data.

"How about four hundred pound for the pair?" he asked, carefully looking over the carvings.

I didn't say anything for about ten seconds, and he reached into his pocket and started counting cash. Well, I already know that trick (wave some cash about) as I do it myself if I'm on the other side of a negotiation, say at a local market stall, haggling over the prices of fruit and veggies.

"I don't know, they've been in our family for a long time, four hundred pounds for them sounds sorta low …" I started wrapping the carvings back up in the towel I used to protect them.

"Four hundred for the pair? You misheard me! I said four hundred each, eight hundred for the pair" Magically the stack of twenty pound notes in front of me doubled in size.

"Do we have a deal?" he asked, extending his hand.

Well, I didn't really want to sell to begin with, and had gotten what I started out for - pricing data. The fact that he effectively doubled his offer at the last minuted wasn't lost on me, so I left with my carvings.

In fact I still got the carvings.

I have no idea what they're really worth, but I do know its somewhat higher than eight hundred pounds for the pair.
posted by Mutant at 11:56 PM on March 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


It doesn't scale.
posted by at the crossroads at 12:29 AM on March 3, 2010


tuition and other frivolous stupid shit

What.
posted by DU at 2:52 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, who are these idiots selling stuff at a pawnshop instead of on ebay where they will fetch not only 3x their value but also shipping $$$ and an A+++++++++WOULDBUYAGAIN seal of approval?
posted by DU at 2:56 AM on March 3, 2010


I emailed Matt to tell him that Pickers had pretty much the same negotiation primer, without the Las Vegas part.
posted by fixedgear at 3:16 AM on March 3, 2010


I make people offers on their stuff every working day. I don't negotiate as I offer fair prices out of the gate. If someone asks for more--even a dollar more--and they seem cool, I'll tell them why I won't go higher. If someone seems like an ass and asks for more, I just quietly slide their stuff over to the other side of the counter. If they're a real dick, the expression on their face when I do that gives me much pleasure throughout the day.

What always kills me about people selling their shit is when they say up front they don't know their worth but then try and tell me I don't know their worth. I had a guy come in last week with a box of records, mostly classic rock and other common titles. He says he does junk removal and these were at his last job. He admitted to not knowing anyone "still bought these things" and then when I made him an offer, he told me I was out of my mind. He held up one record (Michael Jackson's Thriller) and said, "This one is probably worth more than your whole offer. Do you know how rare this is?!" (My offer had been $118.)

I said, "Do you? It's one of the best-selling albums of all time. By the time your copy was pressed there were 20 million of them in the wild."

"What are you going to sell this for?"

I told him. He said, "So, if I come back next week, I'll see it for that price and not a penny more, right?"

"If you come back next week, are you even going to know which copy of Thriller was yours?"

"What do you mean? It's Thriller?"

"What era's the pressing? What country? What grade is the vinyl in? The sleeve?"

He said, "I don't know, but I heard it was rare. Copies on eBay are going for lots of money."

"Do they have any bids on them?"

"They're on eBay."

"But are there any bids?"

He started packing up his stuff. "I'm gonna hit some other shops and see what the consensus is. If your price is the best, I'll come back."

"Nah, that's my offer right now. You leave, I'm no longer interested."

"Why?"

"Because I just took 15 minutes checking the condition of each of your records, front and back, in and out, making sure the right pressings were in the right sleeves. I didn't memorize the titles or the conditions and if you sell a few to another store and come back here, I'm gonna have to go through the box again and make you another offer and your titles are so common that it's simply not worth my time."

"No, these are rare. You're just trying to play to get a better price. And if I come back you have to go through them again. It's your job."

He then had the nerve of asking me where the other stores were. I told him a few as I knew what the result would be. (My competition doesn't pay anywhere near what I pay for things I want--things I buy for $5, other stores will pay 25 cents to $3 for and I told him this; a customer shopping in my store even backed me up).

Two hours later he comes back and has the balls to say, "You know what? I didn't have time to go to those other shops. I've been busy running errands. I'll take your offer. All the records are still in the box. Trust me."

He was stunned when I wasn't interested. "But it's your job to go through them!"

"And it's your job to know what your stuff is worth so that when you sell it, you know if you're being conned or not. You didn't do your job or you'd know my offer was fair."

He repeated, "But it's your job to go through them!"

"Yeah, but it's also my job to know which customers to encourage to return and which ones to encourage to stay away. It's also my job to make a fair offer at the start so that I don't have to go through stuff again later. It's also my job to stick to my guns and I told you that if you walked out, the offer was off the table; you walked. It's also my job to determine the best use of my time and right now I'm dusting. Try one of those other stores. Maybe I was wrong about what they'd offer you."

And that was the end of the conversation.

Usually, though, people take what I offer without any discussion. It helps to be fair.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 4:58 AM on March 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


Mrs Morte does all my negotiation for me, and has done ever since I witnessed her way with counterfeit handbag sellers in Rome.

Mrs. Morte: How much for this one?
Handbag Man: Sixty Euros.
Mrs. Morte: I'll give you ten.
Handbag Man: No, no. Forty-five.
Mrs. Morte: Ten.
Handbag Man: No no no no you don't understand. I go down and you go up and we meet in the middle. So I say 'forty-five' and you say 'forty'.
Mrs. Morte: TEN.
Handbag Man: ok, ok, ten.
Mrs. Morte: I'll give you eight.

She went on to do exactly the same thing with four other sellers. You don't haggle with Mrs. Morte.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:04 AM on March 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


"Nah, that's my offer right now. You leave, I'm no longer interested."

That right there is when I know I'm being scammed. The ol' "limited time offer" wheeze.
posted by DU at 5:21 AM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suck at haggling and don't have the stomach for it. So when I once wanted to get rid of something that I had of value, I offered to a friend who loved to haggle that she could have 10% of whatever she got for it. This seemed like a great solution to me.

What I didn't count on, and should have foreseen, is that the first thing she did is try to get me to raise her percentage.
posted by vacapinta at 5:28 AM on March 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


That right there is when I know I'm being scammed. The ol' "limited time offer" wheeze.

I would agree with you in the pawnshop scenarios in the video--like when a person has a single item that can easily be accessed. But when someone brings in dozens or hundreds of items in boxes, each of which has to be individually evaluated and verified is still in the box when the person returns after hitting four other stores... ? And they're items I know I'll see again in 3 days if this guy passes? Sorry, but it's the truth. I am no longer interested.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:29 AM on March 3, 2010


I haven't been in a pawn shop for years but any counterparty to a transaction that starts out with "So what do you want for it?" isn't playing fair.

In the show, this usually follows some expert giving an auction price range, so the seller invariably answers with the top of the range. So it's not quite as random as it sounds.

It's better than the "American Pickers" people who go knocking on people's doors to steal buy things out from under folks noses.

The problem with that show is that they are very simplistic about using the profit equation. They'll take the best possible selling estimate that the guys make up and subtract the price they paid and call that profit. First problem is that if you didn't sell it yet, you don't have nothing. Second problem is that getting a dirty sign from a farm in the middle of Iowa to a big-city auction is not free. It ends up making it seem like every old folk is getting gouged.
posted by smackfu at 5:35 AM on March 3, 2010

The secret to negotiating is quite simple. Know your limits and be willing to walk if outside those limits.
This does seem to be the trick. I've done it naturally a few times at craft fairs. I'll see something I like but can't really justify buying and suddenly the price starts dropping. Since I didn't actually intend to buy the item originally, I hit the magic signal of "willing to walk away" that triggers negotiation. Sometimes the price even gets down to the point where it's worth it to me. (Sometimes I cut things off with, essentially "Your product is very good, and the price you are offering is fair. However, it's not worth that price to me, because it's too large a percentage of the money I have to spend this month" because it's not fair to waste their time if I really know I'm not going to bite.)

I can't do it on purpose, generally. If I'm seeking out something I know what I want, I've usually already decided I'm willing to pay the posted price and feel uncomfortable negotiating for much more than a break for paying cash or a few accessories thrown in. Based on my success when I'm really not looking, clearly I should grow a backbone and get over my conflict-aversion, but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:52 AM on March 3, 2010


But when someone brings in dozens or hundreds of items in boxes, each of which has to be individually evaluated and verified is still in the box when the person returns...

I see what you mean. OTOH, any other professional (doctor, lawyer, plumber) etc will if anything encourage you to get a second opinion. Granted, they don't have to check that you still have the same cancer (although they kind of do, if only to refresh their memories), but they've still put in time on your problem. Sometimes for free ("call for free estimates!").

Maybe if you had a sign that said something about there being a $5 fee to evaluate more than N items even if there's no sale?
posted by DU at 5:54 AM on March 3, 2010


One one episode of the show, the question of the day was what % of people leave without making a deal. The number was really high, like over 50%. Sorta surprised me.

Pawn shops are pretty much a license to steal. You don't need the item, the store doesn't need the item, but you need cash, NOW. So yea, you COULD go out and try to rustle up a better offer, wait for a week to post it on ebay, wait for a couple weeks for someone to pay you, etc, or you can have it out of your hair today.

So they give you 1/3 of what it's worth, and then they sell it for half of what it's worth, and that's about that. They also had a show at the end of the first season that went back and showed what they actually GOT for a lot of the stuff they bought. I was REALLY amazed that even on some high dollar items they usually made no more than about 15-20% profit, sometimes after sitting on something for months. $100 profit on a $3,000 gun after 8 months is hardly even worth the time.

But yea, you tell me your offer is only good while I'm standing there? See you later brocephus. Tell me that in the beginning before you price my shit and I won't even bother to waste your time, and then you're not all GRAWR CUSTOMER and I'm not all OMGSCAM.
posted by TomMelee at 6:39 AM on March 3, 2010


le morte de bea arthur: "Mrs Morte does all my negotiation for me, and has done ever since I witnessed her way with counterfeit handbag sellers in Rome."

I witnessed the same thing in China, where my sister would follow the same basic procedure, without fail:
1. start at 1/10 of what they were offering (depending on cost, sometimes less)
2. get them down about half way, not moving from initial offer.
3. walk away
4. get followed out of stall/store and make deal in the 10-15% range.
(My job was to stand in back and point out the frivolousness of the purchase. "You don't really need that coat" or "We passed another stall with purses maybe he'll have better deals". That kind of thing.)

I almost felt bad for the sellers, but there's no way most or even many tourists take that hard-line stance, so they probably fleece a ton of people.
posted by graventy at 7:33 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


No offense to You Should See the Other Guy but s/he's talking about used vinyl records which he negotiates for every day. It's not exactly apples to apples.
posted by fixedgear at 8:31 AM on March 3, 2010


Also, who are these idiots selling stuff at a pawnshop instead of on ebay where they will fetch not only 3x their value but also shipping $$$ and an A+++++++++WOULDBUYAGAIN seal of approval?

Because they want the money now.
posted by electroboy at 8:31 AM on March 3, 2010


Heck, half the time the pawn shop in question puts up themselves on their eBay store. You occasionally see stuff from the show, like the Navy Bolex movie camera, but often times stuff will be sold before the episode it's in airs. One thing that's clear is that the pawn shop is much better at eBay than Joe Random.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on March 3, 2010


It's one of the best-selling albums of all time.

unless I'm grossly misinformed
posted by Bonzai at 8:58 AM on March 3, 2010


Because they want the money now.

Actually, I should have said craigslist. I've put stuff up on freecycle and literally had it gone within an hour and I didn't even have to leave my chair. I know there are CLers that can tell the same story.

More the point, the power dynamic is reversed. Instead of me going into the pawnshop feeling like "I hope they'll take it" I can instead think "the guy already drove out all this way, I bet he'll give me an extra $20 for the power cord".
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on March 3, 2010


You are correct, Bonzai. However, it is my understanding that The Eagles Greatest Hits album is #1 in the USA, and it is certainly high on the list worldwide.

No, I am not shitting you. Here is what wikipedia says on the matter.
posted by Mister_A at 9:08 AM on March 3, 2010


Actually, I should have said craigslist.

Craigslist is fine if you're selling a table or a bike, but for most of the stuff they're selling on Pawn Stars I think you'd need a larger market than your local metro area.
posted by electroboy at 9:33 AM on March 3, 2010


More the point, the power dynamic is reversed. Instead of me going into the pawnshop feeling like "I hope they'll take it" I can instead think "the guy already drove out all this way, I bet he'll give me an extra $20 for the power cord".

Are you actually not clear on why people use pawn shops, DU? Besides the speed of the transaction, not everybody knows about eBay or craigslist, and not everybody owns a computer.
posted by invitapriore at 9:44 AM on March 3, 2010


Also, what you are seeing on the show is not a representative sample of the customers. How many people on the show want to pawn? Maybe 5%, if that. Real number for a pawn shop is probably 90% or more. And I'm sure there are pawnshops that don't buy anything outright.

Point being that a dude on craigslist won't lend you money against your item.
posted by smackfu at 9:50 AM on March 3, 2010


le morte de bea arthur: "Mrs Morte does all my negotiation for me, and has done ever since I witnessed her way with counterfeit handbag sellers in Rome."

No offense, but this kind of bargaining always leaves me cold. Who wins here? If you care about the value of authentic products, you diminish that by creating a market for fakes.

You are also now the proud owner of a fake. Only the uneducated (in terms of whatever the product is) can be impressed, so your victory here is, at best, tepid. To those that know the difference, you have only branded yourself a fool. If you don't care about the label, then you have only succeeded in paying next to nothing for crap merchandise, which hardly seems like something to brag about.

One thing is certain...you have used your disposable income in an effort to negotiate a lower price from somebody likely much less fortunate than yourself. Of course this happens on larger scales all the time. Some would say that it is just the way the world works, which is true. But at this scale, it's crap.

Buy it or don't. But taking advantage of economic imbalance is probably something to leave off the list of skills one should work at improving.
posted by nickjadlowe at 11:36 AM on March 3, 2010


Something like Pawnstars is an exaggerated version of what smaller level shops go through every day. They get to make a profit on the things that you sell them because they have spent years of time and effort getting to a point where you can bring them anything and they will know or do the footwork to find out what it's all about and establish a price. If your item is estimated at $400, you might be able to get that $400 yourself if you're willing to spend the time and effort to research things, create your Ebay listing, learn the tricks of online selling, and package and ship your item. People won't have a clue where to even start with looking up this...this...object. On a certain level, by taking less than the estimated selling price, that percentage less is you paying them for knowing the best way to document and sell your item for you. And yes, an established shop is more likely to be able to sell an expensive thing than your just-opened Ebay account, I'm guessing. Time is money and money is time. They save you time, you give them money.

But if I could get a nickle for every person who can't figure out why they're not getting the full 10.00 that we're pricing their item at...
posted by redsparkler at 11:51 AM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


nickjadlowe-
A bag is worth the sum of its inputs and value is equal to the price someone is willing to pay. A $500 LV bag is only worth $500 because someone 1 step away from Ed Hardy-level douchebaggery is willing to pay it. Welcome to economics, where prices are set by what the market is willing to bear.

I would like to see concrete evidence of your claim that purchasing the counterfeit bag a) harms anyone other than the brand owner (boo goo Gucci) and that the person selling the item is actually harmed by getting less.

If the brand name item is worth $x, the counterfeit item is not worth 1/2x or even 1/3x just because it's cheaper than $x and looks like x. I would, of course, argue that the legit bag isn't worth that money either, but, to use your words:

To those who know [that there's no inherent value in a brand] [and that retail brand name market is stealing], you have only branded yourself a fool [by paying what Dolce and Gabbana say you should pay].
posted by TomMelee at 11:55 AM on March 3, 2010


nickjadlowe: Also re-counterfit whatever, I've never bought any of these items, but would consider doing so if the style of said item was something I liked. I almost bought a bag in Barcelona, but the big "DG" on it turned me off actually, but I otherwise liked the style. So I don't care about the branding, nor do I care about damaging Dolce & Gabbana (if that in fact does damage them to have me by a fake bag when I'd never buy a real bag of theirs), but I do like the style of bag they apparently make, and would therefore buy a knockoff of said style, and wouldn't want to overpay for it. When purchasing something on the street is really not when you should be concerned about economic imbalance or the like, use the money you saved and donate it to charity if you like. They wouldn't sell it to you at the low price if it wasn't still profit for them or someone else.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:29 PM on March 3, 2010


Tom-

yeah yeah yeah. I know...prices are set by what someone is willing to pay. And if someone is willing to pay and someone is willing to sell, then a deal is made that is, theoretically, acceptable to both parties.

But in this case, what makes the deal acceptable for both parties is that the buyer feels they are getting a rock bottom price, and the seller is desperate enough to accept it. There is significant disparity in the bargaining power of the two parties. Some people will be proud to exploit that. Some won't.

Your analysis of the actual value of brands and of the merchandise itself is a bit of red herring. This transaction is happening because both parties have already accepted that the "brand" has value...one has made the decision to counterfeit the brand because of the value it brings, and the other has acknowledged their desire for the brand by purchasing it. This is what makes it "counterfeit." In this case, that the buyer knows it's counterfeit, speaks to the buyer's integrity in a more important way than it does to the bag's integrity, and I think you could tell from the tone of my comment that I wasn't really shedding tears for, or defending the value of "exclusive" brands.

Personally, I certainly agree that the prices high-fashion brands command are ridiculous and not at all indicative of quality or intrinsic worth. (It should be noted however, that some branding is effective precisely because it is indicative of higher quality/craftsmanship, even in the world of fashion...some men's shoe brands are synonymous with superior quality craftsmanship, as are some high-craft, precision watches, to name a couple of examples off the top of my head.) That said, it doesn't really matter in this case...many times people buy brands for the perceived the status they convey...precisely because the item is well-known for being expensive.

Personally, like you, I think conveying status on most brands is foolish. Which makes leveraging an economic power disparity in order to obtain that item seem even more lame. Even if, like you say, nobody is actually harmed in the transaction.
posted by nickjadlowe at 1:03 PM on March 3, 2010


You are also now the proud owner of a fake.

No, a couple of our friends recieved amusing and tacky gifts.

One thing is certain...you have used your disposable income in an effort to negotiate a lower price from somebody likely much less fortunate than yourself.

Given how many of those things they were selling, and the evidently high profit margin, I'm pretty sure any one of those guys was earning three times what I was at the time of our cheapo holiday.

There are two parties in any one-on-one transaction; unless coercion is involved either can walk away. And when someone is selling something for a living, they usually have the advantage of knowing exactly what kind of deal the buyer is getting - the buyer has to guess. The idea that any transaction is morally dubious unless both parties are of exactly equivalent socioeconomic status is completely unworkable, and would leave a lot of the world to starve. Which isn't to say I believe that the poor aren't being exploited by the wealthy all the time, just that this really isn't a very strong example of that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:17 PM on March 3, 2010


Popcorn time?
posted by fixedgear at 1:21 PM on March 3, 2010


haveanicesummer-

I agree...if you like something, buy it. Whatever the brand or non-brand. Not overpaying I guess is a matter of the items actual worth, both to you and intrinsically. I agree with TomMelee that there isn't much intrinsic worth in a DG bag (or whatever), because I personally don't value the brand, or that idea. If someone else does, fine. Maybe I just didn't do a good job of putting my main point forward...it is the bargaining that leaves me cold. Using your economic power to advantage is one thing when the playing field is even. This would be considered good business acumen I'm sure. But, to me personally, using that advantage in cases of significant economic disparity just feels different...and not in a good way.

Using the argument that the seller must really want to make the deal is a little hollow in these cases. Using something someone else desperately needs to get something you want but don't need is kinda crappy. It's called "taking advantage." And just because you can, doesn't mean you should. At any rate, it certainly doesn't seem like something worth bragging about...which was what I was initially responding to.

And geez...no, I certainly don't think Gucci is being harmed by all of this. That isn't my point.
posted by nickjadlowe at 1:24 PM on March 3, 2010


Popcorn time?

I'm not eating your knock-off Orville Redenbacher's.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:29 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're also leaving out the possibility that people can like the design of expensive items, without caring about construction or authenticity. You're essentially presuming that the status is the only reason to purchase something.
posted by electroboy at 1:31 PM on March 3, 2010


le morte de bea arthur :Given how many of those things they were selling, and the evidently high profit margin, I'm pretty sure any one of those guys was earning three times what I was at the time of our cheapo holiday.

Look...I probably came off like a judgmental jerk. I apologize for that. I don't know you or anything about you. I should have made my argument in a more abstract way without using your experience as the example. Again, sorry for that.

But really?...I don't think there are many street vendors that are gettin' rich out there.
posted by nickjadlowe at 1:36 PM on March 3, 2010


Good luck trying to argue that something is morally wrong.
posted by smackfu at 3:11 PM on March 3, 2010


I went in to get a new gym membership last week, fully intending to negotiate hard, walk away, all that.

I folded like a card table. Sigh.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:14 PM on March 3, 2010


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