Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Negotiation 101: Not getting taken to the cleaner

When we think of "negotiation" in financial terms, we may think those stress-inducing, grey-carpet-and-muzac situations: mortgages, loans, car dealerships (I hear this one is particularly bad). But really, financial negotiation happens in a myriad of small ways in our day-to-day lives, whether it's deciding how to split the cheque, or haggling over a cab fare.

Or, in my case, yesterday: Demanding cash compensation after my dry cleaner wrecked not one, but three of my blouses.

Staring at my clothes covered in black ink - ink belonging to a pen that was clearly not mine - I realized that my reaction to the problem would make all the difference in its outcome. Here are my pointers, which I think can be applied to a variety of scenarios:

1. Even if they don't apologize, set the standard for the communication by being calm but firm. Express disappointment, be polite and understanding, but do not be a pushover. My first comment: Oh dear. One of those shirts was my favourite. But, these things happen. Everyone makes mistakes. Then I asked how they planned to make it right.

2.Don't accept less than what you feel you deserve - at least initially. They countered by offering me a dry cleaning credit equivalent to the value of the clothing.

3. Use humour if you can - sometimes it helps set both parties at ease. I replied, with a grin, "I'm not sure a credit will be helpful for me to clean clothes I no longer own." [Blank stare in this case, but I swear it does work sometimes.] I added that I would need cash compensation to replace the items that were ruined.

4. Be honest. No strategic reason, just because it's the right thing to do. I told them what the items were worth - roughly $200.

5. Don't accept less than you feel you deserve - just yet. They offered me $150 in cash. I countered that the items were worth more than that, plus I would have to go to the effort to replace them.

6. If you reach an impasse, put the problem back in the hands of the person who caused it.  When encountered with another blank stare, I said, very nicely, "I'm sure you know what's fair. So what don't you tell me what you think is the correct way to handle this situation." The lady at the counter went into the back and after some tense negotiations with her husband, she offered me $150 cash plus free cleaning for the other items that were not ruined.

7. Be prepared to accept slightly less than you feel you deserve. Yes, I would have preferred a more forthcoming apology and more effort on their part to compensate me for the cost of the clothing and my trouble, but I realized that what they were offering was as good as I'd get - without a time-consuming and potentially Disastrous Duel to the Death with the Dry-Cleaning Duo. They would probably win, too. They are hard-working, wiry, humourless people. These are not things I like in an opponent.

So, I said goodbye to my favourite blouse - and the other two, which honestly weren't that hot to begin with - and left the store *almost* smiling.

The end.

1 comment:

  1. I like these guidelines - I think we are often apt to just agree and minimize the conflict but we have to grit our teeth and bare it if we're going to demand fairness!