I suck at negotiating.

January 13, 2012 · 25 comments

If I walked in to a Nordstrom and found a pair of shoes I liked, but decided the $100 asking price was too much, do you think they’d sell ‘em to me for $80? Not a chance. Most US retailers don’t negotiate price. If you aren’t willing to pay the sticker value, you best start looking elsewhere. In Korea, however, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Today I am going Skiing… no I’m not playing hookie from work, it’s Saturday here. I made sure to pack warm for my time abroad, but I never even thought about the possibility of hitting the slopes during my stay.

Fortunately I had a good jacket, warm pants, thermal socks, and some sunglasses. I had pretty much all the gear I needed for my mountain day, everything except gloves and a beanie that is. Looks like I had some shopping to do.

Just about every street in Korea is littered with street vendors. They sell everything from fried meats to paintings. Football jerseys to fake purses. If you are looking for it, a street vendor has it. Oh! I even had a woman approach me asking me if I’d like a “massage”. Something tells me she wasn’t just offering a massage if ya know what I mean. Sorry lady, I’m happily married and prostitutes aren’t my thing.

During my epic journey to find some decent gloves and a beanie –tuques for all you Canucks– I realized a few things about myself…

1. I get terribly uncomfortable when the vendor hovers me while I’m looking through their various products. In fact, I get so uncomfortable that my visceral reaction is to put down whatever I’m looking at (even if I want it) and just walk away. I know they mean no harm, but I prefer shopping without something looking over my shoulder telling me “This one very nice, I give you good deal”.

2. I have no idea which vendor I should go to. Every street is lined with dozens of booths. How do I know which one I should go to? It seems like they all sell the exact same things. I get overwhelmed by the options and start loosing interest and motivation to keep looking. (It’s kinda like when you are super hungry but there are a million restaurants nearby and you can’t pick which one you want to go to.)

3. How do I know if the product is legit? Obviously the quality of a beanie is not of great importance, but gloves are a different story. If they don’t insulate well and are not completely waterproof, they’re as good as garbage. I tried on a million different types of gloves, but since none of them are made by North Face, Burton, or REI it’s impossible for me to know if they’ll actually do their job on the mountain. I ended up buying a pair, sure hope they don’t suck!

4. Lastly, the most important thing I learned about myself during my Korean shopping extravaganza was that I absolutely suck at negotiating. Well that may not necessarily be true. I negotiate advertising rates for my blog, I negotiated the purchase price of Girl Ninja’s engagement ring, and I will definitely negotiate like a boss when it comes time to putting an offer in on a house. But I absolutely suck at negotiating small, petty, and already affordable things.

I found a pair of gloves that seemed pretty decent. The asking price was $25. I knew in my head (and from what everyone else tells me) I could easily knock a few bucks off that price. But guess, what. I gave the lady $25 and walked away with some new gloves. So what if I could have negotiated her down to $20 or $15. I got a good deal, and she probably got more than she was expecting. It’s a win-win. Besides, those same gloves at Target or Sports Authority probably would have cost $40, not to mention the vendor here in Korea probably NEEDS that $25 a heck of a lot more than I do.

How can I love negotiating so much when it comes to larger transactions, but clam up like a little kid when it comes to trivial things? Am I the only person that sucks at negotiating with street vendors? Should I let emotions (sympathy) be a part of the negotiating process, or just try to get the best deal possible?