Embracing the bargaining gene


If you spent a significant amount of time in Nigeria you’re probably quite good at bargaining because opportunities to bargain abound: go to the market, the hairdresser, or the tailor and you’ll find yourself in the middle of a deal before you know it. It’s part of our culture as far as I’m concerned: if you walked up to someone selling something and just gave them their asking price, the salesperson would probably feel like he or she was cheated from engaging in the back-and forth of bargaining, even though he or she had just been overpaid (or maybe I’m naive and they’d just take the money and run!). Nigerians don’t hold the monopoly on bargaining though, many other countries have excellent bargainers, and I’ve run into people from other parts of the world in my quest for a good deal.

In contrast, Canadians aren’t particularly known for their bargaining skills (generally speaking). Garage sales are a notable exception, but even when told to make an offer, the average Canadian will probably still offer significantly more than a Nigeria-raised Canadian would if asked to make an offer. Rather than develop bargaining skills when trying to obtain goods and services, most people here who like to save money will just wait for a sale before going shopping. In fact I used to do this a little too much: three or four years ago I would buy things just because they were on sale. It didn’t matter if I needed the item: if it was marked 75% off or more I’d probably buy it and rationalize it by saying that someone I know would probably use it (I was thisclose to finding fame on television as a Hoarder but God intervened!).

Needless to say, my parents love bargains and know how to negotiate. They both shine in garage sales, second hand stores, and with people providing services, such as electricians or plumbers. I have to admit to being shocked and embarrassed when my mom tries the tactic of offering an amount significantly lower than the asking price for a service because I’m always afraid the person will be insulted and leave immediately, but this has yet to happen. My mom even tries to bargain in stores here and is usually not very successful because in most stores, the average salesperson doesn’t have the authority to mark down the price of an item unless it’s damaged. Contrast this with Nigeria where the consumer seems to be the one setting the prices! The person selling goods may state their price but sometimes the customer will just pay half of the requested amount and on top of that ask for an extra item in return for the business they’ve just brought to the businessperson! Or how many times in Nigeria were you wooed by someone selling goods in traffic? He’ll tell you his oranges are 200 naira and you’ll exclaim and tell him to go away or that you’re not interested, only for him to happily accept half the asking price when he sees you’re serious about not paying his asking price.

I’m not the best bargainer, which is why I’ve learned to be patient and wait for things to go on sale. I worked in retail (clothing) for 10 years so I know that everything eventually goes on sale…as long as it’s still available to be marked down! So if there’s a shirt I really want I will usually wait a few weeks to see if it goes on sale. If it’s not something I need immediately I take my chances and wait until the “take an extra 50% off the lowest marked price” deals come along (and they almost always do!).

Bargaining and negotiating are essential skills for any businessperson, and now that I’m accepting sponsors on this site, I’ve had to get better at making deals and selling myself. I was talking to two potential sponsors and given that this is my first foray into sponsorship, I was grateful that they reached out to me and in both cases I almost agreed to what they were offering, without giving it much thought, because it was more than I am currently making ($0). I’m new to this whole working-with-sponsors thing, I told myself, I can be better at deal-making with the next brand that contacts me…if they contact me. But then something (maybe my mom’s voice?) told me to stop being a wimp and name my price and assert my value and so I did. With both email replies I sent I was sure the sponsor would say “Hah! Who does you think you are, GNG, making demands on us?!? It was our mistake, honouring your little blog with this offer. Abeg let us take our money elsewhere!” Instead I received a positive response from one sponsor, agreeing to my counter offer, and a “sorry we can’t do it now but we’d love to work with you one day” from the other sponsor. That second response wasn’t as devastating as I thought it would be because I was proud of myself for asserting my value, so I can’t fault the sponsor for doing the same. I have no regrets.

So what should you take away from this rambling? Don’t be afraid to bargain and use that God-given or inherited skill you probably have lurking within you. You never know what you can get!

How good are your bargaining skills? What’s your best bargain to date?

3 thoughts on “Embracing the bargaining gene

  1. Yeah…..so I have pretty much accepted that I better be born to be rich, because I hate bargaining, or haggling ever since I was a child. It puts me on the spot and stresses me out. My parent hated sending me alone to the market because whatever the price is, is what I would pay. Now, in the states I absolutely hate going to stores like Ross or TJ Maxx. I love the prices but they are so disorganized and everything is on sale and jumbled together, i feel like I am going to get a migraine. Lol.

    • Lol I can relate to the first part of your comment, MPB! Even if I manage to haggle a bit, it’s never as low as it could have been so I always feel cheated. It’s stressful too.

      Now on the second issue…my love of a bargain means I’m willing to dive into the mess with the hope of unearthing gold. I have my limits though: I really don’t like rooting through tons of clothing folded in piles but if it’s hanging I’ll do it!

  2. I don’t like bargaining ooo at all, and when sponsors try to bargain with me I feel I’m in the market selling tomatoes and ppepper. Lol but you have made very salient points GNG

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