Let's Get Ready to Rumble! (Or at least have a polite chat.)
If you've been following the Agoraphobia series you may be ready to start shopping actively. However, if you're the average American shopper you're going to be pushing back against a lot of training and momentum trying to convince you that negotiation is difficult, scary, futile, or a waste of time.
Negotiation is, at worst, a conversation with a stranger. But the American consumer has been treated for 150 years like a submissive partner in an abusive relationship. As is the case in many of these situations, learning to speak up for yourself can be difficult at first. So let's assemble a guidebook to help you get started.
Level One Negotiation - learning to talk & think for yourself:
- For level one, level two, and level three we're talking only about goods, not services. This is about items that you can take home from the store with you.
- From this point forward, every time you go to the store you will ask the clerks about the products you are purchasing. It doesn't have to be about price. It can be about quality, color, country of origin... just get used to having the conversation. Get to know them. Be friendly and polite.
- Never enter a shop without a shopping list. Never purchase anything that isn't on the list. Never make the list less than 30 minutes before you enter the store.
If you must pick something up that isn't on your list, shop slowly. Carry it around with you in the store for at least half an hour before making the purchase.
- Choose your favorite direct-to-vendor shopping site - Ebay, Etsy, or Craigslist. Find something you've been meaning to buy anyhow. Choose a handful of sellers and send them each some questions about the product you intend to purchase before you buy it.
- Go to the farmer's market closest to you and have a chat with the vendors. Ask at least 3 questions of a vendor before you buy something. And please, do buy something.
- Pick up grocery circulars from the 3 closest shops. Figure out the least expensive combination of goods, and then compare with how much you'd pay by purchasing everything in your usual store. You don't have to actually do the shopping in split locations. Just do the math. We're practicing here. (PS, if you're in Chicago and only shop at national chain grocers I am sad for you. Check out Tony's, Food4less, Cermak Market, Harvestime, Morse Fresh Market, Mayfair Market Place, Butera and Stanley's for some great alternatives.)
Once you've been at level one for at least 3 months, you're ready to move on to level two.