There are lots of social norms that go unbroken in Western society. These rules aren’t written anywhere, but everybody who belongs knows them. Sometimes some people break them, but there are social consequences.
One of the examples I’ve noticed recently is that it’s against the rules to close your eyes in public. As soon as you do it, you’re basically considered homeless. It doesn’t matter if you’re waiting for a six-course, $200-a-plate meal, because if you close your eyes, all of a sudden, it’s like WTF is he doing! :)
Here’s another rule that’s pretty much unbroken: in polite society, you don’t negotiate. It’s just wrong.
I was at a supper a few years ago with one other guy and four older women. It was a steakhouse, and we had a big meal, and joked around a lot. It was a good time. But then, at the end of the meal, when the waiter asks if everything was good and the other guy goes “no, it wasn’t.” He proceeds to complain a little about the steak, saying it wasn’t enough this and not enough that. At this point the whole table goes quiet. Everyone is obviously uncomfortable.
Negotiating is kind of like that. It just isn’t done. At least, not here.
I have another friend who was born in Eastern Europe, so he was taught to negotiate for everything. He has passed through the discomfort and come through the other side. He has negotiated with Best Buy, Future Shop, at the grocery store, and probably even at Starbucks. And he wins, because he cares less than the other guy.
The corollary to the previous paragraph is that part of what you pay for almost any service, you pay to prevent embarrassment. So this weekend, you’re going to negotiate.
This weekend’s homework is to negotiate for something you are not allowed to negotiate for.
You don’t need to win. You only need to try. It can be as simple as ordering a coffee and saying “oops, I only have $2″ instead of the $2.25 that’s needed. But if you’re going for a major purchase, try it there too.
Another way to do this is to bargain on side aspects of the purchase instead of the previous one. “Can I get it for $200, tax in?” or “Can you throw in a free USB cable?” are both good templates to use. Try either, or both.
Use whatever tactics you think are necessary. The point isn’t to pay less, though– it’s to push through the anxiety of breaking social norms.
Good luck with your assignment. Report back in the comments when you’re done.