Negotiating 101: The 5 Buyers You Meet In Hell


If negotiating is a dying art, then proper negotiating is dead and buried. As an avid eBayer, Craigslist seller, and yard sale aficionado, I have many opportunities to negotiate and be negotiated with. I’ve seen it all. The list that follows is part catharsis, part intervention, and part public service announcement — it’s an expose of the five worst types of negotiators. (See also: The 7 Laws of Negotiation)

The Armchair Negotiator

This is the negotiator you may never meet. The armchair negotiator tends to read a lot of classified ads, but is lazy and negotiates primarily via email or over the phone. He wants to know every detail about what you’re selling, yet never makes any effort to come see the item. Only an amazing deal (think 75% off), negotiated remotely of course, will spur him to put down his laptop, change out of his pajamas and come relieve you of your wares. Identifying him early in your conversation is the best way to avoid his tedious and indirect ways. Suggest to the persistent armchair negotiator that the best way to make his decision is to come see the item in person.

The Naked Negotiator

Successful negotiating is 10% charm and 90% research. The naked negotiator may be armed with charm, but hasn’t done his research. As a result, negotiations start off with strange low-ball offers or tedious questions as the buyer seeks reassurance — to a ridiculous degree — from the seller. Without this constant reassurance, The Naked Negotiator can easily morph into his cousin, The Flirt.

The Flirt

This may be my least tolerable type of negotiator. The flirt appears interested and motivated, negotiating modestly if somewhat hesitantly at first. But eventually you notice that the deal is never sealed. Ultimately, flirts don’t have the cash or confidence to follow through on the bargain. They may ask to come back tomorrow, ask you to hold the item for them until payday, or simply bail.

The Alienator

The Alienator is the slightly more active, if distant cousin of the armchair negotiator. The Alienator wants an amazing deal immediately — 50% off right now, regardless of true value and other potential buyers. His failure to understand that negotiation is a back-and-forth process — a tennis match of respectable offers played until one player triumphs and shakes the hand of his worthy opponent — makes him ineffective and gives him his ugly moniker.

The Darwinian

The most successful negotiations leave both buyer and seller satisfied. Maybe the buyer had to up his offer a bit, but still got a great deal. Perhaps the seller didn’t get his ideal price, but still a quite fair one. The Darwinian fights this balance. He believes that the only successful negotiation is one that leaves somebody crying in a corner, dejected by the superior skills of his opponent. For Darwinians, it’s pure survival of the fittest. They can usually be tamed a bit by friendly conversation and a calm response to their killer instincts. If this approach doesn’t work, you can either show them the door…or prepare for a cage match.

Maybe I should be less of cynic and suggest that each type of negotiator I’ve outlined above is just a novice who’s learning the finer points of haggling. I wish it were so. The fact is, many folks are learning how to haggle and more power to ‘em. The sooner they can identify and avoid the pitfalls of bad negotiating, the sooner we can get down to business and make a deal.

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Guest's picture

Are the 5 worst sellers still coming.

Like the people who make an offer and then don't stand by it (more big companies than yard salers).

Or people who believe that the mere fact that they have owned something adds a certain je ne sais quoi and feel justified selling it for as much as new.

Guest's picture

Nice to see a seller positive about negotiating. I have quite a few postings suggesting its bad form to try to get the price down at a yard or garage sale. It always seems to me that the writers of such nonsense think only desperate charity cases sell their goods and purchases should be treated as an act of kindness. Asking for a lower price is somehow taking advantage.

Guest's picture

You are so right. My least favorite are the armchair negotiators. I have a hypothesis that they are just fishing for the fun of it. They browse ads and make the most impossible low bids but with little intention of following through on their offers. But that being said I have had some good experiences with buyers as well where they understand that a successful negotiation means a compromise and neither side walk away angry at the world.