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I’ll have a free beer with that

October 29, 2008

I read this article by Tom Chiarella, and it inspired me to practice negotiating.   I learned stuff conventionally thought un-negotiable is negotiable with some persistence and some charm.  Here’s one example from my mini-test.

Free Beer at Indigo Grill Gourmet Cafe

My friend Brooke and I grabbed a bite at Indigo one day.  It’s a reasonably classy restaurant for Cincinnati.  The average entrée runs about $13.  I was curious if I could negotiate something free.  To Brooke’s embarrassment/mortification/amusement, I was committed to getting a deal.  Here’s how I started.  After initially greeting and seating us, the waitress came to take our drink order:

Waitress: “What can I get you?”

Brooke: “I’ll have a Pinot Grigio”

Elliott: “What kind of beers do you have for free?”

Waitress: “What?”

Elliott: “I was looking at the beer menu.  It looks great.  So, I was thinking maybe I could get a complementary beer!”

Waitress: “Um.   (pause)”

Elliott: “Well, you see.  I eat here a lot, you know?  I’m a loyal customer.  I always order the humus wrap and baked fries.  It’s a very nice outfit here.  So, I was thinking I could get a complementary beer this time.”

Waitress: “Well, we don’t really do that.”

Elliott (grinning): “Well if folks always did what they were supposed to do, how boring would the world be?

Waitress (slightly smiling): “I guess it would be boring.   But it would also be well organized.”

Elliott (sincerely): “Well, how about this?  I already love the restaurant.  A free beer will only increase my enthusiasm.  I’ll recommend your restaurant to everyone I know!”

Waitress: (“silent and thinking of a reasonable response.”)

Elliott: “Well, if you can’t get me a free beer, I guess that’s fine.  I figured I’d ask though.  I’ll still love your restaurant.  It’s a strange request anyways.

Waitress: “Um, I didn’t say couldn’t have a free beer.  You just kind of threw me off.  What would you like?”

Elliott: “I’ll have a free Heineken.”

One minute later the waitress came back with a $9 pinot grigio and a free Heineken.  Brooke and I were floored.  I wanted to get to the root cause of my successful negotiation.  Did I just strong-arm her?  Or did I amuse, confuse, woo, rationalize her.  When I asked the waitress, she seemed to think my mini-test of negotiating was hilarious, and she wished me the best of luck.  She said that my persistence, positivity, and strong reasoning made her figure: “What the hell! The man earned it.”

Anything is negotiable.  Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

Challenge:  Go out.  Negotiate.  Enjoy liberation.

Two Tips to Successfully Negotiate “nonnegotiable” Items

1. Act like a human. Be pleasant and polite. Treat the whole interchange with a combination of amusement and equanimity

2. Offer something in return, so that you aren’t taking something for nothing.  Offer Loyalty, recommendations, increased transaction size

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