“Things are only worth what someone will pay for them.” That’s what I heard from my grandpa and mom growing up. The problem lies in when what you want and what someone else is willing to pay don’t intersect.
My lone attempt at selling something on Craigslist was unloading a bike years ago. I had asked for $10 which I thought conveyed the bike’s quality. To supplement this info, I added three pictures proving there were two wheels and a pedal/gear situation to move the buyer forward. I received an email asking for more details on the bike. What else was there to know?
(Note: I still own that bike and it has cut my mile commute to the train to six minutes. Best $10 I didn’t make.)
In the past month, I have tried to buy a home’s worth of stuff. The only furniture I moved was a bed and papasan chair. If you count the copious amount of empty floor, that created three distinct seating options. If I had sequined pillows and beaded curtains, I could create a hookah lounge vibe minus the hookah.
I have attempted to negotiate on buying two sofas, a dining set and a few different stoves. The buying side has yet to work out favorably. Attempting to play let’s make a deal at a big box retailer is a slim win situation. A coworker who used to work at Best Buy shared insider secrets to potentially get free delivery and setup; alas I already purchased a stove. When purchasing sofas, I pushed for free delivery, but was shot down each time I asked. The appliances and couches I selected were at different stores, which led to paying for multiple deliveries.
One shining success was negotiating for a table my girlfriend found on Craigslist. Traversing nearly every furniture store, I found what style spoke to me and a table I really loved. But there was one problem: the price tag didn’t scream “buy me.” Leann did all the leg work to contact the Craigslist seller and get her availability. She asked $200 for a table from West Elm. After seeing the table, I asked if the seller was flexible on the price. She said yes; I offered $150. She agreed and now I owned a dinner table that was a fraction of the cost of others.
On the selling side, I posted my electric range on Facebook, Craigslist and OfferUp. With a background in copywriting, I figured my prose would lure in prospective buyers in droves. I tried a few different prices and different headlines. After my bicycle incident, I figured less is more. Did people really want a story on a stove?
I am sad to see this family member go. Together we have shared many memories and meals. I still laugh about the time it burnt two eggs when I was starving. You won’t see this in the brochure, but this electric range by GE is more than a meal maker. It’s a 32-inch wide memory maker. $400 obo.
Maybe that would have been a better tactic. The stove generated minimal interest. The stainless steel refrigerator got a few bites at a $100 price point. Some emails asked if I’d take less. I posted at different times of the day and week with minimal impact on the results. I tried bundling the fridge and stove and bumping the price to create a cushion for hagglers.
Lesson number one: pad your price or list if the price is firm.
I asked $500 for both. The stove was in perfect working condition. The fridge may have had an issue with the thermostat. Two parties emailed. I setup a time with the first guy. He offered $350, I countered with $400 and we settled on $375. The other guy emailed after I set a date with haggler #1.
My adrenaline kicked in when haggler #1 arrived at my house. He looked at the appliances and tested the stove. He pushed for $350. My heart beat faster. I said I $400 was fair and both were cosmetically flawless. I reminded we agreed on $375. He suggested we meet in the middle at $360. Being proficient in basic arithmetic, I informed him that wasn’t halfway. He asked if $360 was fine and I agreed. My heart rate then started to return to its normal tempo. When the man’s father peeled off 20s from a giant wad of cash, I was a bit dejected. There was more money to be had.
Negotiation is a thrill, but not one I relish, especially from the selling side. Business schools articles suggest knowing your bottom price before entering negotiations. That was my problem. The appliances were worth zero to me and I wanted to get as much as the free market would allow. After their truck rolled away, I replayed the interaction evaluating if I could have done anything better. I didn’t utilize all the data I gathered in my brief interaction with the man. I wasn’t as firm as possible and didn’t share I had another party interested.
But, I am not beating myself too much. I found a cash buyer with and unloaded two appliances. The deal is done. Now I wait for my gas stove to arrive and my next deal.