For all my photography needs, I have always been a loyal customer to a particular pro camera shop in Kenmore, WA. This store had a reputation for product knowledge, customer service, and fair prices. Then the recession hit and all these reasons to be loyal quickly disappeared. I have since witnessed increased pushiness, higher prices, and sales people who couldn’t be bothered more by my questions. One woman even lectured me for researching fair prices and told me that the profit margin on an item wasn’t worth her time!
As a customer, I was shocked and felt it may be time to reconsider this relationship. To be fair, I can understand that the recession must be affecting them in a bad way when their customer base is not buying as much as normal. I can even see why a ‘for profit’ business would choose to tighten the belt and raise prices to make up for losses in sales. But wait a minute, I am still the customer! I am not obligated to pay more and get less!
Like myself, would be customers across the nation are also being affected by the recession and have responsibilities to make wise decisions with their own finances in this time. So here are some things I have learned about my rights as a consumer and the rules of negotiation.
3 Things You Must First Understand:
- It must be win-win. For it to be a fair deal the seller and customer must both benefit equally. You get the appropriate product/service and they get the appropriate compensation. The fair value is a bit subjective for every person, but the bottom line is that if you find it is not fair, then no deal.
- The higher the price, the higher the profit margin. Most of the time, the more expensive the item, the more the dealer will mark it up which means you have much more flexibility in the price. Likewise, the inverse is usually true that the lower the price, the less flexibility. (I have been informed there are some exceptions where high-end SLRs have a low margin because of dealer restrictions, but bags and accessories have a very high margin.)
- Never walk into a situation you can’t walk out of. If you feel weird about negotiating with a strong salesperson, then don’t get yourself in that situation. Get help from a friend or get it online so you do not have to deal with the slick talking sales people. If you do feel you can negotiate, then this means you must be willing leave the product at the counter and walk out at any point when it is not going your way. And walking out means walking out!
The 9 Rules of Negotiation for Photo Gear During a Recession
- Do your research before you buy. Know what other stores in your area are offering it for. See what price some credible online sources have. The appropriate price for you is somewhere between the lowest price found and the average price (not the highest). Stick to this number no matter what!
- Make them work for it. Have the salesperson sweating as they jump to demo products or answer any question about all items you might be interested in. They work for you! If they are not interested, they don’t care about customer service and you walk out.
- Know your ‘Max Price’ before you start bartering. (See rule #1) You should never pay more than the average of what everyone else is selling it for. Anyone charging you more is not being fair and does not deserve your business.
- Do not low-ball. If you make an offer that is too low and unfair you are low-balling the dealer. Trying to get the item for a little less perfectly acceptable, but low-balling will only work to your disadvantage. You must know what the fair average price is so you are careful to not start too low.
- Never show them how bad you want it. Revealing your desire or fixation only tells the salesperson exactly how much power they have over you in the bartering process. Remain calm and indifferent with the knowledge that you will walk out if you don’t find a fair deal.
- Never let the salesperson take control. Be polite and respectful, but firm, confident, and in command of the situation at all times. Remember he who hold the money, holds the power! The money is in your pocket so they are working for you. If a salesperson is pushy or interrupts to try and rush or gain charge over you, be sure and let them know that you do not appreciate this kind of behavior.
- Never let them play games. Most common is the “I have to talk to my boss” game. At this point you should stop them and let them know that if they do not have the power to make a sales decision then you need to personally talk to the one who does. The second tactic is manipulation and their methods are only limited by their creativity. Just remember, if they make you feel bad for seeking a fair price then it is time to walk away. If they really need to feed their children they will find a fair price to make the sale. Also, do not let them tell you they will only honor what they think is their best offer if you buy now and that the offer is gone if you don’t accept it. This is called ‘creating a sense of urgency’ and it is just more manipulation.
- Never undermine yourself. Whoever speaks first after an offer, except to make a counter offer, is in the weaker of the negotiators. For example, if you make an offer and the sales person does not acknowledge it or says things to avoid it, he/she is hoping you will feel anxious and undermine yourself by raising your lowest price so they do not have to counter. Be quiet and wait patiently until the counter offer comes before you continue bartering.
- Force yourself to leave if you do not get the right price. It is the single greatest power you hold over them and you must be committed to it for it to be real. Their job is to size people like you up all day long to make sales so they will see right through you if it is not genuine. At the point in which you decide to do so, do not bluff or threaten to leave, just say “no thank you” and walk out the door without looking back.
Remember: Stick to your guns! Do not go over the max price you set before you walked into the store. If they are unwilling to work with it then don’t worry. You can probably get it online at B&H Photo, Adorama, Midwest Photo Exchange, or Amazon for a better prices plus have it expedited to you the next day for less than the store price. Also, never reward poor customer service by giving them a sale they do not deserve because you can ALWAYS do better elsewhere.