Then my father speaks up. I don't mean figuratively, like when you hear yourself saying, "Close the door. We're not trying to heat the neighborhood," and you suddenly realize you've become your parent. No, my father is actually standing there, shopping with me. And this is what he says to the salesman:
"What can you do for us on price?"
What can they do for us? Nothing, as far as I can tell. This is Raymour and Flanigan, a chain with dozens of locations in seven states. I would say it's a Crate and Barrel kind of place, but after two months of searching, I've discovered that every furniture store is pretty much a Crate and Barrel. What it isn't is a car dealership or the open air market in Marrakesh. In other words, not someplace you negotiate.
Was I ever wrong.
When my dad was through, we'd saved over $200 and gotten a free Tempur-Pedic pillow, a $100 value. "I could've gotten them down lower if you hadn't opened your mouth," my father tells me.
It's true. I am a people pleaser of the highest order. I don't even like going to a restaurant because I feel badly for the waiter if we sit too long and don't order enough. So when the conversation between my dad and the furniture salesman fell silent, I leaped in, smiling and talking too much while making conciliatory, mirroring-body-language gestures.
That makes me, according to Dr. Phil, a woman. On his website, the former psychologist says women pay a whopping 46.5% more for goods and services than men: When asked to pick metaphors for negotiations, men picked "winning a ballgame" and a "wrestling match," while women picked "going to the dentist."
So I am determined to change, my desire for a deal outweighing my need to be liked. And, to help you change too, here are some top tips I learned for Mastering the Art of Negotiation:
1) Flinch. That's right. According to sales consultant Kelly Robertson you should always flinch when you see a price, letting the salesperson know that it's more than you expect. Or that you have Tourette's.
2) Get the other person to make the first offer. Then you can flinch again, causing them to reach for a pencil to stick under your tongue in case you have a seizure.
3) Never discuss terms until the end, when both parties want to close the deal. This also works on a date when you're both drunk.
4) Don't take it personally. Even if it's a date. As with shopping, you always need to be willing to walk away.
But don't just take my father and Dr. Phil's word for it. Since the furniture situation, I've asked for a price break a couple of times and been shocked to actually receive it. As one of the nation's continually underemployed, that's a break I can use.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.