SIMON WALKER:  Hardcore haggling a matter of pride

(SIMON WALKER: Bathroom brooding (16/2/13) here)

Haggling and market forces go hand in hand.

But until you find yourself at the cutting edge, standing eye to eye with your commercial adversary making an offer, you often forget how hardcore it can get.

Some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Cold-hearted bastards mainly.

Many cultures promote haggling as an artform. Particularly those awash with cashed up western tourists. But once back from our Lonely Planet adventures, we often revert back to getting ripped off without question.

Not sure why, but it could have something to do with understanding what the vendor is calling you.

This all came flooding back to me recently as I attempted to close the deal on buying a second-hand car.

Truth is, I hadn't been thinking about buying a car at all that morning.

I'd been on the landline when my other half rang on the mobile to breathlessly inform me she'd spotted a bargain.

The timing could have been better, me being predisposed and all.

But timing is everything when it comes to picking up bargains.

It's also the difference between comedy and tragedy, which is what we'd have, she suggested, if we missed out on this deal.

Since when had my partner become a used car salesman, I wondered. And why did it fall to me to follow up.

Low kilometres, young vehicle, old owner, price negotiable - go fetch, Fido.

Funny, really, because most dogs know more about cars than me. And so it came to pass during my lunch break I found myself "kicking a few tyres". I think they were tyres.

First and defining impression of the car was that it was . . . yellow.

I would have been happy to leave it there.

Yellow cars, in my experience, are good.

But after a bit of prodding from my adversary, I mean the lovely lady showing me the car, we went for a drive.

During the drive we chatted about this and that.

Anything but the car suited me, because once we moved off colour, I was out of my depth mechanically.

At the end of the drive, the kind and accommodating lady agreed without hesitation to let me take it to my friend, a qualified mechanic, to run his eye over it.

My mate confirmed what I knew to be true - yellow cars are good. Particularly this one, but for a bit of rust.

And so we came to the hard-nosed part, the haggling.

Haggling lore demands you haggle, even if you'd prefer to write out a cheque, exchange addresses and become lifelong buddies.

So I put my offer. Here came the twist.

Turns out my adversary was actually an intermediary who ushered me upstairs to the real dealmaker, her husband, a proud gentleman obviously not in the habit of taking any shit.

Which was what my offer must have sounded like once I repeated it, because he started advancing like he was going to hit me.

The ad had said "price negotiable" but the price of this negotiation was clearly going to be a souring of our brief relationship, unless I met his price.

Which I couldn't because, I don't know, I had my pride.

And so market forces determined the only deal going down that morning was me, in an elevator, with my tail between my legs.

That's market forces for you. No big deal, literally.

I'm sure they sold their car.

QUESTION: Ever driven a hard bargain?

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