Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The value of having alternatives

This evening, I came out on the winning side of a negotiation with a ticket scalper. And, in retrospect, I think that almost all of my negotiations with scalpers turn out well. So, I've decided to pass my wisdom on to everyone here.

Here goes:

To win in a negotiation you have to have alternatives. If you are desperate to buy or sell your tickets, YOU WILL LOSE.

Here's an example. I was in Pittsburgh several years ago, and wanted to go to a Pirates game. It was about 7:15, 10 minutes after the game started. I was walking across the Roberto Clemente bridge, on my way up to the stadium ticket office, and the scalpers started trying to sell to me. They weren't giving me any kind of deal, so I kept walking. One finally asked me what I wanted. I said, "The game's already started. I can buy a ticket from you, or I can buy a ticket from the gate. You can't get a refund on the tickets you're holding. So it's your choice whether you want to deal with me." I got the ticket, lower deck behind home plate, about 1/3 of the way down, for $10.

Tonight was no different. At work, I told one of my coworkers that it would be my goal to trade my two decent upper-deck seats for one good seat in the lower deck.

So, when I got out of Metro this evening, I turned to the first scalper who asked me if I had extra tickets and told him I had a pair. He asked me what I wanted. I said "Face value." He said he couldn't give me that, the best he could do was half. I started walking. He then offered me an extra $10. I told him no and kept on walking. This exact same scenario played out a couple of times.

Finally, the last scalper decided to have a conversation with me. I told him that I had a pair of tickets, and would part with one or both of them, but not for less than face value -- and that I knew that there were plenty of Red Sox fans willing to pay. At first he protested. He explained that he couldn't pay me face value because then he wouldn't have any room to negotiate with the buyers.

Since this guy took the time to explain his predicament, rather than walking away, I explained my position: I wanted to go to the game, but I had alternatives. I could sell both tickets, at a premium, and try to buy a single ticket. I could use one ticket and sell the other, probably for less, but still for a fair amount. Or I could use one ticket and trade in the unused one for a different game -- which means I'd get full value for it.

In other words, I had alternatives, all of which were more palatable than selling him my pair of tickets for less than face value. If he wanted my pair of tickets, he'd have to give me what I wanted.

So finally, he offered a trade. One ticket in the lower deck, on the first base side, about halfway down, on the aisle. A $40 ticket for my pair of $20 tickets.

I took him up on the offer. I got exactly what I wanted.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Observation #4: Tragedy and Humanity

I was riding the Metro into work this morning, and my mind naturally drifted to yesterday's tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of the victims, and for a fleeting moment, I felt a sort-of kinship with them, in a way that only people who have lost others in a very shocking and sudden way could possibly understand.

Then I looked across the crowded train and had a moment of clarity: Other than perhaps the very smallest children, every single person on that train has, at some point, been touched by tragedy. Maybe big, maybe little, maybe someone close, maybe indirectly, but this shared experience of loss is one of the main things that makes us human.