A Drop of Honey Makes You Money in Negotiations

Hello again, I’m Kevin McKee from Thousandaire, ready to destroy Daniel in another one of our epic arguments.

Daniel is a great guy, but he and I don’t usually agree on much. Luckily I’m here to straighten him out. Okay, maybe he has won our last two arguments (according to public opinion), but I have a feeling this one is going to be different.

Daniel believes that if you want to negotiate well, you have to be a huge jerk. He claims that Hostility is the Best Negotiation Technique. Baloney! Everyone knows that people are much more willing to make you happy when they don’t hate you. It all goes back to an old saying from Abraham Lincoln:

A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gal. So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

In other words, a drop of money makes you money in negotiations. If you can make someone like you, they will be much more willing to help than if they despise you.

Being nice can get you free stuff when you don’t even deserve it. When I first moved to Dallas, I went to Potbelly’s for lunch. I had never been before, so I struck up a conversation with the cashier and playfully asked, “Is there a first-timer discount?” She said there was no official policy, but since I asked so nicely I could get a free dessert. Sweet! Imagine trying to get that free dessert by being a jerk. It would never happen.

A free cookie is nice, but what about when you are arguing with a company bad service or overcharging? The important thing to remember is that you can be nice and forceful at the same time. Being nice doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. You do have to be persistent and escalate your problem to a manager if necessary, but at no point do you have to be rude, obnoxious, or hostile.

When I leased my last car, the dealership tried to get me to pay an extra $1,000 over what we originally agreed upon. They said I didn’t qualify for a $1k rebate that was included in my purchase, and I’d have to pay the difference. I could have gotten angry and upset, which would have made them try even harder to collect the money from me. Instead, I told them very calmly that if I couldn’t keep the car at the original price, they can refund my down payment and give me back the keys to my old car. I was pleasant but persistent, and in the end I didn’t give them an extra penny.

I will admit, I was 100% right in that situation. We had already signed the contract and they were trying to change the terms after it was signed. I could have gotten angry and still walked away without paying anything extra because there was a clear right and wrong in that situation, and I was right. It’s even more important to be nice when you are trying to get a customer service agent to fix a problem or credit your account when there isn’t an obvious breach of contract.

My high school girlfriend worked at the Sprint Store. They sold mobile phones and plans, and she absolutely hated the job. People would come to the store irate about overage charges or dropped calls or anything else they wanted to complain about. She was a salesperson by title, but she spent most of her days dealing with unhappy customers.

She was actually empowered to make significant changes to people’s accounts. She could waive fees, give account credits, get new phones for free, and lots of other stuff. But do you think she did any of those things for the people who came in and screamed at her? Of course not.

She would make sure the angry people left the store just as angry as they came in. She wasn’t going to reward someone for being a jerk. On the other hand, she would offer discounts and credits to people who were nice, even if they didn’t ask, just because she was happy to deal with someone pleasant.

Finally, Daniel can pretend that he believes being jerk is the best way to negotiate, but in reality he doesn’t even agree with it himself. Daniel prefers to ask nicely for a credit after a bad flight experience and his fiancée got free internet at a hotel by just asking nicely. Daniel pretends to be a big meanie-head, but in reality he’s just a teddy bear who understands that a combination of persistence and a smile on your face is the best way to get what you want.

So remember, Daniel and I will determine the winner of our debate via the number of comments, so post one here if you think pleasant persistence is best, or post one on Daniel’s article if you think being a jerk is best.

Also, feel free to check out some of our previous arguments below:

How to Use Personal Finance to Make Friends vs. Coupon Sharing is Stealing
Investments and Credit Cards Are Not an Emergency Fund vs. Don’t Waste Your Money on an Emergency Fund

16 Responses to A Drop of Honey Makes You Money in Negotiations

  1. Austin says:

    Oops, I gave my two cents on the other blog, but I definitely agree with the calm, nice route! There’s just no reason to raise a big stink and let it ruin your day. Mistakes are made from time to time, and outside of extreme cases, kind persistence pays off. Plus it’s better for all parties involved!

  2. Krantcents says:

    My negotiation style is asking questions. I am firm without being a jerk. Do I use the situation such as threatening to cancel? Absolutely!

    • @Krantcents, I wouldn’t say threatening to cancel is being mean; in many cases it’s being honest, and if not, you can still threaten to cancel very nicely. I was trying to get someone from AT&T to come out soon and determine if my apt was U-Verse eligible and I said, “I’ll be really honest with you; I don’t want to go to Time Warner, but if I have to then I will.” I was being nice, but told them that I’d have to use their competitor if they couldn’t offer me a product. They sent the guy out the next day.

  3. Judy says:

    I’ve worked in customer service and I totally agree with you. Shouting at someone and calling him names because of something he isn’t even responsible for is not only unhelpful but also only makes him angry, too.

    Besides, I don’t think the examples provided by Daniel really show that being a jerk is better – in my opinion he didn’t act like a jerk in any of the examples, that was just persistent… in my opinion, escalating and threatening to use a different service is completely acceptable as long as you’re still friendly and treating the service person with respect.

    Anyway, sometimes you do have to give in, and in these cases even being a jerk won’t get you further just because it’s not according to the company’s rules

  4. Melissa says:

    Ah, sorry to Daniel, but I am 100% siding with Kevin on this one. I think there is definitely a time when getting aggressive is the right move, but the vast majority of the time, being nice and kind will get you so much further.

    I can totally relate to the story about your ex working at the phone store. I used to work as a waitress and not only did I have a surprising amount of power to comp stuff on my own (and by comp, I really mean, “forget to charge for”), but it was also up to me to advocate for the customer to the manager if I thought they should get a discount for whatever reason. If someone was a jerk to me, I would put zero effort into making them happy. If someone was really nice, and really understanding about whatever it was they had an issue with, I’d take my manager to task and make sure that whatever it was got taken off the bill, and I’ve give them free bread and pop and whatever while they waited for a replacement order. I also frequently gave free chocolate milk and gummy bears to children that were really polite!

    Opposite story: One time a woman was being really rude to me before her order even came. As it came from the kitchen, I fumbled and dropped the whole thing on the floor. My boss just looked at it and said, “three second rule.” If the woman had been nicer, I would have insisted the kitchen make her a new meal. Instead, I just served it to her. Moral: Be nice to everyone, but especially those who handle your food.

  5. Kevin, I’m going to have to agree with you on this one. Being nice wins more battles.

    I love the example of the airline attendent. They get treated like crap everyday. Who do you think they’re going to try to bump to first class? The guy that yells at them or the sweet talker that treats them with a little human decency….

  6. Suba says:

    I am with Kevin here. Playing nice wins more battles. Most of the customer service people deal with jerks (no, not you Daniel :) ) so if they hear someone polite, they more often help that person.

    @Melissa, that will make me not go to restaurants for at least a few weeks now.

  7. I chimed in at Thousandaire, but yep, honey works better than vinegar. I am a customer service rep at my day job. Trust me, being nice to me pays off way better than giving me a hard time. I know I have the power and I will make your day sparkle or look like cow poop based on how you treat me. :-)

  8. MoneyCone says:

    Sorry Daniel, I’ll have to agree with Kevin on this one!

    Being a jerk might get me my lunch, but I dread to think what else might be in my lunch! :)

  9. Paul says:

    I’m with you. A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.

  10. Jacki says:

    I’m more of a bitter-sweet kind of negotiator. I always start sweet and I’ve had experiences where it has gotten me exactly what I wanted (I never ask for more than what’s fair… If I get screwed out of $50 I ask for $50, not $150) and then there have been others where I’ve had to get nasty and make threats to get ANY kind of positive action. And I always take the situation into account (

    I’ve worked in customer service for 9 years, and the sad fact is that in a lot of cases the CSRs/wait-staff/sales people have the ability to do something but are explicitly told not to unless the customer gets nasty. Companies are in the business of making a profit, not giving away free stuff to appease their customers. Sometimes you have to fight. *shrug*

    • Daniel says:

      @Jacki, Thanks for the feedback! It’s amazing that they this company at least don’t respond to honey and only respond to vinegar! Score one for me!

  11. Kay says:

    Sorry Daniel, Honey wins for me.

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