Three days ago, 6:30AM. Saigon, Vietnam. District 1.
Light breaks and the noise and craziness of the city is coming alive.
I strike out from my apartment, weave through motorbikes and pedestrians, and walk to the little restaurant a block away where I have my breakfast each day. The place serves mostly Westerners and the food costs twice as much Vietnamese food, but the portions are larger and the place is cleaner. I have a lot of work to do and plan on only eating twice today, so both meals should be large.
I order a Texas chicken omelette, black coffee, and Vietnamese iced green tea. The service is slow, and the food comes before the tea or coffee. I start to eat.
I bite down on something hard. What the hell?
As elegantly as I can, I take the thing from my mouth and it's a small metal screw. Probably from the handle of a cheap knife that came out from wear and tear.
I'd eating at this restaurant almost every day. They know me. So when the woman who owns the place showed up a bit later, she was mortified when I show her the screw. She apologizes a lot. "Sorry! So sorry...! Sorry... sorry... sorry... I'm so sorry..."
My coffee still hasn't come. I ask the girl who is serving about the coffee and tea, she remembers and goes and grabs it. I sit and have my coffee with my notebook, sketching out my plan for the day.
I call for the bill. They bring me the bill, full price.
What's that joke from the cartoons? Diner: "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup." Waiter: "I see. That will be 50 cents extra, then."
Well, they didn't charge me extra for the screw I bit into...
I take out a pen, draw a line through the price of the Texas chicken omelette, and go to pay for just the coffee and tea. That seems totally reasonable to me. You serve food with metal in it, you don't get paid for it. And I'm a regular here, they should probably do right by me so I keep coming back.
The owner woman is now indignant about me not paying. "Hmph!" she makes a noise and shakes her head. It takes all of my willpower to not start shouting at her.
I pause for a moment and think. I think to myself, "What do I want here?"
I slept 3.5 hours last night, I've got a ton of important work to do. As much as I'd love to make a scene, I don't want to jack my adrenalin and my stress hormones, then crash in a few hours from adrenalin withdrawal.
It's only a few dollars. Now normally I'm a fight-over-principles kind of guy, but I've got to prioritize real victory over moral victory here. I say, calmly, "Look. I eat here a lot. You served metal in my food. That's bad. Take the price of this one off?"
She offers $1 off. Fuck it, here's your money. I've got work to do.
It was probably the right decision, since I got all my work done and did a good job. If I refused to pay, stormed out, or started yelling, I'd have gotten my way at the expense of having my body jack up production of adrenalin and cortisol, and then crashing a while later. Normally I'd do it, but on deadline with important work and low sleep...
Still, it was kind of annoying me later. I was thinking it over in my mind. She was really apologetic - as she should be, that would have been really really bad if I'd swallowed a screw - but then was indignant 15 minutes later.
After finishing my work, I was reading Donald Trump's book, "Think Big and Kick Ass."
I came on his section about timing, and I'm reading his stories about how the timing on this deal was right or the timing on that deal was wrong.
And it strikes me - the reason timing is important isn't because the parameters of a deal or situation changes very much. Well, they do, but that's probably not the key thing that shifts in a negotiation. It's the other side's attitudes and feelings.
When she was feeling bad and contrite, if I'd said, "Hey, make this all free, yeah?" then I bet she'd say yes. Instead, she feels bad, gets over the feeling, and then she's in the mode of "customer trying not to pay me" a while later.
Reminds me of a quote by General A. A. Vandegrift, USMC - “Positions are seldom lost because they have been destroyed, but almost invariably because the leader has decided in his own mind that the position cannot be held.”
Negotiation timing, then, is probably less about external circumstances and more about emotion - having an emotional high ground. I read a comment on an article recently that the best time to ask for a raise is immediately after the head of the company gives a, "The employees here are the company's most important resource" speech.
That jives, intuitively. Of course that's a good time to do it. But why? Is it because anything has actually changed? No, it's about emotion. Timing, then, is about figuring out when you won't have the emotional low ground, and might have the high ground - that's when you want to negotiate situations.
"What outcome do I want here" - Same here - especially when coming up with creative solutions to contract negotiation differences. And taking it one step further - what do they want out of this- and by framing it that way you can let your brain come up with answers which meet your needs and theirs.
Insightful post! Keep it up. I remember my horror eating at my regular place and realising the black specs weren't pepper but dozens of diced up ants :|..
Interesting post Sebastian. Its easy to assume cultural norms like "the customer is always right" will apply everywhere.
Are you planning to eat there again?
it gives to think. On MLM where they boost your emotions and then take your money. I heard you feel great being stolen..... I mean paying for value. :P
It leads me to realize I have lost many opportunities because of it. AND AM ANGRY ABOUT IT. The opportunities I am talking here are of guy trying get girl. My selfishness(?) lead to I always moving on after saying my witty saying instead watching for the reaction and acting upon of it. Big mistake.
The value of this post I am paying for with my precious time is to my estimation high (whatever that means, perhaps 1 girl a day, 365 a year....:) j/k.
March 10, 2010. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Late morning.
I pulled on my swim trunks, trainers, and a tank top and walked out of my little guesthouse room, sliding through the cramped restaurant strewn with tables, and out into the hot, dusty air of Phnom Penh. It's a hot day. It'll be good to swim after lifting weights.
I said, "No no, thank you" to the tuk-tuk drivers offering to take me somewhere in the city, pushed through the little crowd, and out onto the street. The streets in Cambodia more resemble alleyways than streets, and I navigate around people and vehicles.
I went down to the end of the street, turned left, and skirted along close to the local restaurants, half-tent half-storefront type places to get food. I stepped into the crosswalk, the Hotel Cambodiana rising in front of me. I check right and then left, and I watch left as I cross, watching for oncoming traffic.
A loud scream rings out. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Annie and I went to the Sony Store, where I bought a Vaio P laptop. I need a new laptop, and it's one of the ones I'm considering, so I figured I'd buy it and return it if I didn't like it.
The sales rep who approached me was a genuinely cheerful and earnest girl with an Argentinean accent. She came up to us we were checking out the ebook readers (which I love, by the way), she helpfully demonstrated the features and answered questions well.
So far so good.