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December 29, 2008


December 29. Day 182.

The OIHTRNAAP (Official Inter-Holiday Topaz Ring Negotiation and Acquisition Plan), as you know by now, was to go back to Macy's and talk to the jewelry manager. Establish rapport, turn her into an ally. Appeal to her sense of sympathy, make her want to help me -- and make helping me easier, more logical, more appealing, than refusing. Slip in a complaint or two. Finally, wrap it up and slap on a bow by asking for a better price.

Only when I went back to Macy's, the manager was on a conference call. The saleswoman told me to return at 4 and ask for Angie.

After a snack from Chick-fil-A, strictly necessary to build up the appropriate sustenance for the impending task, I headed back. Meanwhile, I outlined my points of persuasion, imagined the discounted Macy's receipt floating in a cloud of white light, projected myself to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, that haggler's mecca, and visualized the smiling countenances of Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (authors of Women Don't Ask) floating above and guiding me toward that white light --

"Hi! Are you Angie?"

"Yes, I am!" She looked like a manager. Sporting glasses, a no nonsense hairstyle, and suit. She was filling out some papers. Fortunately, the department was empty -- as it had been a few hours earlier. Slow day?

"Oh, great! I was looking for you earlier! Melissa told me I should come back this afternoon, since I wanted to talk to you about something. When you have a moment, could you show me a ring on this side?"

"Of course."

We walked over, she took it out and I inspected it for a few moments.

"And how much is it?"

"With the 60 and the 20 and the 10, $132.47."

"Mmhmm," I nodded. "You're going to laugh at me, but for weeks I've been trying to buy a piece of jewelry from Macy's and I've haven't managed to! I saw some beautiful earrings online, and when I went in, they were sold out. Then I saw another pair, and when I tried to get them they were sold out again! And then, I was interested in this ring, but I noticed it's the wrong size... You don't have any other sizes, right?"

"No, everything we have is displayed."

"I see..." I tried it on. "Yeah, it's supposed to go here, and it's loose. How much is the resizing?"


"Hmm. Do you think you could drop the price of the ring by 10 percent or so? I feel I've wasted so much time at this point, and now I'm going to have to get it resized."

"It's just that... we don't really do that..."

"I know it's not typical, but I would be inclined to get it... only I've wasted so much time, back and forth, back and forth, and now I'm going to have to get it resized... Even, like, 10 percent would help, or knocking off the sales tax?"

"I can't... I'm so sorry..."

"Could you do the resizing for free?" (It's not too loose, but I thought this could be something to "give up" in exchange for a discount.)

"No, I'm so sorry, I can't."

Then I got a little more honest, a little more, shall we say, blurty? "I just figured that with the economy and slow sales, maybe you'd want to sell it, even at a discount."

"They won't let me." She was as sympathetic as could be, but unmoved. "But... do you live here?"

"I do! I'm in town with my dad, but I also live in California." (I'd heard of "visitor's discounts," but what if there was a local's special? Wanted to play it both ways.)

"Because, lemme see... I know we have a One Day sale coming up, I could see how much it would be then. You can come back for it, next week."

She pulled out the binder, took out her calculator, punched in the final savings.


"That's great! Thank you! Could we do that price now?!"

"I would get in so much trouble."

"I see. Well, thanks for your time."

I started moving away, and she didn't say anything. I'd already walked away twice. And it was only $4 cheaper. I'd really tried my best. And that wasn't good enough.

Gained: Nothing, except definitive proof, again and again, that I suck at retail haggling. New ideas: maybe I'm not buying enough. (If I had a few items and talked one down, or purchased a room full of furniture and asked them to throw in a free delivery, it might work. So, new OIHTRNAAP: go into debt, buy more than I need, to practice negotiating!) Also, maybe I shouldn't try to bargain down clearance items... since $132 on a $460 ring is the lowest they'll go. And yet, there's that next sale. $128.

Of course, I still bought the ring! Far more interesting, and in my price range, than diamonds. Wearing it now, in fact. As a reminder of Day 180 and the impulse to keep on trying.
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