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March 14, 2009

Performance Anxiety: $2 off?

March 14. Day 257.

There's a certain pressure that comes with being The Daily Asker, rather than simply Roxy. Not that I am ever simply Roxy, for I am -- just as you are, gentle reader, or as any atom or galaxy we can conceive of is -- far from simple. But you get my drift.

Being a blogger with a mission comes with certain unexpected complications.

Like performance anxiety.

Usually I'm fairly brazen (growing more so with every question, I fear), but once in a while I do get cold feet. Usually, this happens when I'm with friends who know what I'm up to. Maybe they can see the question forming in my lips, my eyes scanning the room or street for opportunities. And they want in on the excitement.

"What are you going to ask for?"

"Are you going to ask for something cool today?"

That's when I start to worry. Cool? I don't know! Is my cool your cool?

Besides, it can be a challenge to ask convincingly when someone is watching. How do I utter the words? Do I sound natural? What if I approach my target like a sylphic lioness eyeing her prey from the shadows of the sausage tree -- and the fox says, "Nah, not today. No can do. Can you talk with my manager?"

Not fun.

Which brings us to Saturday. I was in LA, visiting a grad school friend who's now a hotshot prof at a local institution of higher learning. Not only is she a rising star in academia -- she's also negotiating a better package at her school by doing all sorts of cool tricks I can't quite disclose (since it's a small world). But let's just say, she's gooood.

After our dinner, we strolled around Venice Beach and ended up in Equator Books, a booktique that had quite a few nice selections. Cecile, for that her self-appointed pseudonym, found a copy of The Confessions of Nat Turner.

"I've been wanting to read this!" she exclaimed.

It was $20.

I hadn't asked for anything yet, but this store didn't seem like the place to try. The prices were higher than standard for used books, the editions were hardbacks or otherwise classy, and the general vibe was "non-negotiable."

Should I try and risk failing in front of a friend? A friend who's been curious about this project, but never seen me ask "live"? On the flips side, what did I have to lose, really?

She handed me the book.

"Hi, I was wondering if we could get this for $18."

"$18? Why specifically that figure? Is that all the cash you have on you?"

"No, it's for another reason, but I can't tell why you yet. I can only explain once you say yes or no."

"Ok, then yes," he replied with a smile. "That's fine." I think I made him curious.

Then Cecile jumped in -- "She has this blog, she was on NPR, she's The Daily Asker!"

After he rang it up, I asked for his card, and it turns out he was the owner.

As for my rationale: I made my request very specific -- $18, rather than "discount?" -- because people so far seem inclined to grant requests that are focused, not vague. Plus, $18 was 10% off, so I figured he'd be inclined to say yes. I was tempted to ask for $15, but 25% seemed like a big discount for one item. So I played it safe, asked for a more modest discount -- and got my "yes." That's worth something, too!

Gained: $2
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