Dear Negotiator:

I recently took your workshop. I learned so much, but I have a question about opening at the BAM (Best Agreement to Make, the most assertive number possible). If I have a good agreement with a supplier, that is fair for us both, when it is time to renegotiate do I need to open at my BAM or can I just continue what we have?

-Happy But Wondering

Dear Happy But Wondering:

Great question! If you have a positive, win-win agreement, and you are happy and they are happy and your boss is happy, there is no need to open at your BAM as you have a satisfactory outcome already.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

I am never sure if I am overpaying at the car dealer.  It’s so confusing. How do I make sure I’m getting a fair deal?

-Car Shy Guy


Dear Car Shy Guy:

Thanks to the Internet, the old days of overpaying for a car by the thousands are over. The roles are reversed, and car salesmen are no longer dancing in the back room, counting the bonuses they’ve earned because you overpaid! Now they are crying in the toilet stalls because you did your homework!


Remember, knowledge is power!  You have to do the research to know what you should pay before you walk into a car dealer.  I suspect that for every hour you spend researching your new car purchase, you will save anywhere between $200 and $500. That’s a decent hourly wage.

Here are a few tips to consider:

It’s important to have two or three car choices you would be happy with. If you go into the dealer thinking, if I don’t get a red Mazda with the sunroof and leather seats, I’ll die, you will not have enough leverage to get the best deal. You need to have a satisfying Plan B, so you can truly walk away if you don’t get the deal you want.

Remember, the following factors determine how much a dealer makes when selling a new car:

  • Price of car
  • Trade-in value of your current car
  • Financing
  • Add-ons/Extended Warranty
  • Post-Sale Service

When you go to a dealer, indicate that you are considering trading in, financing, and getting an extended warranty.  You will probably be quoted a better price as they expect to make their profits on the back end.

Your goal is to pay somewhere between $300-$500, over the DTC or dealer true costs. This is their actual cost of the car after their incentives, manufacturer’s rebates and so forth.  (You can obtain this information on the internet).

Get the dealer’s offer in writing.  Be clear that the offer is for that specific car, independent of trading in your present car, using their financing, or getting that extended warranty.  Then sell your car yourself, get financing with your credit union, and forget the extended warranty.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

I want to sell my house; can I negotiate with the realtor so I don’t have to pay such a high percentage of the sale?

-Soon to be Home-Ownerless, I hope.

Dear Home–Ownerless:

Because there is a great deal of competition in the real estate business, you can certainly ask a potential realtor to subtract a point or two from the standard fee.  Promise to keep this information quiet if she does, as she will not want others to know.

There are also other considerations you might want to negotiate before you sign on with a realtor.  Examples might be that the realtor only bring serious buyers to your house, and not use it as a sandwich home (i.e. show it as the home the buyer can’t afford, or as the “cheap” home the buyer doesn’t want); the realtor agrees to a specific advertising budget for your home; or the realtor commits to a specific number of open houses.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

I just found out that someone was recently hired to do the same job that I do and was offered 20% more than I am making. What do I do?  I don’t want to switch jobs, but this doesn’t seem fair.

-Unappreciated and Underpaid


Dear Unappreciated and Underpaid:

I agree that at first glance this is infuriating!  But we need to explore further before deciding how to proceed.  Does your job description and the new hire’s job match completely, or only partially?  Is the new hire’s education and/or previous experience similar to yours, or very different?  Does the new hire have the same amount of vacation days and other terms as you?

You might have a hard time obtaining this information, unless you have a connection to the new employee, or to HR, or you just ask the new employee directly.

Once you know the facts, present your case to your employer and request a raise. Then when your employer responds, she has a master’s degree, you can counter with, I’m aware of that and I am taking that into account regarding the raise I am requesting.

What intrigues me is that you might actually have a bit of leverage in the job market. If your employer is paying this person more, it might be because there are more jobs than people to fill them.  If that is true, you have added leverage when asking for more in return for a commitment to remain with your current employer.

There are great websites where you can find out the competitive salary for your position.

If your employer is not willing to give you a raise, and you really like your job, consider asking for additional vacation days, to telecommute a few days a week, opportunities for additional training or education, future promotions as they become available, the opportunity to attend conferences in warm and luxurious destinations, and other value-added perks.  It’s not an all-or-nothing discussion when you are talking about salaries and jobs.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

I am interviewing for a job, and the prospective employer asked me what I am presently earning. Should I tell him the truth?

-Job Hunter


Dear Job Hunter:

It is never recommended to disclose your current salary to a potential new employer for several reasons.  For one thing, if the prospective employer hires you, he wouldn’t want you to disclose what he is paying to his competitors.  More importantly, you might end up pricing yourself too low.

When the interviewer asks your current salary, say something like this: That is confidential information that I am unable to share, but I am looking for a job in the x salary range, depending on the terms.  Is that the range your company is offering for this position?

Human Resources people can be pit bulls, and might not let the question remain unanswered so quickly. They may get a bit gruff and ask again, What are you making now?  That is your clue to smile and repeat, I am not at liberty say, but the salary range I am looking for is x, depending on the job responsibilities and other terms.

If the interviewer keeps pushing, you might try this: I see you want me to answer that question. If and when you hire me, I’m sure you would want me to keep the salary you are paying confidential as well. You can trust me to do that. If telling you my present salary is a requirement for this job, then I will have to excuse myself.

The interviewer won’t like it, but it’s likely he will respect you for standing your ground. If he won’t let go, the company probably isn’t serious about hiring you anyway and is using this interview as an opportunity to obtain information about the competitors.

If you’d like to know how your salary compares with what others in your position are earning, you can check it out at the following websites:

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

I once read in a magazine that you can negotiate in stores like Macy’s. Is that true?  How do you do that?

-Novice Negotiator


Dear Novice Negotiator:

Every item in the store has numerous prices. There is the retail price, the end of season price, the holiday sales price, etc.

If you’d like to negotiate the price of a specific item, the first thing you have to do is find someone who has the authority to offer you a discount. The person behind the cash register does not usually have this authority. You need to find a buyer or manager.

When you do, start by complimenting the manager on the store’s merchandise, and thank him for talking to you. Then tell him how much you love the item, but how it is simply beyond your budget. Ask if there is a coupon you didn’t know about, a holiday discount, etc. Many managers will check if there are any discounts they can offer. They may also check if there are any online coupons available for this item, or tell you when they expect to put the item on sale. Then you can ask the manager to hold the item for you until the date it is expected to go on sale.

Of course, the manager or buyer might simply say there is no way to reduce the price of this item. But, it never hurts to ask.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator:

How do I negotiate with a contractor?



Dear Renovator:

Here are a few rules of thumb to remember when hiring a contractor. The most important thing is to get multiple bids. If you don’t have a choice of contractors, you have no leverage.

If possible, have your work done during the contractor’s off-season, when he has less of a work load. For example, put in a new swimming pool in the fall, have painting done in the winter, etc.

Establish a relationship with the contractor, independent of this project, by finding areas of common interests. Remember, people give discounts to people they like.

Act shocked when the contractor tells you his price. Ask him why the price is so high, and ask him to itemize it.  Then smile, offer him a piece of cake, and ask if he can be flexible.  Is there a discount for paying cash? Is there a discount for being flexible regarding when the project is completed? What if you offer to post a recommendation for this contractor on Facebook or other social media websites?

Once a price is agreed upon, it is extremely important to get a commitment in writing regarding when the work will be completed. I even recommend offering a bonus incentive for completing the work on time, and a penalty for completing the work late, barring unforeseen natural disasters. Contractors are notorious for finishing half of a project, and then starting a new job, and taking forever to complete the first project.

Be sure your written commitment specifies the quality of materials to be used, etc.

Try to negotiate to pay as little as possible up front, and to make weekly payments, which are contingent upon the progress made on your project.

If your contractor is very busy and has plenty of work, you will have less leverage.  Therefore, you might want to consider hiring a less experienced contractor to do a small piece of the project. If you are happy with his work, you can hire him to complete the project.  You will have more leverage when negotiating with a contractor who is less established.

Be sure to ask your contractor what the best way is to communicate any questions.  Should you email, call, text, etc. Also, ask your contractor what his policy is about returning calls.  Ask him if he will agree to return calls within 24 hours. If he agrees to this, you are more likely to have your contractor return your calls.  Since contractors are notorious for disappearing in the middle of a project, it is important to discuss this issue before starting the project.

Finally, treat the on-site workers like company. Always offer them drinks and snacks.  Compliment them on the work, if you are satisfied.  Then when they have a choice of finishing your project or someone else’s, your cake just might take the cake.

-The Negotiator

Dear Negotiator,

Should I or should I not negotiate with my kids? Am I ceding my parental authority if I negotiate with them?


-Puzzled Parent

Dear Puzzled,

Great question.

-The Negotiator