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The real estate sales person says, "You wouldn't want the sellers to include the refrigerator would you?" The buyers hadn't been thinking of doing that, but the refrigerator looks better than theirs does so they reply, "Do you think they would include it?" The salesperson responds with, "Let's include it in our offer and see what happens."
The boat salesperson says, "You wouldn't expect us to include a CB would you?" The buyer sees an opportunity to get something for nothing and responds, "I sure would."
The Default Gambit is one that involves a unilateral assumption that obviously works to the advantage of the side proposing it, such as the company that sends a payment check to a vendor after having deducted two and a half percent. Attached is a note that says, "All of our other vendors discount for payment within 15 days, so we assume you will too." Or the salesperson who writes a potential buyer, "Because I haven't heard from you on your choice of options, I will ship the deluxe model unless I hear from you within ten days."
The Default Gambit preys on busy or lazy people; it assumes that rather than take action the other side will take the easy way out and let you get away with it. Once you have failed to respond, the law of precedent comes into play. When you finally do object the perpetrator is able to say, "But you've never had a problem with it in the past."
As with all unethical gambits, call the other side on it and gently explain that you expect to see a higher level of ethics from them in the future.
I once knew a man who became very wealthy after he sold his real estate franchise to a large corporation. He had been one of the original purchasers of a territory when real estate franchising was new, and the founder of the company was running around the country trying to sign up anyone who believed in his concept. Many years later a huge New York corporation had bought the master franchise and was starting to buy back the territorial franchises. After attending one of my Secrets of Power Negotiating seminars, he asked me to join him for a drink and asked me, "Roger, have you ever heard voices speak to you when you're negotiating?" Not wanting to admit it if I had, I asked him what he was talking about. He told me that after he had agreed to sell his territorial franchise to the new corporate owners for what he first thought was a huge amount of money, he started to have second thoughts. Because his was the first franchise the corporation was buying back they flew him to New York for a signing ceremony to be followed by a press conference at which they would announce the corporation's plans to buy back all the franchises. "The night before the ceremony I had trouble sleeping," he told me. "I lay on my bed wondering whether I was doing the right thing. Suddenly I heard a voice talking to me."
"What was it saying," I asked him, half expecting a humorous punch line.
"It said, 'Joey,
you're not getting enough money.' So the next morning I went down and asked for
another half million dollars and got it."
What Joey was describing was a classic case of escalation-raising demands after both sides have reached agreement. Of course it's outrageous and unethical, but just as Joey thought he heard voices telling him to do it rather than accept responsibility for his actions, the perpetrators often don't see any harm in cutting the best deal by any means possible. So, why is anyone ever allowed to get away with such outrageous behavior? All too often, the other side swallows its pride and concedes just as easily as that corporation conceded the extra half million. In that case, the corporation paid rather than faces the humiliation of having to call off the press conference. In other cases, the other side has simply become too emotionally involved in the purchase to back out.
The history of big business is full of stories of people who extorted
a little more out of a deal simply because they had enough leverage to do so.
Frankly, I have mixed emotions about how to respond. My heart tells me that if
people do that, you should call their bluff and walk away from the deal on principle.
However, I also believe in keeping emotions out of a negotiation. If that New
York corporation was able to pay the extra half million and still have it be a
good deal (and it was still a very good deal) then they were right to swallow
their pride and pay the money.
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Copyright © 2002 Roger Dawson
Copyright © 2002, The Negotiator Magazine