ALISHA BREWER NELSON: Learning the Art of Bargaining
You know, when you make the decision to leave the grid, on top of a mountain, in Montana for the very first time, you expect to learn a lot of new things. A LOT. But one thing you don’t necessarily expect to learn is how many things you’re bad at. (Oh excuse me, “how many things you’re bad at.”)
For example, I found out that I was bad at chopping wood, facing a real winter, and getting off the grid on a mountain in Montana, but… that’s not the point.
What surprised me the most was finding out just how good I was at bargaining. Because we were building our house on a shoestring budget, it was necessary to seek out the right deals and be able to haggle with the best of them. I turned out to be great at finding good deals (whoop!)
In the interest of helping you feel better about yourself, I’m going to put my Scottish pride aside for now and give you a few (embarrassing) examples.
My relatively new husband and I went to buy a freestanding tub. We have discovered some in the country. The man gave us a prize and as my husband opened his mouth, getting ready to pull the big guns out of the verbal conversation, the innocent little me happily exclaimed, “Wow! This is a great price! Butch slowly turned and looked at me with his mouth wide open and the tub guy chuckled. The battle was over before it started. Butch gave me a harsh conversation later, which I didn’t even listen to, so happy to be at the good deal we just concluded!
We then went to look for, yes, used toilets. That we found. When the washroom guy announced the price, I cheerfully replied, “Well that’s awesome! We would pay TWICE at the store! Again the look of utter disbelief on Butch’s face, another lost battle and yet another stern one to talk to. But it was such a good deal! What was his PROBLEM? Tsk.
We went to a garage sale and found the perfect rug for our library which I was completely tickled. It was only ten dollars! I crept over to Butch and quietly asked (I was learning!), “Why do you think it’s SO cheap?” Butch replied lip service, “I think these people might be selling their stuff, trying to raise money.”
Good. It made me feel bad so I walked over and put twenty dollars in his hand. Butch asked me later if I had bargained for five dollars and I muttered sheepishly, “Uh not exactly.” When I told him what I had done, his head jumped off his shoulders and he spoke hopelessly to me. He said, “Your big heart continues to bother you. ” Good! I hope so!
I was really trying to learn, carefully observing Master at work and learning to keep my mouth shut until we actually left wherever we went to shop, under a completely unnecessary threat of strangulation. Hmph.
I found an old thirty-five dollar coffee table at a garage sale and Butch told me to give him twenty dollars. I yelled, “Waaa! I feel bad! ”He said,“ Okay, tell him that’s all the money you have. ”I gasped and said,“ I can’t LIE! ”He rolled his eyes so far in his head I thought he would lose them there. He said, “Give me your money. which I did reluctantly. He then gave me back twenty.” dollars and said, “Okay. That’s all you have now so it’s true. Go. Bargain. Make me proud.”
I nervously got out of the car, walked over to the lady who owned the table and her hands clasped in front of me in a begging position, obediently squealing, “Uh, you’re not gonna take just twenty dollars, will you.” ? I mean, it’s okay if you don’t. I understand. It is a beautiful painting. I’m sure it’s really worth a hundred. I could hear Butch in the car behind me, banging his head on the steering wheel.
The lady said, “Of course. I’ll take twenty for that. I almost fainted. I shouted, “Really? You will be? Are you sure ?! ”And then I turned and made a fool of myself jumping in the air screaming,“ OMG! It worked! Wow! ”
Butch gave that little jazz “Yay” wave back, then banged his head on the steering wheel again.
Ok so fast forward fifteen years. I am now, I am proud to say it, very good at bargaining. I’m going to find something I want, strut to the vendor, drop my prize while chewing on a piece of hay, squint like Clint Eastwood and confidently ask, “What the yew is going to take away?” ? (I don’t know why I have to say it like Butch but whatever…)
So you see ? You can improve yourself. I did. I’ll even lend you Butch if you want. All it takes is a little practice, a few nudges and thinly veiled threats from Butch and before you know it, YOU TOO will be good at bargaining!
Alisha Nelson is a town girl learning to live off the grid on a Montana mountain from a country boy. She says it creates an endless supply of funny stories, even if they weren’t always funny back then. You can follow her on the Roanoke Star as well as on her blog: funnysideofthemountain.blogspot.com