Saturday, January 24, 2009

That's Our Policy

Scott says…

“That’s our policy!” I love this one. When negotiating with stores you’ll hear this one a lot and for most of us it stops us in our tracks. Who are we to question THEIR policy? Policy sounds a lot like law, doesn’t it. Let’s go to the library…

At the library I was found guilty of damaging a book with water. Actually the culprit was my tiny daughter who dumped her water bottle all over Curious George. The judge at the public library, who is properly called a Media Specialist, informed me that I would have to pay the replacement cost of the book at THEIR rate. I opened the cover and showed her that the actual cost of the book was several dollars lower and that since the book was used and it was my fault that I would gladly pay the book’s cover price. “Our POLICY is that you pay replacement cost!” Ok, let’s negotiate.

Librarians that I’ve met over the years are firm and fast rule keepers. Since my negotiating was giving her heartburn I decided to stroke her ego a little bit by going back to the damage at hand. I asked her was the book really damaged so badly that they couldn’t use it? I got a lengthy lecture on what happens when a book gets water damaged pages, learned about the spine of the book, about mold and mildew and many other things. I told her I was amazed at how much she knew about books! With this information I then gently challenged her as to whether or not the book was useable in its condition to which she replied that they could use it but it would take some work. When I asked her how much the work would cost she replied “we don’t have a policy for repairing books”. Ok, another dead end.

So we went back to negotiating about the cost and I decided to use another tactic, the stall tactic. I had plenty of time as my daughter was reading in the children’s book section, but the Librarian had a line forming behind me. We laboriously discussed the replacement cost. I even told her that if I was responsible for replacing it that I’d just go get them a replacement book and pay a lot less. “Our policy won’t allow that.” Rats.

Ok, by now I’m getting a little steamed, but I’m going to keep my cool. This is a $3.00 negotiation with a Librarian, but a great exercise, so I’m going to continue. The next tactic I pulled out of my bag was the “fairness” tactic. I approached her with the statement that “I am guilty of damaging the book but it is not fair to financially penalize me for the infraction more than the value of a book to replace it. You wouldn’t pay more than a book was worth, would you?” Jackpot! She looked at me with a very puzzled look. “Certainly, I would never do that.” She then agreed to accept my payment of the books cover price which saved me $2.90. We then argued about my right to take the book home since I just paid for it. I told her it was MY POLICY to take what I pay for!

Now, you are going to say that this was stupid, right? Why beat up a librarian for $2.90? There are several reasons that I did this. The first is to make it known to the library that their policy is not quite fair. The second is that I don’t like people waving policies in my face just to make their lives simple. The third is that I need the practice. You can see from the description that I used several negotiation tactics and even changed my strategy. Believe it or not, doing this with the librarian is no different than doing this with a million dollar contract, which I do daily. My policy is to practice, practice, practice and you’ll save money, too!


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