So, Mister big shot negotiation professor- how well can you negotiate the purchase of a disposable camera at the Great Wall of China? Not very well at all, it turns out. ^^ I was last there in August. It was the day before a class I was teaching in Beijing. The vendor told me she wanted the equivalent of $30 for a one-use 20 shot Kodak camera. Even I knew that was a very high price. I also knew you’re supposed to haggle. But I had no goal price in mind, no opening offer in mind, and little time. “$10” I said. We agreed finally at $12. As I walked away with my camera, I actually heard myself mutter, “well, I did OK there- I got her down from $30 to $12.” But as my students know well, a concession isn’t the same thing as a bargain. The real question is this: what’s my best alternative to a negotiated agreement? Also important: are there objective criteria that can confirm the deal is fair? In fact, a moment’s thought would have revealed that I could buy a similar camera at my pharmacy in New York City for $7, and that prices at other Chinese tourist destinations are usually a bit better than New York. (Another moment’s thought would have revealed that there were a lot of camera sellers at the Great Wall too.) Sure enough, the next day I found someone selling a 37 shot (yes, 37 shot) disposable Kodak camera for $6. How did the first vendor get me so badly? By going first with a very aggressive offer, she anchored me- biasing my expectations. Without much forethought and rushing to see the sites, I was putty in her hands. Of course, the difference was pretty trivial for me and I didn’t want to spend my day off haggling- in fact, I never do. But as a test of my negotiating prowess, the experience was a dismal failure. It was all I could do to face my students the next day. Go thou and don’t do likewise. 😉