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0849 Bargaining With Store Owners

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 849: Bargaining with Store Owners

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 849. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, become a member, and support this podcast.

This episode is a dialog between Connie and Ivan about bargaining, trying to get a good price, at a store. Let’s get started.

[start of dialog]

Connie: You speak McQuillanese. Ask the store owner the price of this vase.

Ivan: All right. He says it’s $60.

Connie: That’s actually a great price, but let’s see if I can talk him down a little. You should never accept the starting price and the prices in these stores are all negotiable. Ask him what his rock bottom price is for the vase.

Ivan: He said that he’ll take $50, but not one penny less.

Connie: The vase is really a steal at $50, but maybe he’s still willing to bargain. Tell him that I won’t pay a penny more than $40.

Ivan: I told him and he says that at that price, he’d be giving it away. I don’t think he’s going to budge. I think you should just buy it. He doesn’t look like he’s willing to haggle with you.

Connie: Don’t be impatient. Good things come to those who wait. Tell him that I’m ready to walk away if he doesn’t take $42 for it. Hey, where’s he going?

Ivan: He says that he’s walking away because he doesn’t sell to cheap Americans.

Connie: Hmph!

[end of dialog]

Our dialog begins with Connie saying to Ivan, “You speak McQuillanese.” “McQuillanese,” like “McQuish,” is a very rare language. Actually, the ending -ese is used in a couple of different ways. It can be used to describe a language, for example, Japanese, or Chinese – those are languages spoken in Japan and China, respectively. We also use that suffix -ese at the end when we are talking about the particular kind of language, for example, for a certain type of work or for a certain purpose. We used to talk about in linguistics something called “motherese,” which is the kind of language that a mother uses with her child. I think they call it “caretakerese,” nowadays. But the idea is that the -ese usually indicates, or often indicates, that we’re talking about a language. And here, we’re talking about McQuillanese as a language. Ivan speaks McQuillanese.

So Connie says, “Ask the storeowner the price of this vase.” A “vase” (vase) is a ceramic or glass object, usually used for putting flowers into. Ivan says, “All right.” And then, I guess, he speaks McQuillanese to the storeowner. Then he says to Connie, “He says it’s $60.” Connie says, “That’s actually a great price” – a very good price – “but let’s see if I can talk him down a little.” “To talk someone down” means to get someone to agree to a lower price than he has offered you, to get someone to lower the price on something they’re selling. That’s “to talk someone down.” “The buyer talked down the seller $50 – he talked him down.”

Connie says, “You should never accept the starting price.” The “starting price” is the price that the seller tells you first. “It’s a hundred dollars,” and you say, “Oh, no. A hundred dollars? No, no, no. How about $50?” The starting price there would be a hundred dollars, what the seller tells you initially, at first. Connie says, “You should never accept the starting price and the prices in these stores are all negotiable.” “Negotiable” (negotiable) means that they can be changed. When you go into a typical American store, especially a large store such as a department store that sells clothing and furniture, usually the prices are not negotiable. You can’t take a shirt and go up and talk to one of the employees at the store and say, “I’ll give you $10 for this shirt,” even though the price is $15.

However, in many countries, and in smaller stores perhaps in the U.S, prices are negotiable, and you can say, “Well, that’s too high,” and then you give a different price. Connie says, “Ask him what his rock bottom price is for the vase.” “Rock bottom price” is the lowest possible price you will accept, the least amount of money. This, of course, is a strategy, a technique in bargaining, in trying to get a low price for something. You try to get the other person to give you the lowest possible price that he is willing to give you, and so you may ask for his “rock bottom price,” although, usually, that’s only something you might ask for after you’ve already negotiated a little bit back and forth.

Ivan says, “He said he’ll take $50 but not one penny less.” The expression “not one penny (penny) less” means that this is the absolute minimum or lowest price, that the person is not going to lower the price anymore beyond that point. A “penny” is one cent, one American cent. One dollar is a hundred cents, or a hundred pennies equals one dollar. Connie says, “The vase is a real steal at $50.” A “steal” (steal) here means a very good deal, something that is sold at a very low price, something expensive sold very cheaply. “Steal” has some other meanings in English, however. Make sure you look at the Learning Guide for those. You don’t want to use the wrong meaning of steal. Here “steal” means a very good bargain.

Connie says, “Maybe he’s still willing to bargain” - “he’s still willing” meaning even though he said that is his lowest price, maybe he’ll go a little lower. “To bargain,” as we said before, means to negotiate, means to get a lower price by talking to someone. Then Connie says, “Tell him” – the seller – “that I won’t pay a penny more than $40.” So, the seller said he wouldn’t accept anything lower than $50. “Not one penny less,” he said. Connie is now saying that she won’t pay a penny more than $40, meaning $40 is the maximum, the most she will pay.

Ivan then, of course, talks to the store owner in McQuillanese. We don’t get to hear that part. He says, “I told him and he says that at that price, he’d be giving it away. “At that price” – meaning at $40 – “he would be giving it away.” Of course, to give something away is a phrasal verb, meaning to give something for free. You’re not even asking for any money for it. Of course, the shop owner is not giving it away, but he’s using that expression to say that he can’t possibly sell this vase at $40. It’s too cheap. He won’t make any money. Ivan says “I don’t think he’s going to budge.” “To budge” (budge) means to move a small amount or to change your position. If someone says, “Well, this is my price and I’m not going to budge,” here he means that they’re not going to change their position. They’re not going to change the price.

Ivan says, “I think you should just buy it. He doesn’t look like he’s willing to haggle with you.” “To haggle” (haggle) or “to haggle” – same word – my pronunciation is a little different – means to negotiate, to bargain, to try to get a lower price. So, it’s the same as to bargain. Connie says, “Don’t be impatient. Good things come to those who wait.” This is an old expression, “Good things come to those who wait” – if you wait enough, if you wait a long time, eventually you will have some good things coming to you. The idea is that even though there are difficulties in waiting, it may not be very pleasant. When you wait, you get good things after that waiting period.

Connie says, “Tell him that I’m ready to walk away if he doesn’t take $42 for it.” “To walk away” means, in this case, to end the discussion, to stop the negotiation, to say, “Okay, I’m not going to buy it all. Goodbye.” Connie says, “Hey, where’s he going?” Where is he going? Ivan says, “He” – the storeowner – “says that he’s walking away because he doesn’t sell to cheap Americans.” “Cheap” (cheap) is a low price. But here it’s used as an insult. It means someone who doesn’t want to pay very much money for anything even though that thing is worth the money. Someone who is cheap is someone who doesn’t like to spend money and will often sacrifice rather than spend more money, will often say, “Okay, I’m not going to do anything because I don’t want to spend any money.”

It’s usually an insulting term to call someone “cheap.” If you ask a girl out on a date, and then at the end of the date you say, “Oh, why don’t we each pay our own bill,” if you’re a man, the girl might think you are cheap. And she’d probably be right.

Now let’s listen to the dialog this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Connie: You speak McQuillanese. Ask the store owner the price of this vase.

Ivan: All right. He says it’s $60.

Connie: That’s actually a great price, but let’s see if I can talk him down a little. You should never accept the starting price and the prices in these stores are all negotiable. Ask him what his rock bottom price is for the vase.

Ivan: He said that he’ll take $50, but not one penny less.

Connie: The vase is really a steal at $50, but maybe he’s still willing to bargain. Tell him that I won’t pay a penny more than $40.

Ivan: I told him and he says that at that price, he’d be giving it away. I don’t think he’s going to budge. I think you should just buy it. He doesn’t look like he’s willing to haggle with you.

Connie: Don’t be impatient. Good things come to those who wait. Tell him that I’m ready to walk away if he doesn’t take $42 for it. Hey, where’s he going?

Ivan: He says that he’s walking away because he doesn’t sell to cheap Americans.

Connie: Hmph!

[end of dialog]

Good things come to those who wait each week for the next amazing episode of ESL Podcast, with the amazing scripts by our own, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
vase – a ceramic or glass object with an open top, used for holding and displaying cut flowers placed in water

* For their wedding anniversary, Kenji gave his wife a beautiful vase of a dozen roses.

to talk (someone) down – to get someone to agree to accept a lower price for something he or she is selling

* That’s incredible! How did you talk the salesman down to just $13,000 for that car?

starting price – the initial selling price, especially when the buyer and seller expect to agree on a lower price; the first price stated by the seller

* In this market, the starting price is usually about 20% higher than the final selling price.

negotiable – a price or terms/conditions that can be discussed and changed until they are acceptable to everyone involved

* The salary we offered is not negotiable, but we might be able to improve the benefits package or give you more vacation time.

rock bottom price – the lowest possible price; the least amount of money someone is willing to sell something for

* The store is closing next week, so it is selling all remaining items at rock bottom prices.

not one penny less – minimum; without being willing to lower the price any more

* I’ll sell it to you for $4.75, but not one penny less.

steal – a very good deal; something that is being sold at a very low price

* Heather loves going to garage sales, because she usually finds some great steals.

to bargain – to negotiate; for a buyer and seller to discuss and change the price of something until they reach agreement

* We were willing to bargain the price of almost everything at our garage sale, except the price of the really nice table.

to give (something) away – to give something to someone for free, without receiving any money or anything of value in return; to sell something at a price that is much lower than what it is worth

* The company gives away the razors in the hopes that people will buy their expensive razor blades.

to budge – to change one’s position; to move a little bit in some way

* He is very stubborn and his says his opinions will never budge.

to haggle – to negotiate or bargain to try to get a lower price

* It’s okay to haggle, but don’t start with such a low price that you offend the seller.

good things come to those who wait – a phrase used to advise someone to be patient and not expect immediate results

* Don’t be so impatient! It takes times for the tomato plants to grow, but good things come to those who wait.

to walk away – to end a discussion and refuse to continue negotiating or bargaining, usually because the other person is being unreasonable or cannot meet one’s needs

* They were having a heated argument and Tanya became so rude that Tomasz decided to just walk away.

cheap – wanting to have the lowest possible price and refusing to pay more, not respecting the value of the goods or services being sold

* Yuki is so cheap that she refuses to buy fruit if it costs more than one dollar per pound.

Comprehension Questions
1. According to Connie, is the vase worth $50?
a) No, it isn’t worth $50.
b) Yes, $50 is a fair price for the vase.
c) Yes, $50 is less than the vase is really worth.

2. Why won’t the store owner sell to cheap Americans?
a) Because they aren’t willing to pay a fair price.
b) Because they don’t take the time to learn to speak McQuillanese.
c) Because they rarely pay the sales tax.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to talk (someone) down

The phrase “to talk (someone) down,” in this podcast, means to get someone to agree to accept a lower price for something he or she is selling: “Do you think you can talk the sellers down to $225,000 for the house?” The phrase “to talk (someone/something) up” means to make someone or something seem more impressive, interesting, or important than it really is: “At work, Sheila has been talking her brother up, hoping her boss will hire her brother, too.” The phrase “to talk down to (someone)” means to speak to someone as if that person were not very intelligent: “Why do you let him talk down to you like that?” Finally, the phrase “to talk (someone) into (something)” means to persuade someone to do something, especially if he or she would prefer not to do it: “How were you able to talk Hal into helping you move the piano?”

steal

In this podcast, the word “steal” means a very good deal or something that is being sold at a very low price: “The food at this restaurant is a steal, especially for a big family like ours!” As a verb, “to steal” means to take something that does not belong to oneself without permission from the owner: “Did you hear that someone stole Tim’s bike out of his garage yesterday afternoon?” The verb can also refer to taking someone’s ideas or work and presenting them as one’s own: “I couldn’t believe it when the boss stole our ideas and presented them to management without giving us credit.” Finally, to “steal into (a place)” means to enter a place very quietly, without being noticed by others: “They stole into the movie theater when the ticket-taker wasn’t looking.”

Culture Note
Negotiating Prices

In the United States, most stores “post” (put up a sign with) the prices of the goods and services they are selling. In general, these posted prices are “not negotiable” (cannot be changed through bargaining). However, there are some “notable” (worth noting and talking about) exceptions.

The prices of cars are always almost always negotiable. “Dealerships” (businesses that sell cars) post prices that are much higher than what they actually expect to receive. Buyers go into dealerships prepared to negotiate. This requires doing research about the “true” (actual; real) cost of the car and average selling prices in similar cities. Dealerships try to get buyers to pay a higher price by “throwing in” (including at no additional cost) “accessories” (things that are sold with a product and make it work better or look better, but are not necessary), an extended “warranty” (a period of time when repairs are paid for by the manufacturer or dealership), or free “service” (automotive maintenance, like oil changes).

The prices “quoted” (provided as an estimate before work begins) by “contractors” (people who perform work on buildings, like plumbers, electricians, and carpenters) are also sometimes negotiable, especially for larger projects. Neighbors might negotiate for a lower price by having work done by a single contractor at the same time. Or they might try to get the contractor to agree to a lower price by offering to pay in cash instead of with a credit card, so that the contractor does not have to pay the fees charged by the credit card company.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a