Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Guide to Haggling

Negotiation involves finding the best outcome within the zone of possible agreement between each party’s reservation prices. This clip from The Big Bang Theory demonstrates a haggling scenario between a shop assistant and two friends, one who is very level headed in comparison to the other who evidently wants the item, and makes no attempt at hiding this. The techniques demonstrated in this scenario are examples of some of the negotiation traits outlined by Gates (2011):
1.       Nerve
The buyer maintains his nerve and remains calm, enabling him to handle the situation, respond appropriately and adopt a challenging position. This is evident from his faked indifference towards the product and his comment: “it’s okay I guess”.
2.       Self-discipline
The buyer keeps his behaviour separate from his emotions; ensuring he does not reveal how he really feels about the offers that are proposed to him. For example, after hearing the price of the product, he acts as though it is a lot more expensive than he would be willing to pay.
3.       Tenacity
The buyer is persistent and tests the seller’s resolve. When he is told the original price, which acts as an anchor, he immediately tries to discount this and subsequently makes a number of propositions, testing the zone of possible agreement.
4.       Assertiveness
The buyer is portraying himself as confident and in control of the situation and in being charge of the proposals, he is gaining respect.
5.       Instinct
The buyer reads the situation rationally, evaluating the motives and behaviour of the seller. He does not only consider the price aspect but also the availability of alternative methods to acquire the item.
6.       Caution
The buyer takes his time assessing the situation. He attempts to stop his friend showing how much he wants the product by telling him to “slow down”. Additionally, he does not say much and tries to stop his friend from saying too much. In doing so, the shop assistant has to do the work, increasing the likelihood of him making a concession.
7.       Curiosity
By questioning the seller, the buyer acquires power in the form of a deeper understanding of the situation. He begins by indifferently asking “how much do you want for it?” and subsequently gets more persistent, asking “can you do any better?”. The responses given create issues for trade as the shop assistant is less likely to keep information from the buyer.
8.       Numerical reasoning
The buyer takes a logical approach to the propositions, assessing risks and benefits. He is not fooled by the apparent limited availability and continues to keep a level head.
9.       Creativity
The buyer considers and evaluates factors adding value. In the scenario demonstrated in the clip, he assesses the likelihood of acquiring another after being told it is limited edition.
10.   Humility
The negotiator attempts to create a mutually beneficial relationship. He wants to purchase the item and in doing so will be giving the shop assistant what he wants.
From the other perspective, the shop assistant is attempting to create a perceived friendship, telling the customers that he is offering them friend’s rates. Research has shown that we are more likely to comply with people we like (Frenzen & Davis, 1990), and this has been taken advantage of in this situation.


Frenzen, J. K., & Davis, H. L. (1990). Purchasing behavior in embedded markets. Journal of Consumer Research, 17, 1-12.

Gates, S. (2011). The negotiation book: your definitive guide to successful negotiating. Wiley: Chichester.

Lizzie Hills

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