From The Tips Box: Negotiation Tips, Lost Credit Cards

We dodge punches to achieve our goals, negotiate our way to bargains, say bye-bye to satellite radio in the car and make a floating stereo.

Old Pillows go to the Dogs

Photo by dickuhne

Muddle-headed has a great idea on what to do with those old pillows of yours:

If your pillow is a little past its prime, it will make a great dog cushion. Commercial dog bedding is expensive, and I don't think it provides enough padding for comfort, especially for older animals with joint problems. But a "people" pillow that has become flatter with age seems ideal for dogs.

I put two old pillowcases on, with the openings in opposite directions so the pillow is completely covered. Your dog will love the fact that his new bed smells like you.

Negotiate Your Way to a Bargain

Photo by jenn_jenn

Love a bargain? Sweetmonkey has some pointers for you if you're willing to negotiate to get your way:

Here are a few thoughts on negotiations, whether on craigslist or elsewhere. I'm sure I'll repeat a few thoughts from others' comments:

  1. Know the going price of the item elsewhere, as well as the rarity of the item. This will help you to determine a reasonable set of expectations, as well as spot prices that are too good to be true.
  2. Know the maximum you are willing to pay BEFORE you start negotiating. This is your "reservation price", the point at which are you indifferent between the item and the money. Anything above this, and you're better off keeping your money. Anything below this, and you've negotiated a good deal.
  3. Figure out what you'll do if you don't make a deal. This is your "BATNA", the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. For example, if I want to buy a vacuum but it turns out to be too expensive, my BATNA might be to borrow a vacuum from a friend. Alternatively, suppose I need to get flowers for an anniversary, and I'm talking to the only person in town who has flowers. My BATNA might be to get some other kind of gift, which might be a poor substitute. This makes getting the deal done more important.
  4. In a related point, think about walking away ahead of time. If you convince yourself that you HAVE to have the item in question, you're likely to adjust your reservation price on the fly, which is always a bad idea. This happens with frequency in timed auctions, where people tend to incorrectly perceive scarcity and feel urgency just because the auction is about to end. Just before the end of the auction, the adjust their reservation price upward and end up paying more than they really wanted to. This can lead to a "winner's curse" scenario. If you've already considered walking away, you're much less likely to get into this situation.
  5. While we're on the topic of walking away, don't walk away in order to convince the other person to lower the price. This kind of "brinksmanship" is a hard-ball tactic that isn't usually a good idea. It makes people upset and less likely to be rational.
  6. Understand who you're negotiating with. If this is someone with whom you might negotiate again, you need to take this into account. If you establish a positive, productive relationship with a seller, they often remember that going forward, and may be willing to give you a better deal or advise you of interesting items before putting them up for sale to the general public. Plus, you might build up some good karma by treating others well. If you are POSITIVE this will be a one-time deal, you might be willing to push a little harder. Think carefully about this.
  7. Understand what you want to get out of the negotiation, and if possible, find out what the other person wants. Sometimes, it's just about the money, but often, there is more to the story. Let's say you're buying a puppy. Maybe the person selling the dog just wants to get rid of it or make a little cash, but maybe they are really attached to the puppy. In that case, they may want most of all to "find a good home" for it. Can you give them some assurance that your home is the one? Maybe talk about why you want a dog and what it will mean to you to have one.
  8. Determine whether money is the only way to trade. If cash is an issue, you can ask the other person if they'd be willing to trade or accept something else in lieu of money. If you're buying a camera, for example, and are an avid photographer, you might be able to offer to take and print a family portrait for the seller in exchange for the equipment. The more you know the other person, the easier this is.
  9. Know yourself. Negotiating in person isn't always better—it depends on your personality. Be honest with yourself: are you a people-pleaser who is likely to cave in on a negotiation in order to avoid conflict or make the other person happy? If so, an email negotiation might be better. On the other hand, if you want to use some of the other points above, it will be much simpler in person.
  10. Practice, practice, practice. Opportunities to negotiate exist everywhere, not just in purchases. The more comfortable you get, the better you'll be.

Floating Tunes

Keith wrote in about the floating stereo he made out of a portable cooler:

I love to tube the river in the summer, but what's a hot Texas day, beautiful countryside, and cold beer without good music? It's possible to buy floating or waterproof radios, most of which double as coolers, but I have never found one that actually generates serious volume. Worse, central Texas rivers are often in deep canyons, with little or no radio reception. I had seen people on the river with what appeared to be standard chest coolers that had been custom fitted for audio, but I couldn't find anyone online that made them or even any information about how to do it. So, I embarked on a project to make my own Stereo Cooler, and what follows may be the first Internet Guide on how to build one.

For a picture by picture walk through, detailed instructions, and a waterproof disclaimer, hit up How to Build a Stereo Cooler.

Cancel Those Cards

Photo by Andres Rueda

Even though Matt lost his wallet, he's coming to the aide of other travellers:

When I lost my wallet in a taxi in Eastern Europe last summer, I knew I needed to cancel my credit cards. Unfortunately I wasn't able to "locate the customer service phone number on the back of your statement" while standing on a street corner in Croatia at 11pm.

After this episode I created CancelThatCard.com, a website that lists credit card customer service numbers in the US as well as 60 other foreign countries.


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