M&A Specialist | Advisor | Author | Consultant

Unethical Negotiating Tactics

Let me teach you the unethical gambits that people can use to get you to sweeten the deal. Unless you’re so familiar with them that you spot them right away, you’ll find that you will make unnecessary concessions just to get the other side to agree with your proposal.

Cherry Picking

Cherry Picking is a gambit that a buyer can use against a seller with devastating effect, unless the seller is a power negotiator and knows his or her options. All too often I see this being used when a seller has a certain buyer they want to buy their stores for some reason or not, but the buyer has a different perspective of the situation than the seller. Based on my 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 rule of thumb most c-store operators have a about a 1/3 of their stores that are great stores, a 1/3 of the stores that are good stores and the remaining 1/3 are ones you would like to burn or get rid of. But the cherry picker only wants the best 1/3 of the stores. And if you are not careful you will fall for their plan and offer to sell only the best stores.

The Deliberate Mistake

The Deliberate Mistake is a very unethical tactic, and as with any con job, it requires a victim who also lacks ethics. The seller baits the hook when he prepares a proposal and deliberately leaves out or underprices one of the elements. For example, the car salesperson who runs a calculator on the cost of the car but includes the price of the upgraded trim package knowing the buyer is expecting to pay for the standard trim package. If the buyer takes the bait, the buyer starts thinking that he now has an opportunity to put one over on the car salesperson. He becomes eager to close the deal before the salesperson spots the mistake. This eagerness makes the buyer a sloppy negotiator, and he may end up paying more for the car than if he had pointed out the mistake. Apart from that, the salesperson still has the option of “discovering” the mistake before the buyer consummates the sale and, with an accusing look, shames the buyer into paying the extra amount.

The Default

The Default Gambit is one that involves a unilateral assumption that obviously works to the advantage of the side proposing it, such as the company that sends a payment check to a vendor after having deducted two and a half percent. Attached is a note that says, “All of our other vendor’s discount for payment within 15 days, so we assume you will too.” Or the salesperson who writes a potential buyer, “Because I haven’t heard from you on your choice of options, I will ship the deluxe model unless I hear from you within ten days.”

The Default Gambit preys on busy or lazy people; it assumes that rather than take action the other side will take the easy way out and let you get away with it. Once you have failed to respond, the law of precedent comes into play. When you finally do object the perpetrator is able to say, “But you’ve never had a problem with it in the past.”

As with all unethical gambits, call the other side on it and gently explain that you expect to see a higher level of ethics from them in the future.

The best advice I can give you about unethical negotiating tactics is the same advice as I would give you if planned to walk down an alley in a third world country:
– Learn the swindles and the tactics that unscrupulous people use.
– Be alert to them and when you see the first evidence of a scam being pulled, don’t hang around out of curiosity or a desire to outsmart the perpetrator-just walk away from them as fast as you can.
– Never let your greed get the better of you. All con artists need a co-conspirator to pull off a con game. If the tactic doesn’t sound right to you, pull away as quickly as you can.


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