I remember that my mother used to ask this question at the end of almost every purchasing transaction. I did not feel embarrassed at that time because she got something out of it most of time – another bag of lollies for me at least. I was fortunate that I understood the ‘customer value proposition’ in an early stage of my childhood, which allows me to extract more benefits by effectively ‘asking for more for less’. At the end of the day I got more than what I actually paid for, that was all that matters for me.
However, as I grew older, I realized that there is a negative correlation between my perceived image and bargaining. If I ask for more discount and often, then I would be perceived as a cheapskate. The fear of having my image besmirched was almost unbearable hence I naturally diverted away from the principle of ‘nothing wrong with asking for more for less’. One day I decided to analyse why I chose to abandon the principle that I adhered to for almost 25 years. The reason was obvious – my value proposition has changed when my financial status has changed.
I recall tracking every single expense, including a pack of chewing gum. One day I arrived at the outer realm of ‘financial freedom’, I ceased tracking expenses and abolished the budget that I used for almost 10 years. My value proposition has been shifted from ‘gaining more for less’ to ‘protecting my reputation’. Instead of asking for a discount, I learnt an artistry of making the seller offer me a discount voluntarily. I tended to enjoy the purchasing experience (intangible) than the actual outcome (tangible). Rather than having myself recognized as once-off customer who is not welcomed to return, I built an image of highly regarded loyal customer. I felt good at least for couple of years.
One day I was at home alone and decided to requisite some time for myself to assess my financial position since I have not done it for a while. I almost dropped my very expensive Riedel Vinum Montrachet glass when I was looking at my American Express card statement as well as the account balance of my savings account. One has more and one has none. The suffocating moment prolonged for about 5 minutes and suddenly I came to my senses, and I started asking myself this question – ‘How did I end up here?’
I was blinded. I was not able to see anything. I was not able to make a logical and sound financial decision because I was in the shadow of my foolish egoism and dandyism that completely eclipses my abilities to distinguish what is considered as a good value proposition. Building a formidable reputation and having myself recognized as a successful business man in an early stage of my life was more important than having my debt reduced and investing more in tangible assets such as shares and properties. Needless to say it was one of the worst investment decisions I ever made in my life.
Now I ask for a discount on every opportunity I get. Don’t I care about the negative correlation between my perceived imaged and bargaining? Not anymore. My foolish pride is an intangible asset and it depreciates exponentially if I have no tangible and liquid assets like cash, this is the lesson I learnt and it was ‘priceless’.