I come from a long line of “horse traders.” That’s the term my father always used to describe someone who was very astute at making good deals – and he was among the best I’ve ever seen.  Shrewdly, he could have more fun out of making a good deal on a truck, or tractor, or a bottle calf purchase than normal people could have on an exotic vacation or a day at the ballpark. For so many years, he was afraid he had not passed on that trait to his only son.
As good as my dad and grandfather were at the art of the deal, neither of them could hold a candle to my Uncle Bob. I remember, as a kid, asking my dad what exactly my uncle Bob did for a living. My dad responded by telling me that my uncle just “trades stuff.” I was confused until he related a story that my uncle had once owned the same horse on seven different occasions and, “He made money on it with every trade.” I was very young, but I was also very impressed.
When I came home for a couple of months after I graduated from college, I decided I needed to trade off the only car I had ever owned. I had already signed a contract to teach Vocational Agriculture at a nearby school and I needed a good, dependable vehicle. The old car I had worn out wasn’t worth much, but my Dad decided I needed to make the trade “on my own.”  In retrospect, I’m pretty sure he simply wanted to see if I could make it in the real world. 
Over the course of the next two weeks, I haggled, negotiated and bickered with several salesmen and dealerships across two states. Finally I made a purchase that pleased me. I also remember seeing a twinkle in Dad’s eyes that he approved, as well. With that, I became hooked on always negotiating on any major purchase (and some not so major). I don’t pretend to be half the trader my dad was, but it’s always fun.
Unfortunately, neither of my sons had the benefit of growing up poor, so they always thought “negotiating” on a purchase was embarrassing. I’ve taken them along on auto trades all their lives, and they simply roll their eyes and exit as quickly as possible. “If you’ve got the money, why don’t you just buy it?” is their favorite response. I’ve given up trying to reinforce the savings potential in a good deal, it seems to fall on deaf ears.
When my oldest son graduated from college with his Bachelor’s Degree, he wanted a rare, autographed book by his favorite author for his graduation present. He had found it online and it was several hundred dollars. During my intense, two-week negotiation with the owner, he sold the book to someone else. Needless to say, Seth was extremely disappointed and has reminded me many times what “haggling” will get you. But…..
Last week, I got an international call from that same oldest son. Seth has been in Ireland since last fall, working on his Ph.D. He had been living in an apartment owned by the university, but decided that he could save money by renting an apartment in the city. He had found the “ideal” place, only a few blocks from school. He informed me that the cost was 700 Euros per month. I checked on the Internet and that price seemed comparable to most living areas close to the college. Before I could even suggest anything, Seth bragged, “I asked him if he could rent it to me for 500 if I paid six months at a time?”
Shocked, I asked, “And what was his response?”
“He said he could take 600 if I would pay six months at a time.” 
“We finally agreed on 550.” I could hear the excitement in his voice.  “What do you think?”
Since he couldn’t see the twinkle in my eye, I hope he interpreted the sound of approval in my voice.
Jerry Crownover is a farmer and former professor of Agriculture Education at Missouri State University. He is a native of Baxter County, Arkansas, and an author and professional speaker. To contact Jerry call 1-866-532-1960 or visit www.ozarksfn.com and click on ‘Contact Us.’


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