Back last June, I blogged about negotiating in good faith (see the original post here). As the primary example of lousy negotiating environments, I used buying new or used cars. The dealerships will do everything in their power to overwhelm you. They will have you bargain with people who have no power to bargain. They will try to slip stuff by you. And on, and on, and on. And this is with the "nicer" guys.
Once again, we found ourselves talking to the sales guys (they had a team assigned to us), but each round of discussions had to go to some other guy, hidden far away, for his feedback. Getting a warranty thrown in required bargaining with yet another guy, and even some aspects required bargaining with the finance guy who was doing all the final paperwork. At pretty much every point in the process, somebody was figuring out how to throw in a few more of our bucks... without telling us.
All this would have been much easier if the guys we were working with had looked like or acted like scumbags. But the problem was they seemed like genuinely nice guys. Oh sure, they have a job to do, and everyone knows that. But this large dealership, and the nice guys, made it appear like all would be pretty straightforward. Their congeniality would have made it very easy to trust that they were working things out as they said they were, and that the final papers and numbers would have reflected exactly what they said it would. Only our careful checking and rechecking of figures allowed us to insert a few, "uh... wait a second..." checkpoints. It was obvious that alot of the chat, humor, and general friendliness was intentionally designed to impart a feeling of trust that would allow them to do a little more under the table manipulation.
Here's the sad part. Even if they had managed to insert the extra cost items they were trying to slip in, their total take would have been increased by only a tiny percentage. For the most part, I was willing to put them into a short list of dealerships I would be willing to deal with again. But now, they've lost future business from me. Was that really worth it for them? I would think not.
In your own business (and personal) dealings, don't be these guys. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Make your customers and suppliers comfortable in your negotiations. You may still get a deal with someone (you might be the only choice at the moment), but you may be losing out on future business with them. And people talk. Word gets around. When word about you gets around, make sure people have nice things to say.