Negotiation Strategy: Why I Need Several Tailors

May 25, 2010 by

Bolts of Cloth

For the past three years, I have purchased tailored clothing from a tailor that I met in Hong Kong. Each time I purchase from him, it seems like he increases the prices ever so slightly. Given that I have few good alternatives, I have complied. In negotiation class, I learned that one can only strike a deal as good as their “best alternative to a negotiated agreement“. That is, if the Hong Kong tailor wants to charge me $35, and the only other tailor I know wants to charge me $120, the Hong Kong tailor is not at risk of losing my business until his price reaches that of the alternative. One can never negotiate unless one is willing to walk away at a certain point and seek an alternative. As different tailors take measurements in slightly different ways, it is preferable to be measured on-premises (versus ordering online). If you have a direct relationship with a tailor, it is far cheaper than going through a middle man online tailor, so these online tailors do not offer a viable alternative (they tend to be $60-90).

How will I derive new alternatives? My plan is to visit several tailors during my next trip to China and to have them take my measurements. (My size doesn’t change much over time.)  That way, when I arrive at home, I will be able to compare prices and inform the tailors that they face competition. However, it is important for me to not be unrealistic, as it is possible for the tailors to shirk on both the quality of materials and craftsmanship.

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