Negotiation Etiqu-ation

Etiquette. The word itself conjures up some 1950’s outdated idea, doesn’t it? We all have to learn correct posture and the correct pronunciation of our “H’s” and run about singing about where the rain in Spain falls, right? Well, not exactly.

You see, etiquette is simply the unspoken rules of conduct within society. It’s not physically wrong to put your face in your soup and slurp it up like a dog. The sustenance goes from outside your body to inside and provides the nutrients you need to stay alive. You seem to be doing pretty well actually. As a matter of course though, if you’re in the company of other human beings though, you’d be getting horrified looks or everyone would be pointedly looking everywhere but at you.

We’re going to discuss how not to be slurping your negotiation soup when haggling for better prices at a hotel. Of course, you can apply this to other areas as well, as you choose.

  1. Research – Prior to your trip, find out some information about the hotel you are going to. What is their undiscounted price? What is their standard discount? Do you qualify for this discount? Does that discount satisfy you or do you want to put in more work for a cheaper room?
  2. Research the competitors – All that information you just learned about the hotel you want to stay at? Now you need to do it again, for all the comparable competitors in town. If you come in figuratively armed for bear with the competitors’ information, you now have a distinct advantage in negotiations… You show the hotel that you are NOT limited to just this one hotel, but you came here because you PREFER to be here. (If you’re not a jerk about the presentation, this can come across as a compliment. Of course, if you bludgeon the desk clerk with your information, either physically or figuratively, then you’re still armed, but it’s the next Cold War of price negotiation).
  3. Know your price range – Is the hotel you’re wanting to stay at/within your price range? Are you trying to stay at a $200 for $100? Not gonna happen, buddy. But if you’re looking to get a $10-$20 discount, that may be more obtainable.
  4. Be reasonable – The price range advice follows this, but also be reasonable with the front desk attendant that has to help you. He/she may not have the authorization to adjust that rate more than a tiny little bit. I know when I was just a standard clerk, I could modify the rate down by 10%, give or take some for special circumstances. If you want your best chance of a better price, a member of management should be present. They can modify the rate to whatever is needed to keep a guest and they are the ones that will be praised or punished for revenue and room totals. Of course, they will be harder to get that price from. Usually some type of commitment is required to push the right buttons. If you will guarantee to come back only to our hotel, then maybe we can negotiate a standing rate for you.
  5. Be kind, considerate, but firm – For the actual negotiation, you want to be as nice as possible without actually grovelling. An “I appreciate all you’re doing for me” while your front desk clerk researches rate and profile information will help grease the wheels, so to speak. If you’ve followed the previous advice by knowing the competitor’s prices and knowing what you’re looking to obtain price-wise, then you are standing on the high ground. When you come armed like this, it’s easy to be kind and firm. You know exactly what you want and won’t settle for something far less than that.
  6. Ask for a lower price than you realistically expect – Let’s say a hotel room costs $100 (plus tax) a night and you want to pay no more than $85 (plus tax), then ask for $75-$80. This is why it’s called haggling… there will be offers and counter-offers. You know the price you want. You also have to know if you are willing to leave if you don’t get that price. You have to be firm but flexible in this. For example, if this were our hotel and I was the one at the desk, I only have certain rates that we offer, and we DO have a set “Absolute lowest you can go for anyone but a VIP who’s stayed here more than 10 nights in a year”… once I hit that number, unfortunately it’s either my way or the highway. This isn’t because I want it that way, it’s because we have to make X% of profit on a room, and you have to factor in that the cost per room includes a WIDE variety of things. All that to say, we can’t just offer these rates willy-nilly.

In the end, a hotel is a business. It will try to beat it’s competitors out for your business, but it will still have to make it’s profit margin as well. If you come armed with knowledge, then you can fight a good fight and get the best rate possible (though possibly not the best rate that you wanted). In the game of negotiation, knowledge truly is power, so invest a little time in research at home and you’ll save a some money on the road.

Do any of you have any great tips for negotiation that I missed? Any behind-the-desker’s want to weigh in on the matter? Feel free, leave a comment, follow the blog! I’m looking for an audience to share good advice with!

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