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 The word itself conjures up some 1950’s outdated idea, doesn’t it?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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Merry Christmas, Here’s a Post

Well, it’s Christmas time here in Texas and the hotel is bustling with holiday business. Hotel holidays are interesting creatures… some holidays you can expect the hotel will be almost empty (usually Thanksgiving on this one), but some are just jam-packed (usually 4th of July, oddly enough). Christmas and the other end of year holidays are a middling affair. You can usually count on being half full (or half empty, you pessimist!). This year did not disappoint.

Here’s a couple of hotel hints for your holiday travel:

  1. This especially applies to holidays, but is great advice any time of the year: Book around a month+ in advance, if at all possible if you need to guarantee a room.

1a. A little addendum here: If you are an extreme bargain hunter and can live with the risk of not getting a room, you can gamble with this advice. Some hotels (ours not included in this) will offer discounted rates (if you ask) to get more heads in beds, but only if the holiday numbers are looking a bit low. If you gamble on this, it could come back to bite you. If the numbers are high, then you might not be able to get any truly significant discounts (or any discounts at all)! It’s your choice, but know you run the two risks: High prices or the hotel not even offering a discount for the season. I highly recommend calling the hotel (directly) a month in advance and ask what their policy is, or ask if they could offer you a discount on the spot.

2. Always try to negotiate or haggle. I hate giving this advice as a behind-the-counter person, because there’s nothing more annoying than someone who doesn’t know when to stop haggling. I will post a follow-up post in the near future about price negotiation etiquette. Hotels don’t always have a cheaper rate available! They may have offered you the lowest they could go when they began. Often, that is not the case though. It does not hurt to ask. If they say there is no cheaper rate available, then either accept that and pay the man/woman behind the desk or you can gamble.

(The following advice is a really low move, just letting you know ahead of time that it will garner negative feelings and MAY cause an unfavorable situation, such as a room right next to an elevator shaft, facing the busy highway, next door to the party of 8 in a room that should be holding 4, etc.). You could gamble, as I said, and use the “Well I guess I’ll have to leave if I can’t get a lower price” line. Note: I do not recommend this! You may find that a lower rate has miraculously opened up or you might see a blank face and hear a “I’m sorry to hear that, sir/madam. We will miss your business.” (I do hope you realize at this point where you went wrong and that they sincerely do NOT miss your business).

A final point on negotiating prior to my next hotel post, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst they can tell you is no. It CAN hurt if you ask in the wrong way, so we’ll be helping you avoid that.

3. Realize that there are real, living, caring, breathing people behind that desk and cleaning those rooms. If it’s a major holiday, chances are that you have somewhere to go and something to do. The thing about hotels is that they never close. So chances are, the people who are working probably have somewhere to go and something to do. I know the difference a guest can make by acknowledging that the hotel staff have a life beyond these walls… it made all the difference to that housekeeper. She was truly touched by the guest’s sincerity when he stopped her from what she was doing, quickly told her “Merry Christmas, and I hope your granddaughter has a great Christmas” and handed her a small Christmas gift.

Like my last hotel post would tell you, being a nice, decent human being will make all the difference in your stay. If you go out of your way to show that you care about the hotel staff, they will go out of their way to make your life as pleasant as possible while you’re staying at their property.

So for all who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas! If that’s not your cup of tea, then happy holidays! And if you don’t like that, well good tidings and well wishes go your way as well!

Thanks to all who read, I hope to continue providing interesting content!

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Enter: Risk Legacy

Passing through my local Hastings (think B. Daltons + Blockbuster, only better and from Texas), my eyes passed along the shelves of PC games and skittered across the board games. As a gaming enthusiast, it was love at first sight – Risk Legacy. I don’t know which caught and held me more: The official briefcase looking box, the poignantly provocative sticker sealing the box boldly stating “What is done can not be undone”, or the fact that the back of the box described shudder-inducing actions – writing directly on the game board with permanent marker AND ripping up cards after using them.

This is taboo to me. I just CAN’T rip up cards. I just CAN’T permanently scar my game board. But what if I could? Wouldn’t it be deliciously naughty to play this game. It goes against all my gaming instincts. And they set the hook with a back story and campaign type setting, appealing to both the author and the D&D player in me. There was no way I could resist. The hefty price tag of $60 for a game I’d be destroying as I went along only dented my resolve, because damn it, I WANTED that game.

And when I had a spectacularly unexpected Christmas donation from my wonderful girlfriend’s father, I went and bought the object of my desire. It felt SOOOO good to get that game. I haven’t wanted a material object this badly since I was 6 and the TMNT Turtle Van and Techno-Drome were both out that Christmas. That obsessive. And now, I’m exiting line from Hastings and my girlfriend states “Now we’ll wrap it up and make you wait 5 days until Christmas to open it up.”

The world became grey, food turned to ash in my mouth and water to dust. Truly, this… this is how the world ends.

After much harried haranguing and pitiful pleading, I managed to convince her to let me open it (though she had only been teasing me all along). I now reverently opened this treasure chest and saw all the goodies inside. Not only was the box sealed with the tantalizing sticker, on the inside there are pockets with things inside them that can only be opened when certain milestones happen in your game. Not all are guaranteed to happen either.

Now I have this wonderful new… game doesn’t describe it… obsession called Risk: Legacy, and the world again became grey, food turned to ash in my mouth and water to dust once more. There was only myself and my girlfriend. Sure 2 would play it, but I didn’t want to do it like that. I wanted to build my own history with the recommended group of 5 players. I wanted rivalries to form, bitter betrayals to happen, alliances to be made. 2 people just wouldn’t cut it.

I began my quest for a campaign group the day before I actually bought the game. I have a coworker who para-role plays, and I knew if I dangled a tantalizing piece of this game in front of her, she would rip my arm off for a chance of more. Turns out I was mostly right… though I do still have an arm. She was in from the word… hell, she was in as soon as I started describing it. She shared my same fervor and obsession for this immediately. Before even owning the game, we were discussing how we could write stories about the games. Chronicle our world’s history, as it were.

(We did decide to write out stories as we go along, with each game being a generation in the world.)

We were now up to 3 players. I must find more.

After turning to Facebook, I managed to find a tug on the line: An ex-coworker’s husband seemed to be an avid Risk fanatic, though he’d heard nothing of Legacy. A tentative agreement to meet was set up, and now we were 4.

I recalled, on the day of the game that I had an old D&D buddy (who I had previously texted) who never responded. Frantic attempt after frantic attempt to contact him failed time and again. Then I realized, he switched numbers and I, like a dummy, never changed it. After shooting a text his way at his new number, he seemed at least a bit interested, and so we had our fifth.

Then disaster struck… my girlfriend got sick. This was merely a set back. We were not going to allow sickness derail the train of awesomeness that was so close to pulling into station and take us on a new adventure. So, seems like the Saharan Republic (my significant other’s chosen faction) was late to the battle for this cloned Earth. The world will not be as pristine and untouched when her people arrive, but we HAD to play. The need burned in me like any other wild man’s crazy obsession.

I won’t reveal details of the game or what was revealed when (sadly) I was eliminated in the first game of my game, but I will say this: We will be playing the 15 game campaign and the Enclave of the Bear will return next generation, more powerful and seeking blood to sate the thirst for vengeance of the wrongs done to them by the Imperials and Khans. A hero of Die Mecaniker did arise when his people were most in need. The pristine metropolis of Vaes Dathrak was raised, the first testament to humanity’s lasting mark on this new Earth. The lesser cities were raised as well, both Alamo and Jaynestown have made a mark in the wilds of what once was Asia, though on this world remains unnamed.

And so, changes made in Game 1 will resonate all the way to Game 15 and beyond. The box did not lie. Alliances were made. Betrayals were rampant. What has been done can not be undone. Woe to those who come.

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A Novel Idea

I’m working on a novel and I feel this is a good place for me to begin getting the ideas out there and drumming up some assistance if anyone wants to participate. If I end up getting published, anyone who makes a small contribution (that I end up using) will get a specific mention and anyone who makes a contribution I end up changing a bit will get a group nod.

I can’t promise any kind of payment, nor will I: I’m in my 20’s and closer to broke than rich (for one), and 2… I have no clue how this thing’s going to go. If someone ends up making a large contribution to this effort, I will discuss a co-authorship. Aside from that, just know that if you help me out here, it’s on the assumption that it’s pro bono. (I have to put this here to cover my own rear… if for some reason this story DOES take off and I make some money off of it, I really don’t want to have any lawsuits or anything) 😦

All that aside, here’s what I’m thinking on my plot.

The world is much as it is today… In fact, this is no mystical setting. The protagonist catches a bus to work every day. He’s not even some kind of super hero… He works as an IT Specialist at a corporate help desk. He’s your average, ordinary work-a-day joe. Until the Awakening happens.

The Awakening, as it will become to be called is when magic resurfaces in our world. When it happens, the world becomes a place of chaos. Some places, the Awakening leads to new wars and devastation while in others it brings a new golden age. These initial moments, from the full scale slaughter seen in various third world countries to the miraculous healing seen within moments of the Awakening.

The driving force I have in this story will be political: Things affect William (Will’s our main character) slowly. After the Awakening, he becomes aware of the magical energy that infuses the world around him. He can feel the ley lines pulling at his attention. He can feel the magic, as if he can just reach out and manipulate that thread to create his imagination’s desire (which, in fact, he can). Though some without morals but heavy in magic are immediately willing to use their new found power as a weapon, Will is somewhat hesitant to use this magic. The U.S. government is quick to condone the actions of the terrorists, and a McCarthy-esque “witch-hunt” begins. Legislation will be entered into Congress that is the equivalent of gun control laws, despite the fact that the “guns” are living, breathing people.

As the story progresses and evolves, Will will begin a coalition of Mages. He will lead the opposition to the “Security Counsel Against Re-emergent Entities” (anti-magic being) movement and as one of the most powerful mages in North America, he will help combat rampant magic abuse occurring across America.

I know, I know… this sounds a lot like X-men. X-men was not the premise for this idea, but rather a heated gun control debate that I watched in a government class I attended years ago. I felt that you mix several controversial issues together with a magical re-emergence and you’d find a great story.

I should also mention, it’s not just mage’s magic that re-emerges. As the series progresses (and you’ll see hints in the first book), gods have awoken from their technologically induced slumber (you’ll hear news reports of rumors from India that gods are walking among the population and claims that North American Indians are pushing for their land to be returned “because [their] gods have tasked them to reclaim the lost land.” Magical beings are also making a come-back… a dragon savaged a town in the Appalachian Mountains, though there are claims that a family killed the dragon and are currently having it mounted. (Of course, people will not believe these claims at first, but time will give them proof).

Ultimately, this story boils down to Magic vs. Technology. It’s not good vs. evil. There will be mages that are evil as sin or as good as saints. Will is just a normal guy… he’s going to have his shades of grey. This story WANTS to be told, and it won’t be just another X-men with magic instead of mutant powers.

Let me know what you think. Have any ideas on how I might spice it up or change it around? Tell me! I may heed them or disregard them, but I want your opinions. If you want to take a slice of the story and write an example chapter, message me! If you want to write a side story of tales during/after the Awakening, awesome! I’m making this available to grow. Run with it!

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Blind Leading the Blind

Well, I’m back. Nobody scared me off on my first post, so that’s a good start. I lead a fairly unassuming life, no wild and crazy for me. Yet, I find I enjoy my life. I have a “large” personality… I’m from Texas, so that may have something to do with it, but I like to live life in large portions. I try to enjoy every single moment that I have on this hunk of rock. I am frequently heard saying that “work is only as fun as you choose to make it.” If you go into work every day expecting it to be a grind and an unpleasant experience, well you’ll get exactly what you put into it: disappointment. Myself… I prefer to have as much productive fun at work as I can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to slack off. Finishing work is a fulfilling action, as is doing a job well done. There’s nothing stopping you from doing a good job and enjoying it though. I usually banter with coworkers, play innocent little pranks (like changing the desktop background of the work computer to look like all the icons and then hiding all the icons… that one was priceless!), and generally just having a good attitude and a good time.

All that to say, I’m moving forward quite quickly because of that personality, hard work ethic, and good attitude. Despite only working at this hotel for only 6 months, I am now the new Director of Sales. Pretty great, eh?! Here’s the thing… I don’t have any “true” sales experience. Now, what I do have is a salesman’s personality. I have never met a stranger. Most everyone who meets me, likes me immediately and if not, I can usually get them to warm up to me. I can be so empathetic that I may have been right there suffering through the same things you were or celebrating those victories with you. (I know this sounds cynical, but the fact is: I am that empathetic. I enjoy others successes and commiserate others losses as if they were my own).

On top of not having any sales experience, my boss – the General Manager of the hotel, seems to have a little sales experience, but no time to do anything to help. I think I may be a much better DoS (Director of Sales) than she, since I’ve tended to think outside the box. Here’s one example of what I’ve done in the week since my promotion: I have created an idea of a “Hunters Preferred” program. The premise of this idea is that since we are a prime hunting location, we enter into a referral partnership with hunting lease owners in our area (we refer people to you, you refer people to us) and in return for the business they send our way, we provide hunters hunting at leases on our Preferred list about a 15% discount just for hunting where they were already hunting. This saves between $15-$20/night, which over extended hunting stays will save a lot of money for the hunter and bring in untapped business to our hotel. I’ve been working on implementing this plan for the last 2 days and it’s already become quite popular.

Here’s the thing though, I don’t want this type of thing to be a one-hit wonder. If anyone has any good promotional ideas, send them my way! My boss knows I don’t have any prior sales experience, but she also knows that I have a lot of potential. I’ve already ran some ideas past her and things look to be beginning smoothly enough.

As they say, in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is king.

-Grand Landing

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A Few Hotel Hints

For my first post, I’m going to give you some “behind-the-counter” tips on booking a hotel. Many people in my generation (and a surprising amount from earlier generations) don’t have the first clue on booking a hotel. Many people find themselves in a situation where they realize they need a place to stay all of a sudden, and shortly afterwards they are fighting medieval sized rodents and making alliances with the roaches to hold what territory they have in the room.

1) The idea of “SuperSavingsBookings.com.net.url.whatever” saving you a ton of money by sticking it to the hotel and getting you the best price possibly available is no more than a clever ploy. Speaking from personal experience, many times that I’ve seen guests coming into our hotel with third-party booking site reservations, they end up paying more than our most basic discount would have netted them. Not only do you end up paying more than you would have, you’re also paying a commission fee to the site for booking the room for you. Where we would have made (let’s just pull a number here and say an even $100) from offering you a discount, we end up only making say $80 and you end up paying even more. This leads right in to my next point.

2) ALWAYS book directly through the hotel, if at all possible! Did all-caps and an exclamation point not convince you enough? ALWAYS. Let’s say you are using “SuperSavingsBookings.com.net.url.whatever” and they quote you a price of $110 as the best deal ever. Well, if you do a little more research and find the local number to the hotel (not some 800-number because that likely leads to an outsourced reservation line) then take the time to call the hotel and say “Hey SSB.all-that-jazz quoted me the price of $110, can you make me a better deal.” I can tell you right now, that 99 times out of 100, the hotel will make that better deal. The reason: You save more money, which leaves you happy. The hotel makes more money than they would have had you booked through the third-party site. Everybody’s happy. Except for the 1 out of 100. The next point will describe how you can avoid being the 1/100.

3) Be friendly with the hotel representative that you are talking to and you’re more likely to get unexpected perks, whether this is a discounted rate, a complimentary upgrade, a free breakfast voucher, or it could be nothing at all. Just like anyone who deals with a large amount of people in any given day, the extra nice/friendly people make our day. If you are friendly to us, then we are MUCH more inclined to go out of our way for you. The inverse of that applies as well. Let’s take the previous example of calling for a negotiated rate. If you call with a ridiculously low number, we know you’re making it up, because we are familiar with what our third-party booking rates are. If you try to scam us, not only are you not getting a better rate, you may get unfavorable room assignments. (I don’t do this personally, but I know quite a few hoteliers who would). Also, don’t call in with a sense of entitlement: “I know you get a worse price than I’m offering to pay you, so go ahead and give me a discounted rate and we’ll both be happy.” I did personally have this happen to me, and unfortunately there was nothing I could do about the rate. “The computer would not allow me to change the rate any lower than $XXX.XX.” Which is true… we would have to personally override that. Long story short, you go out of your way and be friendly to your hotel staff, and they will go out of their way to take care of you.

4) The house keepers are not the only staff at the hotel. They work hard and appreciate your tips. If you’re staying at the same hotel a few times a year, tip the front desk clerk and you’ll be guaranteed to get the best possible room he/she can give you. Does your hotel offer breakfast or a happy hour? Take time to give $2-3 to your server, personally and not just on the table, and you’ll be certain to receive preferential treatment any time you come through. Here’s the thing: Tips are not expected by most of the staff, but they are awesome to receive. A concierge person or house keepers may expect a tip, but the rest of the staff are always pleasantly surprised by any kind of tip and that will reflect in the service you receive.

More wisdom will be following, but listen to these words. This is (un)common sense that may seem obvious to one such as myself but is fairly uncommon knowledge “in the real world.” If you go a little out of your way to show you appreciate the hotel staff, they WILL reciprocate.

~Grand Landing

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