Two and a half months ago I jumped from working full time at Today’s Machining World into the wild laissez-faire world that is the used machinery business. One thing that has been difficult to learn working at Graff-Pinkert is the art of placing a value on a machine. My bosses are constantly shifting their stances on what we should pay for a piece of equipment. This business ain’t retail. There are no price tags in the window when we go to a shop to buy a used machine.
It made me think of a recent article in Wired Magazine about the invention of the price tag. Back in 1846 an Irish immigrant named Alexander Turney Stewart opened a store called Marble Dry Goods Palace in downtown New York City. It was a huge emporium that sold both luxury and everyday items. According to the article, Stewart’s store was the first in the United States to use a street-level plate glass window to display merchandise and more importantly it was the first store to label its merchandise with price tags.
Before Marble Dry Goods Palace, a customer and seller had to haggle over any common item. Often after a transaction at least one of the parties if not both felt taken advantage of. But when the fixed price tags were introduced (which other retailers quickly copied) salespeople stopped trying to squeeze the most out of every transaction and developed longterm relationships with customers.
In every deal at Graff-Pinkert I observe the dance of raw, old capitalism. What should we pay for a machine? What should we ask for it? Only God knows. I guess it’s the price where all parties can smile after the transaction knowing they can make money because of it.
Question: Do you prefer haggling for a car or other types of merchandise or do you prefer a fixed price?
Video from the TV show Pawn Stars on the art of haggling.
Full story from Wired can be found at http://www.wired.com/magazine/tag/auction/