How to get a better bargain
What you really want when negotiating for services is for the good top-notch guy to give you his best price first, without any overcharging, according to Lynnette Hartwig in her book Negotiating When Money Matters: Getting Good Deals. The book provides an extensive array of tips and techniques for obtaining quotes, negotiating arrangements, supervising works, and getting follow-up and warranty service in order to obtain the most favourable outcomes.
Before reading the book I would have said that negotiating a good deal is mostly about getting a few quotes, trying to identify and select an honest contractor, and then closing your eyes and hoping for a good outcome. That is completely the wrong approach, according to the author. What you really need to do to get the best deals includes:
- Read up on the subject so that you really understand what the job involves and learn the jargon
- Read online reviews and information sites
- Work out how much time and materials are likely to be required, and revise your estimates as you learn from different prospective contractors
- In discussions with sales reps and estimators, identify the factors which could increase their costs and work out ways to eliminate them
- Get multiple written quotes, and scrutinise the lowest ones carefully as the lowest bids are where the swindlers live
- Set a payment schedule which gives you some control to ensure the job is finished properly
- Pay by credit card so that you can claim a charge-back if things go awry
There are plenty more pieces of advice and stories in the book which, although it concentrates primarily on home construction and maintenance-type contracts, is relevant to many other types of negotiations. It took me quite a while to work through the whole book, but in my opinion it contains many valuable lessons for anyone who would like to achieve a better outcome when next engaging a tradesman.