Stay up to date on everything mediation!

Subscribe to our free newsletter,
"This Week in Mediation"

Sign Up Now

Already subscribed No subscription today

Everything is Negotiable

by Nancy Hudgins, Debra Synovec
March 2009

From the Real Divorce Mediation Blog of Nancy Hudgins and Debra Synovec

We Americans generally accept the stated price of goods and services as non-negotiable. I found this assumption to be inaccurate before the financial downturn. It is even more inaccurate now.

Think about it. Not only is your family hurting, everyone is hurting. A merchant is more likely to negotiate to make a sale than to let a sale get away. Some money is better than no money.

Recently I needed a smog inspection for my car. Many gas stations are certified for smog inspections, but the fee they charge varies from station to station. I first drove to the station nearest my house. The stated price was $69, plus $8 for the certificate. I asked the owner (in a curious voice) “How is it that a station two miles away is charging $35 for the same service?” He replied that he had better trained mechanics and that therefore his cost of labor was higher. I shrugged my shoulders and got back in my car.

I then drove directly across the street, where the stated price was $65, plus $8 for the certificate. (Hurray, I’m already ahead!) “How is it,” I asked, “that a station two miles away is charging $35 an hour for the same service?” The clerk shrugged his shoulders. I turned to leave, stopped on the doorsill, then turned back to ask, “Would you do it for $50 flat?” He checked with the owner: “Fifty plus $8 for the certificate.” Deal. When I negotiate, I like to leave the other side with a face saving gesture, so I accepted his counter. That way, he got to feel he negotiated, too.

(In the drive from one station to the other, I realized that I really didn’t want to drive two miles away and wait 90 minute in an unfamiliar coffee shop, when I could walk to and from my house and work at home while my car was being serviced.)

My bottom line. Station #2 was closer to my home. It served my interests. And I saved $19 from where I started.

You can read my post about negotiating for specialty gin, here, at my other blog, Civil Negotiation and Mediation. Try negotiating. You will sharpen your skills and save some money, too. A win-win.


Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.

Debra Synovec, a Seattle-based mediator and lawyer, has mediated divorces for 20 years. She believes in empowering the parties to reach their own resolution.