The Hypothetical or Trial Balloon Tactic

PGP Mediation
Blog
by Phyllis G. Pollack

My husband and I recently went on a cruise. One of the stops was Nassau, Bahamas. While my husband was looking for something in a shop, I wondered off and into a jewelry store. There, I was given a refresher course in negotiation tactics.

I was looking at rings when the salesman approached me. I told him I was “just looking” and could not be “serious” about anything without my husband present. These comments did not deter him, whatsoever.

Using the line, “I know you are just looking and have no intentions of buying, let me just show you some items anyway.” He then proceeded to ask me what I was interested in and pulled out some rings and showed them to me, all the while, “acknowledging” that I was just looking and had no intention of buying. Slowly, he was attempting to suck me in and get me to change my mind and buy something then and there. I saw a ring I liked and asked him the price. “Ah ha”, he figured, he was slowly reeling me in. I reminded him I was not about to buy anything without my husband looking at it. I decided to take a picture of the ring and send it to my husband, asking him “if I should buy” ( I was joking!) He wrote back reminding me of the hassle with U.S. Customs and Border Protection that could be involved! (He is a customs lawyer.) However, as the salesman was by now trying to close this deal and get me to buy, knowing that I had just sent a picture of the ring to my husband, I used the “higher or limited authority” tactic by telling him that I had not heard from my husband and I would not purchase anything without his approval!

I proceeded to leave the store but, as I was doing so, the salesman lowered the price, offering me a “great” deal on the ring. It was his final attempt to close a deal while still acknowledging that I was just “looking”. I said thanks but no thanks, firm in my commitment of not buying anything without my husband looking at it.

As I left the store, I was intrigued at the very manipulative negotiation tactic the salesman used on me: the hypothetical or trial balloon.  Acknowledging that I was just there to look and had no intention of buying, he attempted to manipulate me into buying some jewelry anyway.

I thought to myself that this would be a great tactic to use on either a plaintiff or defendant who was unwilling to accept what the other party was offering.  That is, acknowledge that it is an unacceptable deal while at the same time, attempt to have the plaintiff or defendant buy into it by changing a term here or there and “mixing it” up a little bit. Pose it as a hypothetical or as a trial balloon in much more subtle terms than I have done in the past. It is something that I must try.

…. Just something to think about.

                        author

Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

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