Negotiating at the Trading Post
You know that feeling. You've finally decided on that item that will perfectly complement your gallery, stamp album, customization, or whatever it is. You first check the Shop Wizard and find out there are none of your desired item for sale. So you head to the Trading Post. Ecstatic, you see that your item is available! And how much will this precious item cost you? You scroll down to see the wishlist and there are the dreaded words: "Neomail to haggle."
Your heart sinks as you read the words. They might as well say, "You can't get me," with a mocking taunt. Neomail to haggle? You have no idea how to haggle! Haggling at Neopian shops is one thing, but this is negotiating with an actual person. What to do?!
Well, young Neopian, know this feeling no longer. Here are some simple tips for negotiating with other Neopians that can help you gain those items like a pro!
Step 1: Research
Your first step, before contacting the seller of your desired item, is to research. Research will help you get an idea of how much the item is actually worth, so you can make an informed first offer. Look around as much as you can and try to find everything you can about the worth of the item. Check the other lots on the Trading Post (if there are any) to see what prices they list (if they list any). Check the Auctions to see if someone happens to be selling the same item, and if anyone has bid on it. Look the item up in an item database like Jellyneo to see a historical record of the price of that item. You can also ask around on the Neoboards, where some helpful Neopians might be able to give you a sense of the value of the item.
All of this research will help you formulate what a reasonable price to pay is. If your first offer is insultingly low, the seller might block you and you'll have no chance at the item. If your first offer is way too high, you'll get the trade, but you'll lose out on a lot of precious Neopoints. Having an informed sense of how much the item is worth can help you make the trade at the best price for you.
Step 2: Choose Your Price
Now that you've fully researched the item, you should have a general idea of how much the item is worth. (Note that for very rare items, you may not be able to get very exact. You might only be able to figure out that the item is worth, for example, 20 million NP to 30 million NP. Even that large of a range can help you.) This price is called the market value: the value of the item on the general market.
Based on your research, you should determine two prices. The first is your maximum price: the most you want to pay for the item. This will help you determine when you want to walk away from negotiations. If a seller refuses to accept less than your maximum price, you probably want to tell the seller, "No thank you, I won't pay more than that price," and end negotiations. If the seller decides to sell for less, they'll probably contact you. This does risk finishing negotiations without the item. That's why your maximum price should be well-informed by your research. Your maximum price should be the value of the item where paying more than that would be overpaying.
The second price you need to determine is your target price: the ideal price at which you will purchase the item. Your target price should be an amount that is slightly lower than the market value of the item, because if you buy an item at lower than market value, you've made a good trade. However, you also want your target price to be an amount that is a reasonable price for the item. If an item has a market value of 200,000 NP, a target price of 100,000 NP is very unreasonable. Few sellers will sell an item half off like that. However, a target price of 195,000 NP, or even possibly 180,000 NP, is fairly reasonable. A target price should probably be around 90%-95% of the market value of an item. Note that this is flexible. An item that has a lot of sellers on the Trading Post can have a lower target price, because the sellers are all competing to sell their items. However, if there is only 1 of the item on the Trading Post, your target price should be very close to the market value, because the lone seller probably won't sell for much less than that.
Step 3: Initial Offer
Now it's time to contact the seller. Your first Neomail should indicate your interest in the item and your willingness to negotiate with the seller. If the seller has not listed a price in their wishlist on the Trading Post lot, you can simply inquire about the price range the seller had in mind. Sending a Neomail that says something like, "Hello, I'm interested in purchasing your Ghostkerbomb. How much are you looking to sell it for?" can help you find out what the seller is thinking about the price. This Neomail is polite, professional, and to the point. It indicates interest in the item as well as opens the negotiations.
If the seller has listed a price in the wishlist of the Trading Post lot, or you've received a price range from the seller, write to the seller with your initial offer. Depending on your target price, the number of that item available on the Trading Post, and how long you'd like to take to negotiate, you can choose whether or not to initially offer your target price. If you don't want to spend a lot of time negotiating, or there are a lot of sellers for the item and you think at least one of them will accept your target price, it can be beneficial to start off with offering your target price right away. For example, if you're trying to buy a Honey Potion, there are several on the Trading Post that list the price as 600k NP. You could send Neomails to the sellers asking, "Would you accept 575k NP pure for your Honey Potion?" If you don't have pure NP, make sure you say what items you do have and would like to trade. "Would you accept a Baby Paint Brush for your Honey Potion?" helps the seller know exactly what to expect from you. These Neomails are short and to the point. If the seller says no, a different seller might say yes, so you probably won't have to do much negotiating.
If there aren't very many of the item on the Trading Post, you may want to make your initial offer lower than your target price. That way, you and the seller can both move your offers up or down, respectively, and hopefully you'll end up at your target price. In the above example, you could offer 550k NP, and hope that you'll both adjust your prices to meet in the middle at your target price of 575,000 NP.
Step 4: Waiting
After you've sent your initial offer, do not contact the seller. Sellers sometimes are not online (even if their trade says "online now") or they might just need some time to think about your offer. If you pester them with lots of Neomails without giving them adequate time to respond, they'll become annoyed, likely not respond positively or even at all, and possibly even block you. If you haven't heard from them after awhile (3 to 5 days, minimum) then you can send another polite e-mail that asks something like, "It's been a few days since I sent you my offer. Did you receive it?" You might even want to remind them of what your offer was so they don't have to go looking for it again.
Step 5: Responding
After you wait, you should get a response from the seller. That response might be an acceptance of your initial offer. In that case, you can go ahead and offer on the Trading Post lot, and celebrate as your offer is accepted. You're done with negotiations!
If the response is a flat "No thank you" with nothing more, that probably means your initial offer was too low. It might be a good idea to reach out to the seller again and either ask what their price range is, or just simply reply with a higher offer.
Instead of either of these options, the seller might reply with a counteroffer. They might say something like, "I was really hoping to sell my item for..." and name a price higher than the price you offered. In that case, you should make another offer. If the seller's desired price is the same or lower than your target price, offer the desired price. You've successfully bought the item at or below your target price, and the seller got the price they were hoping for. It's a win-win!
More likely, however, is that the seller's desired price is higher than your target price. If you're still interested in the item, you should respond to the seller with a higher offer. (The exception, of course, is if your original offer is your target price. In that case, you should decide whether to raise your target price or find a different seller.) When deciding on a price for a counteroffer, you should raise your original offer fairly significantly. If you only offer 1,000 more NP than your first offer, the seller will feel like negotiating with you is like pulling teeth, and they won't want to work with you to find an agreeable price. The amount to increase, however, is up to you. You could offer at your target price, replying to the seller saying something like, "The highest I'd be willing to go is..." Another option is to offer less than your target price. This gives the seller another opportunity to respond and leaves yourself room to raise your price more if the seller lowers their price.
Sometimes it's easiest just to take the average of the seller's desired price and your original offer. This makes the assumption that you and the seller will compromise equally on your prices and agree on the price exactly in the middle of the two. In your Neomail, you can suggest splitting the difference between your prices, and see what the seller says. While this method does treat seller and buyer equally and reduces the number of Neomails necessary to agree on a price, it's fairly risky. It assumes that your original offer was a fair price, and not all sellers will agree that the original offer is fair. If the seller does not agree to split the difference, you are in a worse position. Since you've already indicated you'd be willing to pay at least the average of your prices, you know the final price will be closer to the seller's desired price than to your original offer. However, if your target price is still above that midpoint price, then you still have room to increase your offer without exceeding your target price, so you haven't lost much ground.
Step 6: Repeat
If you and the seller haven't come to an agreement yet, you should continue Neomailing, waiting, and responding until either you two agree on a price, or until one person decides you won't ever agree and chooses to stop negotiating. In this stage, you want to continue to be polite and professional as well as compromising so the seller remains interested in negotiating with you. At this point you can start to talk to the seller about the reasons why they should agree to this price. You could include information from your research, or you could remind the seller of how long they've had the item available for trading without successfully selling it. (If that's a long time, they'll probably be willing to sell for less!) Remember, the seller will do the same for you, possibly even letting you know that they have other, higher offers for the item. Remember the concepts you used in previous rounds of negotiation as you and the seller work to agree on a price. If you can't agree, you'll need to just thank the seller for their time and look for someone else to sell you the item. Eventually, you will find a seller with whom you can agree on a price, and then you can enjoy your brand new item!
- Always be polite. If you offend the seller in any way, you probably won't make the trade and you'll lose out on the item. Make sure to thank the seller for their consideration (even if they reject your offer) and wish them good luck selling. You never know when you might be interested in buying from them again.
- Be professional. Use proper grammar and punctuation. Do not use chatspeak. Maintaining professionalism throughout your interactions will help the seller think highly of you and be more willing to communicate with you, and ultimately sell to you. Plus, it helps with communication, because both parties will clearly understand the terms of the agreement. You can use common abbreviations in your Neomails, but make sure they're professional.
- Be honest. You don't have to tell the seller everything – like how many NP you have in the bank – but don't lie. Don't tell the seller that you have another seller willing to sell for less unless you actually do. The seller might just tell you, "Okay, buy from your other seller then," and because that other seller is fictional, you won't get the item.
- Don't show all your cards. You don't need to, and you shouldn't, tell the seller what your maximum price is, unless the seller is asking for more than your maximum price. For example, if a seller wants to sell their item for anything more than 150k but doesn't tell you this, and you tell the seller that your maximum price is 200k, that seller will accept your offer of 200k, and you missed out on the lower price of 150k.
- Use your research. When you're negotiating a price, you can tell the seller about your research, using it as justification for why your offer is what it is. These justifications shouldn't be in the initial offer, but if you find yourself in extended negotiations with the seller, it could help sway their opinion of how much they want to sell for – hopefully in your favor!
- Remember the seller's perspective. You've likely sold items yourself, so you know what it's like to be a seller. Sellers want to sell their item for a price as high as they can. By putting yourself in the seller's shoes, you can try to appeal to their goals and reach a consensus on price more easily.
Negotiations do not have to be antagonistic. They're just about working together to find a mutually acceptable price. With these tips, hopefully you can feel more confident about negotiating and buy yourself some wonderful new items!
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