Monday, March 30, 2009

Haggling over prices

I talked to a fellow on friday about selling him a pig. He asked for a large pig, and I said I might have one, depending on the results of pregnancy testing. Most of the pigs I sell aren't "big pigs", they're either weaner pigs or porkers, slaughtered at 250-280lbs. He was clear that he wanted a big pig, 300lbs or bigger.

One of my gilts, the white faced pig, is a purebred berk gilt, but she's been here 20 months and hasn't gotten pregnant. In that time, her sister, shorty, has produced 2 litters. So the white faced pig is on the menu, and I asked that he come down to the farm to look at her to see if she'd fit the bill.

He came down friday afternoon and I showed him the white faced pig, and he agreed that it looked good, and asked what the price was. I said $1.25/lb live weight, which for her estimated size would have been $437.

He objected, and said that I'd said I'd sell pigs for $1/lb on the phone. I didn't recall saying that, but showed him smaller, younger pigs that I'd sell for that price. (I've got a couple of culls that aren't gaining weight like they should, and to get rid of them I'll make a deal. ) But he wanted the larger pig, and explained that he could drive 80 miles and get a large pig for $0.80 a pound, which would have valued the pig at $256.

I explained that the piglet costs me $75 at a minimum, and that it takes 1,000lbs of feed to produce a market-weight pig (250lbs), and that at current feed prices, that means that my hard cost to produce a smaller pig is $225, leaving me $31 to pay the mortgage, tractor diesel, labor, and all of the other assorted farm costs like fencing, bedding, and so on. I went on to explain that if I didn't sell her, I'd like to eat her, as she's my first purebred berk to come up for slaughter, and I like berkshire pork a lot.

But none of this swayed him, and he threatened at that point to walk away. At this point I thought that we wouldn't do the sale, and I said goodbye. He paused, and then offered $1.10 a lb. I thought about it; that would value the pig at $352; leaving me with a $125 or so profit, and agreed to his offer. I took a small deposit of $20, and we talked about the arrangements for the slaughter. Where it would happen, materials necessary, time, and I repeated a couple of times that I wanted him to call if he wasn't going to come, and that if he didn't come, the deposit would be forfeit.

Note: For this price we agreed he could kill it on the farm, leave whatever he didn't want to keep with me, and that I'd help him with my tractor and tools if he needed it. So it wasn't a we'll-put-the-pig-in-your-trailer sorta deal, it's a little more involved.

All of these conversations were through his 8 year old son, as he spoke mostly ukrainian, and I am only fluent in english.

So I cleaned and oiled the gun, and figured out which sheet of plywood I'd use, and make sure we had sawhorses that were serviceable, and put the knives in the truck on sunday, and got up early (for me, anyways) today to drive out to the farm to meet him. An hour before I'm supposed to meet him I get a call from the 8 year old son, "my dad is not coming. "

Ok, I said, would he like to reschedule? "no, he says that if you cannot sell for $1/lb he doesn't' want it". Ok, I said, I thought we had already settled this, and had agreed on a deal that I wasn't thrilled about, but thought was fair. "yes, but he wants $1/lb". No, i said, I'll eat the pig myself. "what about the deposit?"

I keep that. Thanks for calling though. Goodbye


theadalynfarm said...

Ahh the joy of customer service! I'm still trying to get to the point where I am able to just shake my head (or even smile ) when something like this happens to me.

Anonymous said...

With hindsight I would have taken a bigger deposit. 10-20% doesn't seem unreasonable.

Chris @ said...

Purebred Berk at 1.10/lb live weight is a great price. Enjoy the high quality product you put out!

MMP said...

It's been interesting watching your discussion of pricing and negotiating recently.

One of the things we do here is rent rooms to visiting professionals. I don't often get hagglers, but I have had a couple lately.

I think many of us have a natural instinct to look for common ground, to try to find a way to meet in the middle. Unfortunately, there are a lot of compulsive hagglers out there that try to artificially start further apart. The most recent haggler has tried to get me to come down on the rent at every contact, first email, then on the phone and then in person. Every time I have told him since there is no way for me to recover the break I would give him, I cannot lower the rent. The last time he slipped and mentioned a dollar figure only ten dollars a month off the advertised rent. I think he got confused about which rental add went with what so he just tossed a figure in the air. But it said to me that the price we were asking was already essentialy what he considered fair and he was just negotiating on the priniciple of never pay full price. I let him leave him saying he would get back to me when he makes a decision. I am not wasting my time with someone making a professional salary who wants to negotiate over the price of a McDonald's dinner. If he wants to put this much effort into $10 then he is going to be a high maintenance tennant going forward.

The old phrase "It never hurts to ask" is wrong. Every time you make somone say "no" it further ingrains it as a habit and makes it easier to say "no" the next time.