Another aggressive negotiation tactic or dirty trick that is played more often than you think is the intentional mistake. Usually it comes in the form of a proposal which has an error in your favor; it is a deliberate trick to get you to agree now. Examples could include a pricing error, the sales tax omitted, or a quantity mistake.

Clearly the intentional mistake is unethical and it will challenge you to defend your own ethics. If you pretend to ignore the error it could be revealed later; the other party could then require the agreement be amended and you will be trapped into sheepishly agreeing to the revised proposal anyway. You end up looking like the unethical person when it was really them setting a trap for you.

Sometimes errors are made innocently. While paying for merchandise at a department store, a cashier hands you a twenty dollar bill instead of a ten dollar bill. You could take the twenty and walk away, but you know that it is the wrong thing to do. An ethical person hands the twenty back to cashier. If you walk away, the cashier may catch the error and shout above the other shoppers, “Hey, buddy, come back with my twenty”. That leaves you looking both stupid and busted.

Other times the error is in the favor of the other party. Essentially, the motive is to sneak one through without you catching it. Clearly, reading the agreement is an important step when wrapping up a a deal. When the error is caught you can expect two possible reactions: one is a sheepish apology and the other is anger.

When presented with an agreement or proposal that has an obvious error in your favor, the best and only acceptable reaction is to point it out. Possibly it is a concession or you did not understood the terms of the deal, but more often it is as it seems: a mistake. It may be hard to determine whether it is intentional or not.

Do the right thing.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
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1 Comment
  1. I actually had a version of this happen this week. I had a customer send me a counter proposal that had the wrong dollar amount. When I brought to his attention, he quickly apologized for his error. Was this an intentional error? It was hard to tell, but it would have been to his advantage.


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