I know Americans don’t like to be criticized, especially not by Non-Americans.

But this blog is called “Law of Integrity”, and integrity also means to remain true to yourself even at the risk of being rejected for an unpopular opinion. I will take that challenge and tell the American people: The way most of you do sales may be worthy of an oriental bazar, but not of the leading people of the civilized world.

For a group event I manage, I recently shopped around for a nice hotel. When I do that in Switzerland, the procedure is simple: The hotel sales manager knows his overhead expenses and the profit margin he needs. He tells me the price, and I decide if I can afford it or not.

Not so in the United States. Even the dumbest alien has heard that one should not accept the first quote. So I said: “The price for the seminar room seems a bit high. Any flexibility there?” “Oh, I’m sure we can negotiate a discount for you,” replied the sales person, “what’s your budget, Mr. Zimmermann?”

Pardon me? Why are you interested in my budget? Do I go to a Porsche dealer and tell him my budget for a brand new 911 Turbo is two thousand dollars? Does he care?

What that hotel manager told me covertly, is: “We have money to give away. We just need to decide how much we’ll give you.”

In other words, in the U.S. economy, the misers are rewarded, and the honest ones get punished. I don’t know about you, but I feel uncomfortable, even with the contract I finally negotiated. Should I have asked for a higher discount? Was I not bold enough? Or are they losing money just because they wanted my business so badly?

Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone knew they paid the same price? If it’s low, it’s low, and if it’s high, it’s high. So what? Everybody can decide if they want something or not, and if they can afford it or not.

Years ago, I asked an American musician if he would compose some jingles for me, and what his fee would be. He said he would charge 10,000 dollars. I said I wasn’t willing to spend that much money for the current project, but I would get back to him in the future. In Switzerland, that would be it. Not in America. The man immediately sent me an email saying he could do it for 5000 dollars. And since I didn’t answer, two days later I got another email saying he recalculated his estimate, and he could actually do it for two grand.

I wrote to him the following email: “Dear XYZ, you probably think you did me a favor by granting me a discount of 8.000 dollars. I see it a bit differently. You are a scoundrel. You tried to rip me off. If you can do the same work for 2.000 dollars, why did you ask for 10.000 the first time? Also, if you’re so desperate for money, maybe you’re not as good as I thought you were. You just ruined your reputation, forever! Rest assured that I will never do business with you.”

I’m pretty sure the musician thought “stupid foreigner” and went on with his miserable life.

What a blessing when you meet American companies who understand how commerce works. Years ago, I was going to buy some BOSE loudspeakers. Since I was trained in “purchasing American style”, I asked the sales clerk for a discount. He said very politely: “Oh, you’re not familiar with BOSE policy? We don’t grant discounts. Our prices are the same for every customer.” I said: “Great! Not having to haggle saves us both a lot of time. I would just be very disappointed if I heard later that you do, too, give discounts.” “No”, said the clerk, “you can rest assured we don’t deviate from our policy.”

I slept well that night. And many nights after, until a pilot friend of mine told me he bought two BOSE noise cancelling headsets for the price of one.

Years ago, the well-known credibility corporation Dun&Bradsteet conducted an international study on the payment morale of companies. Do you want to know what they found out? The lazy payers attract mostly companies that are lazy payers, too. In other words, misers attract misers, and integer people attract integer people. Wow, the Law of Attraction, scientifically proven by a down-to-earth corporation. Isn’t that something?

Fact is that your business and how you conduct that business is a direct reflection of who you are and how you lead your personal life.  In the Age of Aquarius, it’s time we live up to our core values in all areas of our lives, regardless of national traditions, don’t you think?

Hans-Peter Zimmermann is a nonfiction best-selling author, screenwriter, life coach and instructor of clinical hypnosis. Together with his wife Anita who has been with him for 33 years, he commutes between his two homes in Coto de Caza, California, and Gstaad, Switzerland. Hans has a show on Youtube called “Screenwriters Get Personal”. His English homepage can be found at hpz-usa.com


Share This