How to Negotiate Like a Jamaican Taxi Driver

In: entrepreneur| running a business

26 Jan 2010

A taxi driver I met on my latest trip to JamaicaFor all of our talk about Americans being fierce capitalists, there is one area too many of us fall short: Negotiating.

Visiting other countries can make you realize how much negotiating and haggling are ingrained in some cultures. And my favorite place to visit, Jamaica, is no exception.

Few things in Jamaica are purchased without a bit of haggling first (or higgling as it’s referred to there). And with taxi cabs being the primary form of transportation on the island, a trip anywhere will usually begin with a negotiation over the price of the ride. Jamaican cab drivers have distilled this process down to an art form, and have developed strategies that would help in any type of price negotiation.

Never Make the First Offer
When asked how much it would cost to get somewhere, taxi drivers will respond with “What ya wanna pay?” This allows the driver to size up the passenger. If an amount is offered in US Dollars, chances are the person is new to the country and doesn’t know what the ride should cost. If the quote is in Jamaican Dollars but too low, the driver might respond with a friendly laugh, almost to say “good one!” and reply with a casual “just give me X” (X, of course, being higher than the first offer). From there, a little back and forth is involved before a price is agreed upon.

Lesson: When you let someone make the first offer, you will find out a wealth of information about them (have they done their homework, do they know what they’re doing, etc.). Always let the other party set the starting price for the negotiation.

Learn to Use Awkward Silence
If during the process of haggling the driver is unhappy with what is being offered, they will often clam up and say nothing, just staring at the other party, leaving them to make the next move. This tends to make the other person uncomfortable, who will then make a higher offer just to break the silence.

Lesson: Disrupting the back and forth nature of negotiating can work to your advantage. Silence can influence the other party to step in with a better offer just to end the awkwardness.

Keep Things Light and Friendly
Keeping things friendly goes a long way to ensuring everyone is happy with the end result. In Jamaica, there is always another cab waiting to pick up a passenger. If a driver is too stubborn or gets heated, people will just opt to take another cab. It’s a fine line between getting the best price possible and making the other party feel like they’re getting cheated.

Lesson: Whenever possible, keep negotiations friendly. Getting emotional or being too stubborn can backfire, leading the other party to do the same, or worse, walk away.

Negotiating is an important skill to learn. Whether you are trying to lower prices or raise your salary, understanding what works can have a significant impact on your business or career. Use these tips well to make sure you’re always getting the best deal (or lowest fare!) possible.

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January 27th, 2010 at 6:06 AM

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark C. Webster, Mark C. Webster. Mark C. Webster said: Some lessons from my latest trip: How to Negotiate Like a Jamaican Taxi Driver […]

Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.