Sunday, 17 June 2007

25p? I'll give you 20! Conventions controlling our conduct.

I've got to admit to being a car boot sale addict. There is pleasure in getting up at the crack of dawn on a weekend morning and wandering about a field seeing what you might glean. I think it is something to do with the early morning air, fresh and unsoiled, except for the fried onion fumes from the Bacon roll van.

Who knows what you might find. Just this morning I found a new foot pump and a whole bag of CD's to add to the collection.

So why am I writing about car boot sales here?

As I was passing one car I heard a lady asking the price for some trinket that had caught her eye.

"25p" said the seller.

Her response? "I'll give you 20."

My question? What was the point? What was the point of haggling over the 5p difference? There cannot have been any benefit to her in doing so, but I suspect the point was that she was playing up to the conventions within that arena.

Whatever a seller at a car boot sale asks for, you knock them down. It's all part of the process, or at least convention would dictate as such. But what does it say?

If we accept that the 5p saved is irrelevant then why go along with it?

To belong within that environment? To adopt a role that is expected of them? To conform?

And what does it say about the relationship between seller and buyer? Who is in control here? The buyer gets one - or even 5p - over on the seller. Does that count as a victory in the car boot world? But then the buyer's position itself has been set by the seller. Had the seller said 30p would the buyer have still gone for 20? What if the buyer had said 75p? What position would the buyer then have found herself in?

What other arena's do we find ourselves in where we feel compelled to play to type? Is that what I do, for example, when I am in Court, steeped in convention as it is? What about board meetings, team meetings and such like? And what benefits do such conventions offer us in our relationships?

1 comment:

Alexander Massey said...

I had a fascinating experience in a shop once when I was buying a crystal. The shop assistant told me the price, and then I gave her money for double the price. She wanted to give me the change, and I said that I would like to give the double price. She said, 'but that' not the price!'. I said, 'That's okay, I think your shop is wonderful, and I want to give you something in recognition of that.' She said, 'but the crystal in worth that much!' I said, 'it is to me!' She was very unsettled, and tried to find her manager who had popped out of the shop. I then said, 'how about you accept this a little piece of abundance, a gift from the universe?' And only then did she accept the money.

There was a Chicago sociologist who suggested to his students to test unspoken cultural rules, by for example, going on a tram and handing the conductor the fare on the back of their hands, and then watching people's reactions. These were called Garfinkel experiments, after the sociologist. I think it's fun to do 'Garfinkel' acts that can enrich others' lives!