Judo saved me from shopping horror

Published: Nov 27 , 2013
Author: Sandy Sbarra

People in conflict naturally fall into what Scotwork terms the Sumo methodology, an attempt to persuade, bully or haggle their way to a conclusion. It is a “blocking” mentality designed to reduce and/or eliminate what the other party is after. The preferred tactic is Judo, which is more of an enabling mentality–finding a way to give the other party exactly what it wants but on terms the first party finds more than acceptable. My trip to the shopping mall to buy my daughter a prom dress demonstrated how effective Judo can be.

My daughter’s first prom was approaching and mom was sick so I was “elected” to take her shopping. From my perspective, as enjoyable activities go, shopping (unless it’s for a boat, motorcycle or car) fits right in front of burning to death or being eaten by a shark. Still, how could I let my daughter down?

 My first proposal was to give her what she wanted (a prom dress) without the unbearable pain of being buried alive at a mall. I said: “If you agree that our first stop is Macy’s and we abide by a six-store limit, I agree to take you.” Then she asked what the basis of my proposal was. As we tell course participants, whenever you make a proposal, be ready to answer this question or your proposal loses credibility and falls apart. So told her that I would not “shop ‘till I drop” (her preference) and that I have discount coupons at Macy’s but nowhere else.

She found a dress at Macy’s she clearly liked (you could see it in her eyes!). Naturally, I said, “Let’s buy it!” She put her hand up and reminds me that I agreed to visit five more stores. Seeing the real possibility of a happy daughter; and a very quick conclusion to my day of (gag) shopping, I made a second proposal to give her what she wanted on my terms: “If you agree to get that dress, I will buy you a pair of shoes to go with it.” Being no fool, she agreed immediately.

 Some with whom I’ve shared this story argued that I cost myself the expense of shoes by truncating my original proposal. Not exactly, as we had to have the dress altered. So, I told the clerk, “If you take another 20% off the price of this dress, I’ll have these adjustments done after purchase.” Additional discount achieved!

 At the first shoe store, I think my daughter has caught on because she readily identified a pair of shoes she likes. Again, seeing the finish line just ahead, I said, “Great, let’s buy them!” Again her hand goes up, and she reminded me that I’ve committed to go to at least four more stores. So my next Judo proposal to her was, “If you buy these shoes, I’ll also get you the handbag you like.” Excitedly drawing agreement from her and saving myself four more stores, I proposed to the clerk, “For an extra 10% off the shoes, I’ll also purchase the handbag.” The clerk agreed. (More Judo!)

My daughter got what she wanted, a new prom dress (and yes, shoes and a handbag), the two stores got what they wanted (sales), and I got what I wanted–significant discounts and maintaining my sanity, having only to visit two stores!

 Judo works!

Sandy Sbarra


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About the author:

Sandy Sbarra
Since joining Scotwork in 2001, he’s become a teacher of a different sort, bringing expert skills training, coaching, and negotiation advice to thousands of professionals. During that time, he’s drawn from a 20-year procurement career and done extensive work with clients in such spaces as advertising, retail, and health & medical...

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