A couple of months ago I went with my friend Babs to hear Linda Babcock, the Carnegie Melon author of Ask For It.
Ask For It is about how women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. It explains that we don’t get raises, promotions, or parley good employment packages because we don’t ask. Men do. The book provides story after story of women not asking and therefore not receiving.
I read most of the book and practiced some of the exercises strengthening this asking muscle in myself. As a result, I negotiated a higher rate of reimbursement with an insurance company, Tom and I bargained $2700 off our new car, and I sold some items on Craig’s list getting my asking price.
I was proud of myself and my new skill. I had asked and It had paid off. But it hadn’t come naturally.
Two weeks ago I went shopping with my future daughter-in-law for my mother-of-the-groom dress. Now you must know, there is an etiquette, generations old, to consider in the selection of this one dress. I will save the details for another post.
Today I want to tell you a different story.
While Lauren and I were shopping for my dress, I spotted an adorable, white sequined dress, that reminded me of her–she loves sparkle. I didn’t show it to her since we were on a mission involving me and I didn’t want to derail the process. As we walked to the next store we talked about the rehearsal dinner. She mentioned she wanted to wear white and she wanted it to be sparkly. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps to the store we had just left. I knew this was her dress.
She tried it on and it was one of those OMG moments. She looked beautiful, sexy, and very happy in this sweet, little (very little) dress. She turned to look at herself from every angle in the full length mirror, her smile getting bigger and broader. It was her dress. We both knew it.
Then she looked at the price tag. Her face fell. $320.00.
“I can’t spend that much on a dress just for the rehearsal dinner.”
I became one of those dangerous women to shop with. “You could also wear it on your honeymoon and on New Year’s Eve, you could even wear it out on the town. It will never go out of style.” I worked to convince her.
Her smile returned slightly, but I could tell she wasn’t sold. I admired her sense of fiscal responsibility, but I really wanted her to have this dress. I offered to give her $100.00 toward it. She said no, she couldn’t do that.
She continued to argue the pros and cons of spending too much on something she really wanted. I knew this place in myself and did not envy her. As she took off the dress it seemed she had reached her decision.
Then, from my seat in the dressing room, I watched her drape her dream dress over her arm and walk up to the sales girl that had been helping her. “I really love this dress, it is my dress, but I can’t pay $320.00 for a dress right now. Is there anyway I can have a discount?” she asked.
I sat in awe. There was no sale rack or discount sign in the window, this was clearly a this-season dress and Lauren still thought to, was comfortable enough to, ask for a price reduction. My mouth hung open. Wow.
The young women cheerfully explained that if it was Lauren’s birthday month she could have 20% off. Lauren shook her head slowly, “My birthday is in July,” she confessed. The sales girl looked at me, “December,” I reluctantly admitted. “My fiancee’s birthday is in March,” Lauren offered, hope laced through every word. I confirmed this, saying it was true, I knew because he’s my son. I guess I thought a mom in the mix might help…I really wanted to help her get this dress.
“Okay, have him come in before the end of the month and we can give you 20% off the dress.”
It was March 31st.
My mind was racing. There had to be a way. Finally, I suggested we call him and he could send a picture of his drivers license with proof of his March birth — the perks of modern technology. The now weary looking sales girl said she would need to ask her manager.
She came back with a bounce in her step. The manager had approved the discount without evidence of someone in our family tree having a March birthday.
Lauren paid for and walked out of the store with her dress. All because she asked.
And she didn’t even read the book.