The New York Times will soon start a consumer advocate column in which its advocate will solicit consumer complaints and selectively intercede and negotiate on their behalf. Called “The Haggler,” I fully expect them to get great results.
Consumer advocates in the media, typified by local television news investigative reporters, often achieve positive results because they start out with strong leverage. Because they can generate negative publicity for the company or person on the other side of the negotiation table (usually a very bad alternative for the alleged wrongdoer), their offer – resolving the dispute to the satisfaction of the consumer or else – is usually much better than experiencing that negative publicity.
It’s an especially bad alternative if that negative publicity is in a national publication like The New York Times.
What important negotiation lesson does this illustrate? It’s critical to evaluate your alternatives – or Plan Bs – when preparing to negotiate. The bottom line: the better your Plan B, the stronger your leverage and the better your counterpart’s Plan B, the weaker your leverage.
So when you prepare to negotiate, first identify your and your counterpart’s alternatives – or Plan Bs – then take concrete, practical steps to improve your Plan Bs and limit the attractiveness of your counterpart’s Plan Bs.
For a possible victim of consumer fraud, finding an advocate in the media to negotiate on your behalf will certainly strengthen your leverage – and likely lead to very good results.