Speak Business English Like an American » LESSON 24 - Negotiating a Purchase

Negotiating a Purchase

Jack, owner of Jack's Party Store, is negotiating to buy an advertisement in the Newport Times. Dave is an ad salesman with the newspaper.

Jack: My store is having a big sale next week. I'd like to buy a small advertisement in the Sunday edition of the Newport Times. How much would a quarter page cost?

Dave: A quarter page ad costs $250. What you really need is a full page ad if you want to make a splash. That would be $900. I better reserve that for you before we run out of space.

Jack: Don't try to give me the hard sell. Nine hundred bucks would break my budget!

Dave: Okay, so we're looking at a quarter page. For another $200 I can make it a full color ad. Color would give you more bang for the buck.

Jack: Of course color is better than black and white. That's a no-brainer! Can you throw that in at no extra charge?

Dave: Sorry, no can do.

Jack: Your competitor, the Newport Bulletin, is offering me a quarter page color ad for $300. That's very attractive since I'm on a tight budget.

Dave: The Newport Bulletin? This is off the record, but you really don't want to advertise in that rag! Nobody reads it.

Jack: Here's my final offer: I'll take a quarter page color ad in your paper for $350 and not a penny more.

Dave: How about we find a happy medium. I'll give it to you for $400.

Jack: Please don't try to nickel-and-dime me. I'm standing firm at $350.

Dave: Okay, I don't want to spend all afternoon arguing. It's a deal.

  • (to) make a splash
    to make a big impact; to get a lot of attention
    EXAMPLE: Careerbuilder.com made a splash with its funny TV commercials starring chimpanzees.
  • (the) hard sell
    an aggressive way of selling
    EXAMPLE: Car salesmen are famous for using the hard sell on their customers.

    NOTE: The opposite of "the hard sell" is "the soft sell," which is a sales technique using little or no pressure.

  • (to) break one's budget
    to cost much more than one wants to pay; to cost more than one can afford
    EXAMPLE: The advertising expenses you proposed are too high. We don't want to break our budget.
  • more bang for the buck
    more value for one's money; a higher return on investment
    EXAMPLE: We should add some more features to our products. Customers are starting to demand more bang for the buck.

    NOTE: A "buck" is slang for a "dollar."

  • no-brainer
    an easy decision; an obvious choice
    EXAMPLE: Most of our clients are based in Korea, so it's a no-brainer to open an office there.
  • (to) throw in something
    to include something (usually for free, as part of the sale)
    EXAMPLE: Order our new exercise equipment today, and we'll throw in a free how-to video.
  • at no extra charge
    for free; for no additional money
    EXAMPLE: If you buy a ticket to the museum, you can visit the special Van Gogh exhibit at no extra charge.
  • no can do
    I can't do that; I'm unable to satisfy your request
    EXAMPLE: "We'd like you to work on Thanksgiving Day this year."   - "Sorry, no can do. I've already got plans."
  • (to be) on a tight budget
    to not have much money to spend; to have a limited amount to spend
    EXAMPLE: Can you give us a better price on the printing job? We're on a tight budget.
  • off the record
    just between us; unofficial; not to be repeated to others
    EXAMPLE: This is off the record, but I wouldn't trust Todd to do the financial analysis. He's careless and often makes mistakes.
  • happy medium
    a compromise
    EXAMPLE: Lee wants to spend $100,000 re-designing our entire website, while Nicole suggests just adding a few new links. We need to find a happy medium.
  • (to) nickel-and-dime
    to negotiate over very small sums; to try to get a better financial deal, in a negative way
    EXAMPLE: We don't want to nickel-and-dime you, but we'd really appreciate it if you would lower your estimate by another $250.

    ORIGIN: After the penny, nickels and dimes are the smallest units of U.S. currency. Pennies, nickels, and dimes are common words in American English idioms related to money, finances, and value. Other examples of these expressions include:

    1. pretty penny - see Lesson 9
    2. dime a dozen - very common and of no special value
    3. pinch pennies - to be careful with money
    4. a penny saved is a penny earned — you will save money by being careful about how much you spend; it's wise to save your money


  • (to) stand firm
    to remain at; to not offer more than; to resist; to refuse to yield to
    EXAMPLE: Pemco Industries put a lot of pressure on Peggy to resign, but she stood firm and refused to leave her job voluntarily.
  • it's a deal
    I agree (to a proposal or offer)
    EXAMPLE: "If you let me leave at noon on Friday, I'll stay here late on Thursday." — "Okay, it's a deal."
Practice The Idioms

Fill in the blanks, using the following idioms:

  • the hard sell
  • no can do
  • more bang for the buck
  • nickel-and-dime
  • it's a deal
  • at no extra charge
  • break my budget
  • on a tight budget

Tina: Hi, I'm in the market for a new car, and I like the Mini Cooper. Would you recommend the base model or the Cooper S model?

Eric: The Cooper S. It gives you (1) ___________ . It's got a lot more power. I would also suggest you upgrade to leather seats.

Tina: How much extra are those?

Eric: $1300.

Tina: Forget it! That's too much. It would (2)___________ .

Eric: Okay, I'm just making a suggestion. I'm not trying to give you (3) ___________ . However, you probably will want to get the heated front seats.

Tina: Can you throw those in (4) ___________ ?

Eric: Sorry, (5) ___________ .

Tina: Well, how much would the car cost without all the bells and whistles?

Eric: $20,500.

Tina: I don't want to (6)___________ you, but I am a single mother with four kids and I'm (7)___________ . Can you offer it to me for $18,500?

Eric: I'm afraid not. But I could go to $19,500.

Tina: Okay, (8) ___________ .

Answer Key
Practice The Idioms
  1. more bang for the buck
  2. break my budget
  3. the hard sell
  4. at no extra charge
  5. no can do
  6. nickel-and-dime
  7. on a tight budget
  8. it's a deal
Answer Key
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