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Looking for a Punch in the Nose?

The only thing more annoying than a bad deal is a bad deal-maker.

I like most of the people I deal with. Sometimes things start off rocky, but usually I can build a good relationship. This isn’t about those people.

Instead, this month, I vent about those “others” out there who should be medicated, strapped to a gurney and whisked from the bargaining table. Dear Reader, I hope you don’t recognize yourself below:

1. The liar: You spend a lot of time haggling when you practice law for 20 years. By now, nothing should surprise me. But it does. When somebody tells me a big lie, my jaw drops and my soul fills with wonder. Some lie deliberately. Some can’t tell the difference. Whatever the reason, the liar brings a touch of evil in and erodes whatever faith we have left in humanity. I could quote Dante. Instead, to all you liars out there, I say: May your spouses deceive you and your children betray you.

2. The whiner: “Aw, come on, come on, come on…” My dog uses this tactic. I have to admit–she is often successful. But this is not dignified for anything that walks upright and has opposable thumbs. Luckily, one can retrain this breed of opponent using store-bought kibble and a rolled-up newspaper.

3. The manipulator: I often represent studios when they hire stars for their movies. One such luminary demanded a huge loan as an advance against his (already highly inflated) fee. When I explained to his attorney that the studio did not think that kind of deal was appropriate, he got just plain nasty. “Don’t you care about my client?” he snapped indignantly. For a nanosecond, I felt guilty. In Hollywood, negotiations are often carried out with phrases such as “Trust me,” “You ‘da man,” “I’m reaching out to you” and “baby.” To those of you who live outside of Los Angeles, be grateful that these are just local customs.

4. The cheap con: I know I’m dealing with a “smoove” talker when they ask for my bottom line within the first 20 seconds of a negotiation. My first name may be “Marc,” but I don’t like being taken for one. Insulting your opponent’s bargaining acumen is not the best way to establish rapport.

5. The time-waster: I mean the petty ones who can’t see the forest for the trees and get caught up in details that end up being meaningless. Now, I must confess. Once, when I leased the floating hull of an abandoned ship owned by the Canadian Navy as a movie set, they reserved the right to kick us off in the event of war. I objected. “How,” I exclaimed, “could anyone shoot a movie with that hanging over their heads?” Quietly, the representative asked me to name the last time the Canadian Navy went to war.

He got me.


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