Follow TV Tropes


Accidental Bargaining Skills

Go To

Scrooge: Good morning, gentlemen. I've something for ya.
[puts a bag of coins on the second collector's head]
Collector for the Poor #1: Twenty gold sovereigns! Oh, no!
Scrooge: Not enough? Here.
[puts another bag on the collector's pants]
Scrooge: Fifty gold sovereigns!
Collector for the Poor #2: Really, Mister Scrooge. It's...
Scrooge: Still not enough! You drive a hard bargain. Here you are.
[throws several bags at the collectors]
Scrooge: One hundred gold pieces, and not a penny more!
Collector for the Poor #1: Oh, thank you, Mr. Scrooge! Thank you! And a merry Christmas to you!

A character is offered a deal and his reaction is mistaken for an attempt to drive the price up. A common form is a character reacting with disbelief that something of his can't possibly be worth that much money. The other party misinterprets this and responds by offering even more.

Another possibility is a character trying to explain that he couldn't possibly sell this item or provide that service because he literally can't. His honest denial gets mistaken for haggling.

Variations might include an escalation with several increasingly higher bids and revelations about the conditions (Thirty? Thirty thousand, of course! Dollars? No, Euro! X dollars a month? No, an hour!) It commonly concludes with someone uttering the phrase "You drive a hard bargain" when nothing of that sort was intentionally done by the character.

Related to Do You Want to Haggle?.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In the first issue of Havoc Inc a merchant mistakes Chester for a dangerous fanatic when he tries to buy horses using a poorly-written phrasebook and ends up practically giving a pair of steeds away.

    Film — Animated 
  • Bigfoot Family has an element of this when Bigfoot is turning down the opportunity for lucrative product endorsement contracts, and the salesman initially thinks he's just pushing the price higher.
  • In Toy Story 2, Al sees the Woody toy at the yard sale and tries to haggle with Andy's mom for it. Mom points out that Woody is not for sale, and only wound up in the yard sale by accident. Al thinks that she must be an expert haggler, and starts offering more money. He does eventually get the hint that Woody really isn't for sale—so he steals him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In the film Edison the Man, Thomas Edison sells his patent for the stock ticker to a couple of Wall Street Fat Cats. Initially they offer $20,000 and, as Edison gets more and more flustered at the prices offered, they raise the offer to $30,000 and then $40,000. After the sale, one of the Fat Cats smugly tells Edison that they were prepared to go all the way to $60,000. Edison tells them that coming in he was prepared to accept $2,000.

  • A Jewish folktale has the priests going to a gem merchant to replace a missing gem from the High Priest's breastplate. They offer him a reasonable amount, and he goes to get the gem, but finds his father is sleeping on top of the key to his lockbox. He tells the priests he cannot sell it to them now, and they offer ever larger sums until he finally tells them he can't take their money. Once his father is awake, the merchant runs after the priests with the gem, and sells it to them for the original price. One wonders why he didn't just explain the reason (there may have been a language barrier or something).

  • Beware of Chicken: Jin knows that ten silver coins is a reasonable price range for a luxury foodstuff, so when a prospective buyer's opening bid for his maple syrup is fifty silver a jug, he's naturally surprised. The buyer takes his surprise for offense and revises his bid up to sixty. They end up settling on eighty.
  • Happens in the Erast Fandorin novella The Jack of Spades, where Fandorin tries to convince his future protege Tulipov to leave his old job and work for him full-time by making him increasingly generous employment offers—all the while Tulipov is at a loss for words because he's so flabbergasted by the very perspective of becoming Fandorin's assistant.
  • In The Colour of Magic, the first Discworld novel, the innkeeper of the Broken Drum tries to explain to tourist Twoflower that a room will be three coins a night by holding up three fingers to overcome the language barrier. Twoflower nods...and hands the flabbergasted man three rhinu, solid gold coins that weigh over an ounce each and are worth more than the whole establishment. He comes from a culture where Worthless Yellow Rocks is in effect.
  • The Curse of Chalion: Princess Iselle of Chalion sends Cazaril as ambassador to a rival king known as the Fox, to arrange a royal marriage between Iselle and the Fox's son. The Fox attempts to bribe Cazaril into agreeing to a marriage contract that benefits his son over Iselle. With each new request the Fox adds a new item to the heap: land, horses, jewels... Each time Cazaril is noncommittal, and the Fox raises the stakes again. Finally, with enough wealth on the table to make him a high noble in his own right, Cazaril gently informs the Fox that he's dying of cancer, so he wouldn't live to enjoy any of the offered bribes. Once he's over his surprise, the Fox laughs loud and long in response, marveling that Princess Iselle had the nerve - and the wit - to send him an ambassador who couldn't be bribed.
  • Spinning Silver: The Staryk Fair Folk are ardent Debt Detesters, so a badly wounded Staryk refuses help until Sergey sets a price for saving his life. An increasingly confused Sergey demands one major favour after another until the Staryk grudgingly accepts and compliments him on driving a hard bargain.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In iCarly a big shoe company wanted to pay the characters for advertisement on their webshow, they discuss they should ask for 100 dollars, but not more to not appear greedy. When they ask for this the president happily accepts giving them 100 thousand dollars a year.
  • An episode of Kenan & Kel has Kenan applying for a job in the mailroom of a large company and getting his CV mixed up with someone applying for an executive job. He's offered a massive salary and the interviewer misinterprets his shock as a sign someone having made him a better offer.
  • There was an episode of the sitcom Mixology where a man who mistakes one of the main girls for a prostitute, proposes she allow him to take her to Paris for $1,000,000. Her disbelief causes him to think that's too cheap, so he offers her next $2,000,000. She explains she's not a prostitute and he asks if she'd still like to go to Paris. She won't go for free.
  • In the The Odd Couple (1970) episode "My Strife in Court", Felix tries to give away an extra ticket, but the woman believes he's trying to sell it to her and offers him money. His stunned silence is interpreted as "holding out for more."

  • Our Miss Brooks: In "Mr. Leblanc needs $50", when Mr. Conklin offers Miss Brooks $25 to discourage Mr. Leblanc from buying his Stutz - Miss Brooks demurs. Mr. Conklin immediately raises his offer to $50.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy episode where Peter learns he's black and that his father-in-law's family owned his ancestor as a slave, Carter offers to pay him restitution money, and when Peter is surprised, Carter ups the price.
  • The central gag of The Simpsons episode "Last Exit To Springfield" is how Homer is unqualified to lead a union, but events coincide to make him look successful at it. Notable examples include playing hardball with Mr. Burns's offers via needing to go to the bathroom and thinking Burns is hitting on him, and his attempt to quit the job is mistaken as the cue to strike.
  • An episode of Rugrats involving a yard sale has Grandpa Lou doing this in reverse as a Running Gag; he's so enthusiastic with his sales patter (and ignorant of inflation) that he keeps lowering the price of what he's selling (which is unfortunate, since the babies are "helpfully" moving everything outside).
  • In Clerks: The Animated Series, Leonardo Leonardo bribes Dante to forget their unspecified indiscretions the previous night by offering him a position coaching a Little League team. Dante pauses a moment, clearly pleased and flattered by the offer, but Leonardo mistakes his hesitation for reluctance and reaches for his checkbook, saying, "Fine, would a million dollars change your—" before Dante, oblivious, accepts.

    Real Life 
  • Terry Pratchett's reaction to the first offer for his manuscript of The Colour of Magic led to his agent going back to the publisher and telling them Pratchett wanted a larger advance, which they quickly extended. In fact he was so blown away by the initial sum that he didn't know what to say other than, "Oh." Once he was rich enough that he could afford to do so, he would sometimes try to push down his advance because he didn't want more than he thought it was worth, which often led to his agent saying "Terry has a problem with the advance" and the publishers immediately offering more money before he managed to explain the actual problem.
  • This was part of what caused negotiations to break down the first time Disney tried to buy The Muppets. They thought Jim Henson's insistence that the Sesame Street characters weren't included in the deal was some kind of negotiating tactic, rather than a sincerely held belief, and kept trying to work out what he really wanted for them.


Video Example(s):


Joan's Krispy Kreme deal

Joan gives Zona a deal to return as a dancer for Krispy Kreme. Zona's disbelief causes Joan to make the deal even "sweeter".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / AccidentalBargainingSkills

Media sources: