I’ll be spending all week (Spring Break) with my almost-6-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Woo hoo! Yesterday was supposed to be my only “day off,” as she was supposed to be in school (snow make-up day). But she’s come down with the flu, so she stayed home with me.
I took her to the doctor, and they confirmed she has type A flu. It’s been going around a lot, they said.
Anyway, today, after returning from the mall (where we went out of sheer boredom), and after I took a nap (yes, I’m getting old), she had an idea. “How about if I do something for you and you pay me money?”
“Okay, what?” I asked. While she thought about it, I had her picking things up and putting them in her room.
After 30 seconds of that, she said, “It would be more funner if I sweeped things.”
“Okay, what do you want to sweep?”
“Okay.” Once finished sweeping, she had me help with the dust pan. “Now it’s time to mop,” she said. I agreed and sneaked back into the office to “work” on the computer (surf the Internet) while she was in the kitchen, mopping the floor. I’m thinking, “Man, wait until I tell Tara [my wife] I’ve trained Elizabeth to do housework! She won’t believe it.”
A few minutes later, I came out and found the kitchen very wet. Way too much water. I volunteered to run the mop over it again to sop up the excess, but she said, “No, only I can be in here.”
She did let me wring out the mop. Once finished with that, she said, “Okay, now you pay me money.”
“Okay,” I said. “I was thinking two dollars.”
“Two dollars?! Do you know how much it cost? I was thinking $20.”
I laughed and said, “There’s no way I’m paying you $20 to clean the kitchen floor.”
She then said, “I’m going to write down and show you how much it cost.” She was going to give me a receipt as proof, so she grabbed a piece of paper, scribbled something on it and flashed it at me. It read, “10¢”. I tried not to laugh as I explained that two dollars was a lot more than 10 cents. Then she started crying. “You paid the babysitter a lot of money!”
Still trying not to laugh, I explained, “Yes, that was for 8 hours of work.” The tears seemed real, like she genuinely felt I was cheating her out of a decent wage. “Oh, all right,” I caved a little. “How about three dollars?”
She was still not happy and — ever the shrewd negotiator — walked away… to watch cartoons. Oldest trick in the book. Just walk away from the bargaining table and they’ll be putty in your hands. She must simply know these things instinctively. “You can talk to Mom about it when she gets home,” I said on my way back to the office.
“What’s she going to do about it?” She was angry, pouting, so I left her to her cartoons while I returned to the office. A few minutes later, I returned to the kitchen to see how well it was drying. She came in behind me.
“So, do you want the three dollars or not?” I asked.
“Okay,” she sighed. “All I have is a five, though,” I said, wondering how she might respond to that. “Can you give me two dollars in change?”
“Okay, I have two dollars,” she agreed.
And that was it. End of negotiation. The one who learned the lesson was me, and that is: Always agree ahead of time exactly how much you’ll be paying someone for their labor.