Forget quantum physics. One of the most difficult concepts for people to grasp is the concept of value.
Don’t believe me? Watch Buy Me or Real Estate Intervention, TV shows that follow property owners through the process of selling their homes. Ninety nine percent of them will come across as deeply delusional individuals (and a large majority as unpleasantly so), even though it is safe to assume that many of them are otherwise nice, regular folks. And if you want some first-hand experience, check out Kijiji.
I’ve used Kijiji a few times in the last year or so, with mixed success, both as a seller and a buyer. One thing I learned real quick was that people don’t understand how “value” works. Each thing has at least 2 values: what it’s worth to the seller (usually a lot), and what it’s worth to a buyer (usually a lot less). For the most part, people tend to over-estimate the value of their own things – after all, they bought them in the first place because they liked them – and under-estimate the depreciation factor. Too many of them have bought into the marketing slogan that you can “invest” by buying certain things, as if every car, gizmo or pair of shoes is a collectible Star Wars action figure or something. It is extremely rare for consumer goods to hold their value over time; a gold Rolex or Hermés bag might be the sort of things that come closest. [As an aside, this is another reason why paying full retail prices for clothes, in particular, is not a savvy proposition.]
People also overestimate the motivation of buyers. That really nice whatever for which you paid a fortune last year? The buyer has lived without and can continue to live without it just fine. Sure, they like it … but if they really, really, desperately wanted it, they would have gone and bought it from the store … just like you. And if they couldn’t afford to pay full retail price, they’re probably not going to want to pay 75% of the price either (for something you’ve been using for a year).
Now, not all sellers are like that. After all, I’ve picked up a few bargains on Kijiji in my time. And not all buyers are reasonable either. As a buyer, you have to do your homework too – first, to protect yourself and, second, to be able to negotiate successfully. You have to be able to recognize a decent price when you see it. Don’t low-ball someone who’s trying to be reasonable on an item you actually want, because you’re running the risk of pissing off the seller away from the bargaining table. Of course, that’s not to say that you should offer more than you’re willing to spend; just be realistic about whether the amount you’re willing to spend is likely to ever come close to the amount the seller is willing to accept. Which means, yeah, if I’m listing an authentic Coach bag for $160, $80 will get you exactly nothing. Oy vey!