The Dismal Theorems of Contract Negotiation

©1999 Gerald M. Weinberg

My friend Brad, a Los Angeles cop, mentioned that he regularly sold traffic tickets.

“But it’s not what you think,” Brad smiled. “I work at night and go to school
during the day. If I have to appear in court, I miss classes. ‘Selling the ticket’ is
convincing drivers that they really were speeding, so they won’t take the matter to
court.”

“That’s a side of police work I never considered,” I said. “You have to be a good
salesman.”

“It’s not that hard,” Brad explained. “You see, I give dozens of tickets every week,
but most of the speeders only get one in a year. I get lots more practice than they
do.”

Negotiations between speeders and police can never be equal, because speeders are
amateur negotiators while cops are professionals. By the time you had enough
experience at speeding to become a professional, you’d be in jail.

Negotiations between contractors and agencies can never be equal, because
contractors are amateur negotiators while agencies are professionals. By the time
you had enough experience at contracting to become a professional, you’d be dead.

Unfortunately, you need to negotiate every new contract:


“There will always be issues and disputes between contractors and agencies. The
key, and perhaps the best that can be hoped for, is to understand the other side a
little better

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