Deal Breaker

For me, life is all about making deals.

Big deals, sweet deals, real deals—there’s no type of deal I won’t make. I once cadged 96 kilos of premium Bluefin belly from some sake-bombed angler in a back alley off Tsukiji and sold it hours later for triple. Told my buddies I got a “raw deal,” and when they started scoffing and chiding like fools I pulled out my cash bucket and dumped thousands of yen all over the tatami.

Deals! Hell, sometimes I’ll make a deal on foot and then, if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make a second deal, but this time on the go. I’ll say, “Boy, I am wheeling and dealing!” which is something I know other people say, too, but I’m describing a very specific situation here.

Anyway you can probably see where I’m going with this, which is to point out that the one thing I can’t stand is a deal breaker.

Ugh, a deal breaker is just the worst! But unfortunately in this deal-or-be-dealt world sometimes even a deal you want more than anything can get sidetracked or sidelined, or dare I say even sideswiped? You just have to call it like you see it, and if you see it—by which I mean see a deal breaker, of course—you simply need to call it as such and walk away. No deal.

For example, last week at the deli the cashier rang up my sandwich and said, “Eight dollars, please.” Eight dollars seemed high so I negotiated, as any savvy deal maker would, by grabbing the sandwich and running out the door. But instead of modifying his offer the cashier yelled, “Stop or I’ll call the police!” So, sadly, I had to give up on that deal, which was too bad because I love both pastrami and making deals but was the right decision nonetheless, as any standard business school prof will tell you.

Another time I was at dinner with a date. She was beautiful and pretty much stacked with joie de vivre. When the check came I ran the numbers and told her what she owed, and her expression turned sad and she said, “Wow, deal breaker.” I drive a hard bargain, sure, but who breaks a deal before even getting down to brass tacks? I could’ve walked away right then, but a good deal maker knows that compromise isn’t a dirty word, like asshat or philanthropy, and especially not if you’re itching to make more deals later that night. So I caved, adjusted my position, and offered to pay half. When she left the restaurant without me, that is called the Fait Accompli Tactic.

Not that I don’t have my own deal breakers, sadly. I once left a job and a mid-five-figure salary because a colleague hung taxidermy in his office and I do not like animals. Thus, an animal is for me a definite deal breaker (not to mention a downright pet peeve, but that’s obviously a whole other discussion).

You can’t win ’em all, they say, and they are largely correct in their reading of the situation. Deal makers have to be willing to accept defeat, though sometimes you must never do that.

So what have we learned? That every deal is different; so, too, every deal maker. And by extension, every deal breaker is also uniquely one in a million. If you can make a deal, seize it! But if it stinks, don’t be afraid to pack up and leave. Because when I’m dealing with someone who’s trying to force a square deal into a round hole, well, I have to just shake my head. Deal breaker.