Attention shoppers: crying child in Aisle 3

Seems like whenever I hit the grocery store, haggling scenes break out.

No, it's not someone hoping to get carrots for less than 69 cents a pound, or a defiant customer saying, "I won't pay a lot for that frozen pizza!"

The battle is always between a child - perhaps carrying a box of the latest sugar-soaked cereal - and an unsuspecting mom or dad.

Haggling comes naturally to children. And it's amazing how often their tactics work. Among them:

Assumption. Just drop the box in the shopping cart when dad isn't looking. What a fun surprise that should be at the check-out line! But, of course, he'll let you have it. After all, he only wants to make you happy.

Begging. So you were caught sneaking the box in the cart. Dad said "no," but a smile and a loud "pleeeease," should do the trick.

Crying. What? The magic "politeness" word didn't get results? Time to turn on the waterworks. Nothing like making a scene in public to get your point across.

Outrage. How can dad let me suffer like this? He's so mean! Well, I can be mean too. Grrrrr.

Silence. OK, I'll just stay quiet and tell mom when we get home. Then we'll see who's the boss.

Parents who stand up to these childish tactics deserve admiration. Only the strong can withstand such an onslaught. As for others, well, just ask them how many Pokemon cards they bought their kids a few years ago. (The cards are now worth about as much as an Internet stock.)

Yet these battles give parents an opportunity to teach how to behave when being haggled, by expressing patience, a willingness for both sides to walk away happy, and above all, a sense of humor.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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