On haggling, Part 1: At the right time and the right place, almost everything is negotiable. I'd haggle everything if I had the time, whether the price had six zeros in it or one. The art of negotiation is much too complex to even scratch the surface here, but from my mentors (and a bit of experience) I have learned a couple rules-of-thumb for the simpler situations:

1. If you do not ask, you will most certainly not receive. If you do ask, typically the worst that can happen is "no." I'm amazed at what I've been able to get over the years just by asking, even when it seemed unreasonable or impossible. My wife is even bolder at this than I am...

2. To have any leverage at all, you always need to have one thing in your pocket: The ability to walk away. When negotiating, it is critical to (a) not really care that much about whether or not you are able to get what you're trying to get, and/or (b) have a strong, acceptable alternative already in hand that you can fall back on if you aren't successful in the current negotiation.

In short: Always ask for "it", but make sure you don't want "it" too badly.

On haggling, Part 2: Forgive my verbosity on this topic (one I truly love), but I have a couple more haggling stories to add--these were learning experiences:

In 2000, my wife and I were haggling over a piece of leather baggage near Il Porcellino in Florence. As I recall, $1 US was trading for just over 1,900 Lire at the time. The asking price was L120,000, or a bit more than $60. I negotiated the vendor down to L80,000 ($40-ish). After pulling all the money out of my pocket, I realized--honestly--that all I had was L50,000. I told the vendor in broken Italian that I would go back to the hotel (just a few blocks away) and get the remainder. He was a bit upset--he thought I was negotiating (I wasn't). I *insisted* that I would be right back with the additional money, but he didn't want me to leave. Long story short, I got the luggage for L50,000 (just over $25). Shows the power of walking away--truly walking away, not bluffing, not pretending you're going to walk away.

In 2001, I talked a Best Buy store clerk into accepting my return of a video game that I had opened and played for a month (strictly against store policy). I was persistent to the point of annoying everyone in the store, including the 20 people behind me in line, but I got what I wanted. The logic I used at the time reminded me of the logic Ford Prefect used to convince Prosser to lie down in front of the bulldozer in Arthur Dent's stead while they stepped down to the pub to have a drink. But I suspect it wasn't my logic that convinced him, it was the 20 angry people behind me.

I use the basic negotiation skills I've learned *all the time* at work, for both internal (salary, responsibilities) and external (transactions) applications. The ability to negotiate effectively is one of the most important skills a person can have. Read "Getting Past No" and "Getting To Yes" by William Ury. Also, "Negotiating Rationally" by Bazerman & Neal.

On haggling, Part 3: Ok, just one more, I promise: First "real" job after undergrad; got the call from the managing partner; we want to hire you; what are your expectations for starting salary? Me: Oh, how about $X? Him (with 0.0000001 seconds delay): $X sounds perfect, when can you start?

Arrrrgh! Sold myself short, way short! He pounced as I lowballed myself! Since then I have asked for the moon every time, and sometimes gotten it.
On life-altering experiences: It's easy to start out by quickly saying, "other than marriage and having a baby"... I *cannot* stress enough how much those events--the actual events, the actual second of the sacred moments--changed my life. On stage with my wife, saying those vows, knowing they were true; it's one of the few times I've cried in public. I never cry in public. Seeing that little baby come out, then holding him, was transformational, in the truest and most powerful sense I could ever use that word.

Ok, that said, there were some others: The creative freedom Mrs. Olsen offered in her "independent study" high school art class, quite a contrast to the rest of the curriculum at my strict religious school; first time traveling in Europe, esp. Florence, and esp. a 4-hour dinner in a grotto in the Ticino region of Switzerland (where I learned what a meal really was); Michael Robinson, Jeanine Centuori & Russel Rock's architecture/public art course at Kent in 1996; surviving graduate school with my wife.