"Mister, please, Excuse me sir. You must pay me more." The rug salesman is near pleading on his knees, or at least he pretends he will go that far. "I have babies at home. You must pay me more."
John W. Thomas is only slightly moved by the display. He names his price, saying he can pay no more. After already unrolling several of his most choice products ("this is Berber wool, made by Berber women in the mountains, it is not manufactured") the salesman knows this customer means business. "You kill me," he says giving in, and takes Thomas' money, thanking him profusely.
Thomas, lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government and a Fellow at the Harvard Institute for International Development, had just utilized the revised version of Ury and Fisher's "Getting to Yes" negotiations strategy known as the Thomas-Evriviades technique, one of many such strageties put into practice during the annual field trip for the Mason Fellows Program in Public Policy and Management, which last month, took the group to Morocco. The trip was planned to give Fellows, who come from developing countries from around the world to study at the K-School, a chance to put into practice some of the analytical tools they learned during the year.
The Mason Fellows Program, now in its 27th year functions within the K-School's one-year mid career curriculum. The group of approximately 50 makes up one-third of the Masters in Public Administration class. Officials with a variety of professional backgrounds from developing countries come to the K-School to learn administrative techniques they will use as future leaders in the Third World Founded in 1957 by Edward S. Mason, Lamont University Professor Emeritus and former dean of Harvard's then Graduate School of Public Administration, the program has attracted some of the highest level officials in the Third World today.
As part of their academic training the Fellows visited Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech in Morocco, taking some time for sightseeing, but mainly studying agricultural projects, a housing development site and textile plants. The week also included seminars with government officials from the Ministry of Tourism and an economic planning institute, as well as welcoming functions at the Moroccan and United States embassies.
Now in the heart of their last academic push before final exams end their one year of study at Harvard, the Mason Fellows have expressed some criticism of their time at Harvard, although most say the year has been worthwhile. The field trip to Morocco was but one of the problems with the Mason Program, some say, adding that the trip could even have been eliminated since its educational value was limited. Many Masons interviewed asked not to be named because of political reasons.
After a delayed arrival into Casablanca, the group was whisked onto a Flag Tour bus. With only a few hours to recover from jetlag, the group was bussed to Rabat.
Most sightseeing in Rabat and the other Moroccan cities was done from the tour bus, with some opportunity for walking around the first and second days, giving the trip a tourist atmosphere.
The cities and Medinas constantly teeming with people during the weekend gave the impression of a world far removed from the fast pace of Cambridge. A visit to Volubilis, the site of ancient Roman ruins and Meknes, an ancient city within the modern world, gave the visitors a sense of Morocco's history and Islamic culture, and some perspectives of a people conquered and integrated into so many other cultures. One of the Latin Americans was surprised to find that their architecture was heavily influenced by the Arab world, while one Fellow felt ashamed because the Romans had managed to develop a sewage system which his own country does not yet have.
It was on the second day that the Thomas-Evridiades negotiation strategy was first suggested. "If we are going to get bargains, we have to work together. We will have to negotiate carefully," said Euripedes L. Evriviades, who had brought his "Getting to Yes" text along for negotiations study, explaining that he and Thomas had formulated a new method. Realizing that shop owners would inevitably escalate prices for tourists, the group developed a strategy that evolved into a four step procedure:
*Working in teams of three or four the group enters the store, begins vigorously browsing so that the storeowner must divide his attention among the shoppers.
*When one of the members has recognized a product he would definitely like to purchase, the group briefly huddles together to establish negotiations procedure, then 'pricing' begins.
*After pricing to a point where the merchant is unwilling to come down to the group's price, they walk out, planning to return often claiming. "I can get this anywhere in the Medina," or a similar phrase of disinterest.
*After trying the same thing in other stores, the group returns, begins pricing again, then employs another group member to signal that 'the bus is leaving,' forcing the sale.
Although some incidents of failed negotiations occurred when the store owner knew English or when someone because so caught in the negotiations procedure that they purchased an item they actually did not want to buy bazaars provided an interesting opportunity to apply skills learned in class.