Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow brought to mind a story of my youngest son negotiating on Isla Mujer for a hat.

My son and I had tickets for two weeks earlier to spend time at Key West, Florida. In a burst of good Karma, my job and a pending acquisition required that our trip be cancelled. Had it not been cancelled we would have been one of many cars trying to evacuate hurricane Andrew.

So my son, then age 12, and I are in Cancun a couple weeks later on a delayed holiday. We have enjoyed the beach life and he has seen his first topless beach. The jaw dropping fascination lasted a half hour and which point he rejoined our conversation. When I asked what he thought he replied, “Well boobs come in all shapes and sizes and it’s good to know.”

So much for topless beaches. On our last full day we took a boat over to Isla Mujer. We stopped to snorkel and eat lunch at a beach front restaurant. The last stop was a funky tourist town on the island. My son is a people person and a born negotiator. He fell in love with a straw hat with a hot pink band that said, “Isla Mujer.” In Kahneman’s terms the seller anchored the price at $12. I anchored the available cash to my son by saying, “Look I have $3 left and the rest is to get us to the airport and pay the exit fees. Here’s $3 and good luck.”

There is quite a gap between $12 and $3 and both parties come to the bargaining with those expectations. On the one hand we have an experienced vendor who sees tourists come and go every day. For many people on holiday a few extra dollars is not a problem. On the other hand we have a kid who speaks a version of Spanglish and can circumlocute (i.e. keep talking in Spanish until he finally is understood) and really wants the hat. The kid has only $3.

Ask yourself how you think this turns out. Hmm. Does the experienced vendor win? Does the Mom give in and cough up more? Does the kid get the hat? (Please read Kahneman, it is a fascinating book.)

My son and I are walking back to the boat that will take us back to Cancun. He is still talking about the hat and how nice it was to talk to the man selling the hats. Even without the hat, he feels like he has made a friend. Just then the hat vendor comes up behind us and says, “You forgot your hat, mi amigo,” and puts the hat on my son’s head. They hug each other like long lost friends.

No money changes hands. The vendor tells me that I am raising a very fine young man and that he is so proud that such a man will be wearing his very fine hat. I thank him for making such fine hats. Since it is clear that this is no longer a negotiation about money, I ask him if he has lost his sunglasses. I offer him my sunglasses saying that I won’t be needing them where I am going and I think he might find them most useful. Ah, more hugs.

It isn’t always about the money!

Reader Comments Welcome.