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Amazon vs Visa – Going to extra ‘time’

There are a number of ways of resolving commercial conflict, postponement however is not one of them. It is however, in the right circumstances, a very useful strategy leveraging the power of time – a variable which is almost always a consideration in planning for the resolution of commercial conflict.

After decades of living, training, coaching, consulting and observing negotiations – two truisms are that negotiations often take longer than planned and that people make unconditional concessions (give away value) near the end. Why? Well sometimes the psychology is such that at this stage, the pressure becomes so great that the investment of time, energy and effort up until this point (commitment and consistency) is such that getting a deal becomes more important than the quality of the deal.

Now, let’s look at the Amazon UK and Visa conflict. This conflict first hit the news back in mid-November last year. Amazon UK said that Visa credit cards would no longer be taken on the 19th January 2022, the postponement of this action was taken today on the 17th January – 48 hours to go after being announced two months before. It looks very much like pressure was exerted up until the final moment – possibly in the hope that the other side would ‘cave in’.

There is also possibly another reason to leave the decision to postpone so late. Whilst planning in commercial conflict is critical, factors will always change over time, which in turn influences the amount of power each sides holds – by nature relative power is dynamic and not static. I suspect that over the two months, Amazon UK (and Visa) were closely monitoring a number of different variables – including the number and rate of current Amazon UK customers who were switching their cards from Visa to other payment providers over time. It may well be that the decision was made today, that, given the number of Visa cards still on the Amazon system, that it was felt that on balance it was better to postpone and look to introduce new variables to create value rather than make good on the earlier threat.

Don’t be surprised if another week or two fosters the right mindset to include some new value-creating elements to improve the deal and save face for both sides – time is a great healer.

The next time your conflict is still deadlocked in the end game, take more time if you need to – assess the situation with objectivity, empathy and creativity. It could just make the difference between a good deal or a bad one.

Sam Macbeth, 17th January 2022

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