2597: Salary Negotiation

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Salary Negotiation
"We can do 0.33 or 0.34, but our payroll software doesn't allow us to--" "NO DEAL."
Title text: "We can do 0.33 or 0.34, but our payroll software doesn't allow us to--" "NO DEAL."


Ponytail's company would like to hire Cueball for a job, and she is telling him that their offer for his starting salary is $55,000.

When offered a new job, it is common to negotiate on aspects of the offer such as salary, and employers may offer below the market rate initially in the expectation that the final negotiated amount will be higher. Given that the bedrock of one's future income depends on the outcome of a one-time process requiring skills unrelated to the job one is hired for, it is advisable to take one's time and do as much research as possible.

Cueball has clearly done some research, but perhaps too much as he is flummoxed by this high-stakes situation and starts to ramble with decreasing coherence. First he gets completely confused about the numbers. He says he won't have a penny over $50,000, thus cutting $5000 of the initial offer, and saying he will not have more than that. He realizes this was completely wrong, and corrects to "under", but is still 5000 lower. He then fumbles his words, asking for $60, then $600, then adding "thousand" for $600,000.

Realizing that he is completely off, he asks for a "15% cut of the salary". Here, Cueball seems to confuse salary and commission. "X% cut of the salary" seems like what a recruiter/headhunter may get from their employer as a commission if they successfully make their person hired.

The next word he says is "Raise". This could make sense if he already had a job, and wished to negotiate for a pay raise. After this, he begins to think of raise as in a card game and starts rambling off mainly poker related terms, like "raise", "fold" and "pass". He throws in "double down" in between. This can also be a card game term, as in blackjack where double down means to double a bet after seeing one's initial cards, with the requirement that one additional card be drawn. Lastly, he randomly mentions "fill it up with regular", which could be a request to a gas station attendant to fill a vehicle with "regular" (compared to higher octane) gasoline.

Ponytail tries to ask him something, but Cueball interrupts her, saying he is sorry and that he would like to start over. At this time he takes out several sheets of paper and looks at some charts. He asks if he can borrow a calculator and then asks what's 20% of $55,000. (This would be $11,000.) He eventually settles on a number, $61,333.3 He even states that the decimals of 3 should be repeating, as in forever. This is exactly $61,333⅓. He clearly states he will not take the job for less than that. A 2016 Harvard Business School study found that avoiding round numbers is a remarkably effective negotiation tactic.

Since this is not that much more than the starting offer Ponytail is ready to accept this and says "Sure, $61,333 is fine." But Cueball interrupts her because what she just offered him was 33⅓ cents less than he asked for.

In the title text it shows that this is not good enough. Cueball has now confused himself to the point he will only accept exactly what he asked for, the bizarre amount $61,333⅓. Ponytail tries to explain to him that the point 3 repeating cannot be paid in whole cents, and tries to let him know that their payroll software only can handle whole cents, and he thus can get either 0.33 or 0.34 (the latter actually being more than he asks for). Alas, Cueball, either out of panic or a love of mathematics, shouts "No deal!" and lets the job slip out of his hands, because he has completely misunderstood the concept of negotiation.

For more interview-related xkcd comics, see for instance Category:Job interviews.

This could also be taken in series with Cueball (possibly as a stand in for Randall) misunderstanding classically "adult" ideas, see for instance 616: Lease, 905: Homeownership, 1674: Adult and 1894: Real Estate.


[Ponytail sits in an office chair at her desk, with Cueball sitting in a similar chair on the other side with his hands on his knees. Ponytails has her hands on the desk and in front of her, there is a slim thing standing up. It could be a very small screen, but there seems to be no keyboard in front of her. Maybe it is a small tablet with a support for letting is stand up. Behind that there are what appears to be two piles of papers of different sizes.]
Ponytail: We'd like to extend an offer! The starting salary is $55,000.
Cueball: Wow. I guess I'm inside a negotiation!
Ponytail: I... Weird to phrase it like that, but-
Cueball: I can do this.
[Zoom in on Cueball's upper half.]
Cueball: I won't accept a penny over $50,000. Sorry, I mean under. Under $60. I mean, $600. Thousand. $600,000. I want a 15% cut of the salary. Raise. Double down. Fold. Pass. Fill it up with regular.
[The same shot, except Cueball is now holding three pieces of paper, and he is looking down on them. Ponytail is talking to him from off-panel.]
Ponytail (off-panel): Are you-
Cueball: Sorry, sorry. Let me start over.
Cueball: OK, my chart says...
Cueball: ...Can I borrow a calculator? What's 20% of $55,000?
[Back to the scene from the first panel. Ponytail has taken one hand down to her knee, with the other still on the desk. Cueball has put the papers on his lap and has raised his hand in the air holding one finger up. In his other hand he holds either a borrowed calculator or his own smartphone.]
Ponytail: Listen, if you need to-
Cueball: I won't take this job for less than $61,333 point 3 repeating!
Ponytail: Sure, $61,333 is fine. That's actually-
Cueball: Point 3 repeating or I walk!

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The second panel is me every time I haggle for something, and I have to make sure I don't end up haggling the wrong way. Or starting above my desired price when I mean to start below so that I can meet in the middle at my desired price. 23:06, 23 March 2022 (UTC)

It's not a one-time negotiation, anyway. During an annual review I'd have to suggest any pay adjustments. Was useless at it, too self-effacing. I left one job after ten years and later on found my exact same old position (which I had felt now wasn't adding much to the team, part of the reason I left) readvertised with a suggested salary range starting at twice that of what I had actually departed with. Seems they needed me (or someone quite like me) more than any of us knew. That experience didn't improve my assertiveness, though. 10:25, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

They should offer him $61,333.33 plus a penny extra once every three years. 23:31, 23 March 2022 (UTC)

The way a friend solved it was to cut a penny into six pieces (like a pizza), and then give me two of them. Ruffy314 (talk) 09:42, 24 March 2022 (UTC)
This raises more questions than it answers. Why was your friend giving you 1/3 of a penny? Why two sixths rather than one third? How did they cut it? --192·168·0·1 (talk) 13:34, 24 March 2022 (UTC)
I would imagine that it is significantly easier to slice a coin all the way through than it is to cut it halfway through. But I'm still wondering how: after making the first cut (presumably relatively easy given the right tools), the subsequent cuts would be against *parts* of a penny, not the entire thing (thereby decreasing the utility of making full slices). Once a penny is cut in half, the two parts won't stay together anymore, unlike a pizza where the entire thing retains its same shape the entire time. I also wonder about the utility: a fraction of a penny under 50% of the total volume is completely worthless. When someone has more than 50%, then it is worth the entire value of the penny. Cwallenpoole (talk) 14:16, 24 March 2022 (UTC)
You can clamp down the two parts of a now discected coin, for a further cut across-tye-cut almost as easily as you can clamp down the original. Harder to do the two ⅙ths and two ⅓rds (or just the latter two) to get the final four ⅙ths. Or overlay the cut halves (or thirds), perhaps, then cut through both with a powerful enough slicer.
But the way I'd do it (assuming 6 ⅙s is the target) is to make the cut across all but a sliver of one edge, realign, make a similar cut (liberating ⅙, having ⅓+⅙+⅓ still joined) then clean through at the third angle (two more ⅙s loosed), after which you just need to snip through the two cut-ends that you left to make the slotted ½ into 3 separate ⅙s.
Just snipping from edge to centre, three times, can mess up at the meeting point. Though it involves the same angles, getting them to meet (non-messily) in the exact centre is awkward, and it's easier to visually map six equilateral triangles with an edge-length equal to the radius (to execute three cross-cuts, fairly) than the three obtuse triangles (or one equilateral triangle with edges ≠2r) in planning where on the edge to start. Well, from my regular experience in actual pizza-cutting into three equal portions, before we get to the difficulty in cleanly cutting a much smaller coin made of metal. 14:44, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

Any idea how Cueball arrived at the figure of $61 1/3 thousand?--Troy0 (talk) 03:33, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

Arbitrarily non-round numbers are a really good idea as per [1] (which I just added), and Cueball's is one of the simplest in terms of algebraic fractional expression at the bottom of the 110-120% widely-accepted counter-offer range already mentioned (with which I agree and have heard repeatedly from associates, but rather uncomfortably is in the explanation without a source.) I would sincerely say he's being quite shrewd at that point, except for the haggling over cents and fractional cents. 03:20, 25 March 2022 (UTC)

Interesting. In the UK, I was taught to call them recurring decimals. Never heard of repeating decimals. -- 08:46, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

I just assumed the usual trans-Atlantic difference in terminology. In general I'd also say "point three three three recurring" to establish the (unvarying) pattern, or something like "point one nine one nine recurring" for a bistable pattern, etc, so that it doesn't look like all-nines to infinity. But, to be honest, I'd be glad if people didn't use "point thirty-three" or the like. ;) 10:25, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

I don't think the 15% is meaning a 15% cut in the (offered) salary, as the current explanation has it. I think this is referencing agent-type negotiations, where the agent might take 15% of the salary negotiated for the person they're representing. 09:15, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

Fixed. Justhalf (talk) 10:51, 24 March 2022 (UTC)
Also inappropriately used/ill-formed, in this negotiation, but "15% of the gross" might be a given film-star's deal for appearing/cameoing in a movie, i.e. variable according to the success, tying directly into the money it earns the studio - potentially quite lucrative, without scaring off the studio by risking it (excessive) debts in the event of a flop or other failure to cash in. So long as the total percentages are not excessive!
A salary that is a set percentage (other than 100%) of one's own salary is, of course, nonsensicle and paradoxical (though one could suggest an introductive percentage 'discount' for the first year, as a wary employer's inducement/guarantee, perhaps in direct exchange for a corresponding bonus against the measure of productivity that is expected/hoped to be massively increased by being hired), but muddled Cueball seems to be grasping at apt-sounding fragments of such 'business language' yet mashing them together in various wrong ways. 12:47, 24 March 2022 (UTC)

Summary is way too long and overdetailed. It's more like a play-by-play of the comic than an explanation 02:06, 25 March 2022 (UTC)

Seconded. Apologies to whoever wrote the existing description, but you worked too hard. -mezimm 19:37, 25 March 2022 (UTC)

As others have pointed out, $61,333.33 1/3 is not an irrational number; however calling it a rational number (and linking the page for that term) seems pointless. Could we change it to say "irrational amount" to indicate Cueball's mindset and eliminate the link?