“Four,” he said.
I held his gaze. “K?” although it was more of a statement than a question. In this industry it couldn’t be anything else.
He nodded slightly. To be honest it was far more than I could have dreamed of, but I had on my best poker face. “Per week,” he added.
£8K for 2 weeks of driving a few actors to the set and back from their hotel and sitting around drinking coffee and solving Sudoku puzzles in between times? All my Christmases had come at once.
It didn’t really make sense though; I thought he was going to negotiate hard. “How much do you expect to get?” he’d asked at the outset. I’ve never been a driver for a production crew in my life so have no idea what the going rate is. What I do know, however, is when it comes to financial negotiations the person who mentions a price first usually loses.
I’d had about £1,500 in my head as a likely figure for the fortnight, so was so surprised at his first offer I forgot to haggle and just said, “Ok then.” Presumably my air of supreme confidence had overcome any deficiencies in my smile department, and he’d decided to make me a good offer at the outset. I felt pleased with myself for not punching the air or presenting anything other than a calm, confident, adult demeanour.
I phoned Maggie from the car. She sounded disbelieving when I told her how much they were offering, even though it could be 12+ hour days and unsociable hours. “Maybe I got the number of zeros wrong,” I said with a certain amount of mock self-effacement. But as I turned the mobile off I was suddenly awash with doubt.
What if he had meant four hundred per week? What if when I’d said “K?” he’d thought I’d said “OK!”?
It was like a punch in the stomach. In that instant it felt like someone had actually just stolen £7,200 out of my bank account and I was never going to see it again. If he had meant four hundred, then what he’d actually offered me was barely minimum wage for the hours I’d be working, in which case I’d just been shafted.
When he'd said “four”, it was the start of negotiations. I should have said “ten” then we’d have settled around “seven” or “eight”, which would have been pretty much the figure I had in my head in the first place. Instead my shock at him offering £4K per week at the outset had blown all the fuses in the rational section of my brain.
Given that I’m still suffering from bouts of low energy, I would have had to spend the fortnight on dangerous quantities of coffee and dodgy sleeping patterns, which would take their toll physically. Well worth it for £8K, but certainly not for one tenth that amount. Knowing it to be a long shot, I thought that if it was all a misunderstanting then I’d try and negotiate the rate back up to a decent figure when he rang this afternoon to go over the contract details.
He’d laughed heartily when I’d mentioned the £4K per week figure, reminding me of the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” and assumed I was making a joke. But when I said £400 was too low he abruptly brought the call, and any further negotiations, to an end.
Personally I think he was just embarrassed at his poor communication skills.