Should I sell furniture to my new supervisor?
February 11, 2016 8:15 PM   Subscribe

At work, my supervisor told me that he was in the market to buy an iconic piece of furniture. As it happens, I am currently attempting to sell that exact iconic piece of furniture, and, without much forethought, I told him as much.

He has stated his interest in buying from me, and the piece is in brand new condition. Price was not discussed at the time.

Now I am wondering if I have made a mistake. I am wary of offering or being offered a high price, in case he is not ultimately satisfied with the purchase. But I also do not particularly feel like giving it away, nor do I think that would be appropriate as it could come off as brown-nosing.

Can I sell something to my boss without creating an awkward situation? Has the awkward situation already been created?
posted by onehundredand80 to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Well, you could tell him first thing that a relative wanted it and made an offer last night. Otherwise, I think you offer it to the supervisor at the price you were going to offer it publicly and state that. "I was going to list it at $x,xxx. What do you think?" Or, be up front. "I am a little leary of selling it to you in case you don't like it a few months from now. But, if you think that will not become an issue between us, it is for sale at $x,xxx."

To me, either find a polite way to back out soon or disclaim up front the awkwardness and only sell it for a fair price you would accept from someone else.
posted by AugustWest at 8:23 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: How precarious is your employment status, or do you feel fairly secure? If you feel like you're securely there, I think it's safe to proceed with the sale. Especially if they're the one who brought it up--it's not like you're posting flyers in the break room to hawk this piece.

FWIW, a few months after I started my current job, I found myself in the position of selling my car. The best buyer was my coworker's stepdaughter, who had just gotten her license. It was mildly awkward (but I have a very low threshold for awkwardness) but I got my money and she got her car. It seems fine now, a few years later.
posted by witchen at 8:34 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, You can sell it to him in a business-like manner.
Decide what your price is independent of your boss.
And either quote a slightly higher price for negotiation purposes or stick to that price as your lowest.
I would have him come over, inspect the furniture, pay for it, sign a receipt of sale, and take it away.
And you provide him with a receipt for the full payment of the 'final sale'.

Don't accept his money until he inspects the furniture;
don't deliver it to him-have him be responsible for picking it up.
If somewhere along the way the negotiations stall, don't take it personal.
Just acknowledge that the sale doesn't fit for the two of you and go on.
posted by calgirl at 8:57 PM on February 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would say go for it. It may end up being positive for you, as in your boss will remember you as the person who sold him that cool thing. You say the piece is in brand new condition, so it ought to be satisfactory, right?
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 8:58 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's a way out of the awkwardness now that doesn't create more awkwardness. Telling him you sold it to someone else makes you seem flakey and a bit rude, which isn't the best option. Saying you've decided to keep it is much the same problem.

At this point, the best way is probably forward, but with scrupulous honesty -- if there's even the vaguest hint of a condition problem with the item, make sure he is aware of it. Don't let him take advantage of you, but don't try to get the most money you possibly can for the piece, either. If it's worth enough to get it appraised, get it appraised.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:58 PM on February 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am a lover of iconic furniture (is it a chair? I LOVE CHAIRS!!) If I were him, I would expect to pay a fair price for said piece, especially if otherwise sourcing said piece would include shipping because said piece is rare or otherwise hard to find in great condition.

Yes. Tell him the actual price you expect. Do it professionally, as described above. Do not deliver the piece. Make sure he inspects it, pays in full, and moves it himself.

If he's my type, he's grateful. Also, I personally would be overly generous with an employee, or at least super fair. It's OK to say, "I am not able to let it go for less than X price. Sorry." If he quibbles. He won't quibble. Be shocked if he quibbles, as you should be! Just expect professionalism and provide same.

Did you tell him what you paid for it already? Geez, I hope not. Don't answer that question if asked, or lie and say you paid more. If the piece was a gift, never admit to it.

I'm sure this piece has an accepted value. He's not buying it from a garage sale where the seller doesn't know the value. You've kept the piece in great condition - that alone adds HUGE value.

Thank you for loving well made furniture. Go forth with many blessings :))
posted by jbenben at 10:50 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

When this situation comes up in my circle of friends/family, we agree to abide by a neutral data provider (e.g., KBB), average several sources, or retain a third party appraiser to set the price. It's helped mitigate bad feelings about potential mismatches between price/cost and value.
posted by carmicha at 11:16 PM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It just depends so much on both of your personalities as to whether it is intrinsically awkward to sell your boss a piece of furniture.

For me, if the relationship is good or neutral, I think it would be fine to just do it in a totally businesslike manor. Quote him the fair market price that you'd ask of anyone else, and see what he says:

If he accepts the price you quote, go ahead and take it. [Not awkward at all.]

If he negotiates down a small amount, go ahead and take it. [Not awkward.]

If he totally isn't in the market to pay anywhere near that much, ideally he should just say "oh, I'm not in the market to pay anywhere near that much" and then you do a small polite shrug with a small polite noise, you mutually agree that this isn't happening, and the subject is dropped and forgotten forever. [A little risk of awkwardness, but probably not really awkward.]

If he isn't in the market to pay anywhere near that much and he offers you some very drastically reduced number, well, that's pretty gauche of him, period, but especially as your boss. Laugh politely, cheerfully say something like "oh sorry, I'm going to go ahead and take my chances on finding a buyer out there in the world" and drop it. Hopefully he will never bring it up. If he does, that's SUPER gauche. P.S. Sell it for whatever price you want to a stranger, including a drastically reduced one, and if your boss is so gauche to follow up on what you sold it for, just fucking lie or decline to talk about it. [Awkward.]
posted by desuetude at 11:56 PM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Unless it is a very specific piece of furniture, all of this is contingent on him actually liking the specific one/model/version/color you have. Just give him an honest chance to refuse...

"That's funny Bob, what a coincidence! Mine is a blank-ity blank blank; here is a blurry phone camera picture of it. I was going to take better photos this weekend, list it for $X, and deal with all of the craigslist crazies but if you want to swing by and take a look, maybe it is the kind you are looking for. If it is, great, if not, no worries... I am super picky about my furniture so I'd be the last one to blame you!"

This way he can say no after the photo, he can say no after the price, and he can say no after the inspection... all without needing to justify anything and without creating drama. If you give him three possible "outs" and he proceeds, you are in the clear for any awkwardness, present or future.
posted by milqman at 7:03 AM on February 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you decide to sell to this guy, do not give him a price break. As your supervisor, he can well afford to shell out at any price you name.
Also, I agree with the above poster that it's his responsibility to pick it up, not yours to deliver it. Make him do the work.
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:13 AM on February 12, 2016

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