Dan Burnstein is the kind of guy you want on your side of the negotiating table, and you can have him-virtually-for about $189. A past chair of the American Bar Association'sskills interest group, Burnstein has a software product, Negotiator Pro, that can help anyone to be more prepared when he or she sits down to hammer out a deal.
Negotiator Pro fits into the category of "electronic performance support system." It is at once a learning system and a tool that can help negotiators prepare for a particular real-world situation. The way it works is that the negotiator, let's say the planner, answers questions about his or her strengths and weaknesses and the objective of the negotiation. Questions like, What sort of concessions are expected of you? Will you share information? and Will you use threats? allow the program to assess the planner's attitude toward a given negotiation.
The negotiator/planner then profiles the person, let's say the hotelier, and the issues on the other side of the table. When completed, Negotiator Pro steps in with an assessment of how the planner and hotelier are likely to interact and some strategies for helping reach an agreement.
Even if you don't know what you're up against, the software also has a template of important negotiation-related questions to help the negotiator prepare thoroughly for the meeting. The software claims a library with summaries of more than 50 books and 150 articles on negotiation.
While the software has been around since 1990, the latest versions (4.73 for Windows, 4.0 for Mac, 3.0 for DOS) have expanded greatly the product's background information regarding gender and cultural issues, with 26 cultures now documented. A version customized for meeting planners is due out in the first quarter of 1997. For more information, contact Negotiator Pro Company in Brookline, MA; (800) 448-3308; www.getnet.com/mba/npro. www.americanexpress.com/travel/
For most busy travelers, a reliable travel agent is still the best way to find a seat in the sky. But for die hard do-it-yourselfers-or anyone stuck with an airline schedule question after business hours-the American Express Web site is an excellent source of information.
While nearly every airline now has a Web address where you can find flight schedules and fares, the flight information applies to only one airline. That doesn't do you much good if you want to find the lowest fare and the most convenient connections on routes served by a number of competing carriers.
At the American Express site, on the other hand, you can make a real-time connection to the Apollo airline reservation system. Availability and pricing in various fare categories are displayed for all the airlines that serve the route. You can also make and confirm a reservation-either by putting your credit card number into cyberspace (the site says it "currently allows secure payment on-line" with two major browsers, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Explorer) or by having a customer service rep call you for the credit card number. Tickets are sent via FedEx.
If you want to check it out, be prepared to spend some time reading the directions. This isn't as click-and-go as some sites. It takes 30 minutes or more to register and read the primers. Travelers will find it both an extraordinarily useful source of information as well as a lesson in travel agent appreciation.