leave money on the table

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leave money on the table

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Feb 04, 2014 7:04 am

<2014 “Drivers are likely to see more money on the table as automakers fight for sales and market share.”—The Week, 24 January, page 32>
So, what is it that drivers are actually seeing when they ‘see more money on the table’?

From the above quote I surmise: 1) ‘more money on the table’ is something good for drivers but bad for automakers. 2) It is the automakers who are putting more money on the table for the drivers, in order to close the deal. 3) But, they are not literally putting money there. What they must be doing is settling for a lower selling price by giving the drivers price reductions (discounts) – figurative ‘money’ left on a figurative ‘negotiating table.’ Thus:

See more money on the table = Discounts offered by sellers to buyers during negotiations.

Sounds reasonable to me and I figured that a search would probably show the phrase to be an idiom or a variation on one. Looking through my own library I found nothing, which tells me that the expression had probably not risen to the level of an idiom. However, with some Googling, I came up with the following:

1) MONEY ON THE TABLE: Informal; a deal less advantageous than desired. For example, if an acquisition is made at a price different from what one party wants, that party is said to leave money on the table. (TheFreeDictionary.com from Farlex Financial Dictionary)

2) LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE: An idiom which means not getting as much money as one could. Used in reference to negotiations in finance, buying and selling . . . [The ‘table’ in this expression comes from poker: When you don't play intelligently (call a bluff, etc.), you're leaving your money on the poker table.] <If you're going to college and you don't apply for any grants or scholarships, you're probably leaving money on the table.> < If you just blindly accept whatever they decide to offer, you're definitely leaving money on the table.> (PhraseMix.com)

3) LEAVE (SOMETHING) ON THE TABLE verbal phrase: To refrain from taking the utmost advantage of something; to not address every aspect of a situation; in the form LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE, to negotiate a deal that is less financially beneficial than is expected or possible. (Double-Tongued Dictionary by noted lexicographer Grant Barrett)

So, looks to me as though the phrase see more money on the table, as used in my above quote, owes its existence to, and is a variation on, the idiom leave money on the table: Drivers are likely to see more money on the table because automakers will be leaving/putting more money on the table in the form of discounts, an outcome that is less financially beneficial than automakers had expected.

The following quotes for leave money on the table are from archived sources:
<1960 “His ability to make a profit on a job even after leaving ‘money on the table’ demonstrates his perspicacity, and knowledge of this business.”— Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 2, June, pages 136-137>

<1973 “This certainly suggests that there is a tendency for the firm winning to ‘leave money on the table’, i.e. fail to gain the level of profit possible, and to be the one with the lowest cost estimate.”—Operational Research Quarterly (1970-1977), Vol. 24, No. 2, June, page 186>

<1989 “Many foundries set prices by marking up costs, which virtually guarantees trouble. If your costs are higher than your competitor's, you price yourself out of the work. If your costs are lower, you leave money on the table.”—Modern Casting, 1 December>

<1995 “‘If I have to leave money on the table, I'd rather do that than have shareholders leave the fund,’ he said last week.”—Boston Globe (Massachusetts), 22 January>

<2000 “While there's little question that bigger companies routinely get better deals on network equipment and services, experts say companies of all sizes leave money on the table because they don't understand the dynamics of the negotiating process.”—Network World, 21 February>

<2003 “Pricing for electronic information is a minefield of strong and often disparate views. Customers don't want to be overcharged, and suppliers don't want to leave money on the table. Neither side wants to feel that they're being ripped off.”—Information Today, 1 January>

<2006 “Set the price too high and you won't attract buyers; set it too low and you leave money on the table.”—Washington Post (D.C.), 1 October>

<2009 “But no retailer wants to leave money on the table by being out of a popular item -- as has happened with some electronic book readers.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 13 December>

<2013 Did New York Times Leaves Money on the Table: The New York Times Co.’s purchase of the Boston Globe for more than $1 billion 20 years ago has turned out to be among the worst single newspaper acquisitions in history.”—Washington Post (D.C.), 6 November>

Ken – February 3, 2014
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