Do You Haggle? How To Negotiate A Price

by Jacques Sprenger on 2009-04-1734

Here’s one other way to get a bargain.

After living in Mexico for more than a decade, I suddenly realized that we Americans don’t have it in our blood: I’m referring to the ability to haggle. It doesn’t seem to be an innate skill that we possess, most likely because the practice is not built into our culture. I observed my compatriots who came to visit Mexico as tourists, paying every penny that a Mexican provider would request. My Mexican friends would then laugh their heads off watching how items that would cost a mere 20 pesos in real life would magically increase in value to 50 pesos (from $2 to $5). The poor Gringo would simply be taken for a ride.

Do You Haggle? I Do

The ability to haggle — which I honed abroad — actually serves me well now that we’re back in the States; from buying a house, a new car, or even a new computer, there are all kinds of deals that the salesperson won’t tell you about unless you insist on finding out more. If you want to practice your negotiating skills at little cost, go to your local flea market; they have all kinds of goodies that are typically priced higher in regular shops. My wife has picked up some high end pans (stainless steel) for half the regular price, but after 20 minutes of haggling, of course.

haggle, haggling
Different currency, but you get the idea. Credit: Daily Mail.

Haggling For A Discount

You may get some weird looks if you try to haggle in your local American stores. Most of the time, the salesperson will tell you that they don’t have the authority. That’s when you tell the hapless clerk that you mean business: “well, get the manager chop chop!” (an old expression I dug from my tenebrous past). Okay, so I don’t really say that, but I fill my voice with authority. That always works.

Allow me to share a story of my recent bargaining power: Home Depot is not a place you would consider as a good place to haggle. Some months ago (it was November 10), they had a big sign at the entrance that said: “10% discount for all veterans till November 11.” That’s all, nothing about carrying proof of any kind. Well, I am a vet from the Cold War, so, using my most official voice, I said to the cashier: “I am a vet, apply that discount, please.” Naturally, he replied that he needed some kind of proof. Since vets don’t have military ID’s, I pointed the fact to him and gave my military ID number, my unit, 2nd Armored Division and the years I was in. After several attempts to dissuade me, he finally gave me my discount. In this case, both persistence and persuasion worked!

how to negotiate, price haggle
Image Credit: Daily Mail.

How To Negotiate A Price: 5 Tips On Haggling

1. Never ever let the salesperson take over your shopping experience when you’re buying expensive items, or when the store offers a certain discount. You must control the bargaining process. So when you’re looking to buy something, have a good idea about what it is you want.

2. Know that the posted price for a big ticket item can be brought down — whether it’s a car, a big TV, a computer, furniture, or a house that you intend to purchase. This is especially the case now, in these difficult times.

3. Never ever let them know that you really want something. Give the impression that you’re just browsing, looking, and not really interested in buying anything.

4. Force yourself to leave if the merchant doesn’t give you a lower price. As you walk toward the doors, 9 times out of 10 they will chase you down to offer a better price.

5. Remember, you are the client, you have money in your checking account which the seller desperately wants. If they work on a commission (most of the time they are), they would rather sacrifice half of their take to make the sale. You have the power.

Some people have told me that they simply don’t have the courage to haggle, and that they feel embarrassed to try it. Embarrassed, shmarrassed! It’s your hard earned money; why should you give it away? It’s a win-win situation: they make a sale and you get a discount. Nothing wrong with that.

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Manshu April 17, 2009 at 4:34 pm

True story: I asked a friend of mine to find out what a cellphone holder costs in Delhi’s Palika Market. That market is famous for haggling and bargaining.
So he went there and asked a guy how much was it…the guy replied 120 bucks. He said — that’s too expensive, and so the guy says I’ll give it to you in 100. Still too expensive — says my friend. So, the guy says — Ok, only for you: 80 bucks. My friend started walking away from the store and this guy jumps over the counter and says — Ok, take it in 60, then 40 and then 20!!!
My friend didn’t take it even at 20, and the shopkeeper hurled abuses at him like nobody’s business! I have tried to send other friends on similar errands, but so far, I haven’t been lucky again.

Silicon Valley Blogger April 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Great story Manshu!

Personally, I’m very good at it :) . I got ourselves a bargain on our family van, when I said I’d pay in cash and “take it or leave it”. It was some advice I picked up from a Kiplinger’s car purchase guide, I believe, where they published a table and showed how much I could reasonably get for the car.

When the car salesman tried to sit me down to discuss options, I refused and threatened to leave. I knew what I wanted, and there was another dealer practically next door that I could turn to if need be. The guy caved and we all got what we wanted. Honestly? It’s easy. All you have to do is bluff. I suppose poker players should be excellent at this sort of thing.

Oh, and it helps that I got some of my grandma’s genes for haggling. She was an expert. :)

DR April 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I use to hate to haggle, which is ironic since I’m a lawyer and negotiate all the time on behalf of my clients. But as I got older, I started bargaining a lot more. In fact, I negotiate just about everything now. A few weeks ago it saved me $200 on some work I had done around the house. Not bad for about 5 minutes of negotiating.

Steven@hundredgoals.com April 18, 2009 at 12:11 am

When I was considering the purchase of a new bicycle, I asked the salesperson if they would be able to cut us a deal on a car rack for the bikes. After a brief conversation with his manager he said that he could offer us a $20 discount on a new rack. Not a huge win, but better than nothing, and all I had to do was ask. Had I not spoke up, no discount would have been given. Moral of the story, always ask.

Dorian Wales @ The Personal Financier April 18, 2009 at 5:18 am

Good post with great tips. As sad as it may sound our human weaknesses are greatly taken advantage of by sales persons. Don’t be concerned about what he or she may think or how it looks. They are actually using your sense of propriety against you.

ephemeral mists April 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Thanks for the tips. Having grown up the states, I have to admit I’m horrible at haggling. My first experience in a culture that is was a norm, was in Jamaica and I was abysmal at it! It felt uncomfortable to me.

Mikael @ Retire Rich April 20, 2009 at 12:28 am

I only do it on items where I know they have a huge profit such as clothes etc. or when I buy expensive stuff such as houses or apartments. The best way to find the good deals is when you really don’t care whether you get the item or not. Somehow they can feel that and will give you a much lower price.

/Mikael

Anne@Besttermlife April 20, 2009 at 1:13 am

It is also my habit to bargain/haggle. As much as possible, up to the lowest price. But if I see the vendor too frail to make a bargain, I’d rather give him more than the cost -> as my way of gift giving. :)

Jacques Sprenger April 20, 2009 at 5:52 am

Wow, Anne; the vendor is too frail? Please explain. It could be a trick to charge you more and is the additional money for him (her) or for an already rich fat cat? If you want to give, there are a lot of valid charities. You are too good a person, Anne and some people will take advantage of that.

Mikael has a good point; if they feel that you don’t really care, they will go down as Manshu stated. Epheremal says that it feels uncomfortable; too uncomfortable to save $200? Haggling is in our genes since the beginning of humanity. So find those genes and reignite them; it will serve you well.

By the way, thanks for the wonderful comments

Kristy @ Master Your Card April 20, 2009 at 9:52 am

Admittedly, I’m terrible at haggling…well, more accurately, I’m lazy. I don’t take the time to research and when I’m looking for what I want, I don’t want to drive all over town. I get taken on apartment complexes for this very reason. Now, my dad, he’s a haggler. I need to take some lessons from him because I know I could be saving money on some things!

Tracie April 21, 2009 at 8:49 am

I am learning this process more everyday. Money is tight and we have to do all we can to save. Good tips.

Fabulously Broke April 21, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I do this all the time. Those tips are exactly what I do.

I always walk away. It’s my money they want, and I want my money too! :P

Matthew April 23, 2009 at 8:53 am

You can’t always haggle consumer electronics; it all depends on the store you’re at. I used to sell plasma TVs and stereos and what-have-you, and all the prices were set by the head office. I don’t know how many times people tried to talk down the price, and I had to respond with, “Sorry, I couldn’t change the price even if I wanted to.” Insisting on haggling doesn’t help; all it does is piss off the salesperson.

Holyyakker April 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

I was about to ask something along the lines of what Matthew is talking about. I’m preparing to drop around $500 on an Xbox 360 and Rock Band II. I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea of trying to Haggle, but I’m curious how much leeway places like Best Buy and Target have to give me what I want.

Jonathan Davis April 23, 2009 at 10:17 am

About a year ago I realized the importance of haggling. I slowly worked up to feeling comfortable with the process. It has really saved me alot of money.

In August of last year, I was looking for a new truck. I was specifically looking for a used Nissan Frontier, since as a rule I don’t buy new. When a salesperson that I didn’t really like began talking about the incentives that Nissan was offering, I decided to play a game, and see how far I could push things. He did a little research and found that they had the same trunk I was currently looking at brand new at another dealership. He gave me a great price, and I asked him to send me an email with the total price for the vehicle. I had no real intention of buying a new truck, because I don’t buy new vehicles.

A short time later another dealer, who I had sent an email to about another truck, called me and again brought up the incentives. I casually mentioned the previous conversation, and price. He ran a search, and found the same truck, and offered an even lower price.

After about 5 calls to each salesman, and finally calling my local dealer, I bought a NEW truck for the same that I had planned to spend on a used truck. I paid 14,300 off the lot, for a truck which had an MSRP of over 23,000.

I learned a few lessons from this:
-Always have walk-away power
-Competition is your friend
-Make it a game whenever you can
-Most importantly! When making large purchases do as much dealing over the phone as possible. Because I knew exactly what I wanted, I was able to make everything happen over the phone. That kept them from being able to play the many games which they like to play on a car lot. It kept the control in my hands at all times. I decided if I wanted to answer the phone, and when I wanted to call them back. The communication happened on my terms.

One final note. When I went in to the dealership to complete the paperwork, the guy behind the desk spent 30 minutes trying to find out how I got the deal that I did. He was honestly dumbfounded and I was happy I had my emails, because there was no denying what the price was.

Narsil April 23, 2009 at 12:34 pm

A word of advice: don’t try this at Target. I was worker drone there for a year and people would come in and try and get deals on prices set by the main office in Minneapolis. There is absolutely zero anyone can do to lower the price, and furthermore no employees or managers would even want to because there’s no commission. All it does is make you look obnoxious and waste a whole lot of everyone’s time.

This is just Target, though. Your mileage may vary somewhere else.

Spinningmind April 23, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I am both an occasional haggler and a retail sales person. My two cents are:
1. Know when haggling is possible/appropriate.
For example at a small books, comics, and art store like the one where I work there are some times and items where it is perfectly fine and even expected for a customer to haggle. If you want to pick up half a dozen high priced vintage comics I fully expect you to see if you can get a better deal and if you are willing to wait patiently for the manager or owner to finish the sale or phone call they are in the middle of we can hopefully all walk away happy. On the other hand if you pick up a single new book off the shelf and ask for a deal you are going to get a very definitive “I’m sorry, there’s no discounts on new material unless you are a library buyer and you want to purchase large quantities. All the discounted books are marked with sticker.”
2. Don’t be a dick.
Be firm if you need to be but stay polite. Don’t tell me outright lies. Remember that I’m a person.

Byron April 24, 2009 at 11:00 am

Definitely don’t try to haggle with big corporate structures. Target, Home Depot, Wal-Mart are all not going to budge one bit. Try haggling at local businesses; everyone has to keep their profit margin acceptable but most small/local business owners are willing to cut deals to keep a loyal clientele.

-Byron

G-Dog April 24, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I have to take issue with this article. I’ve worked in several retail stores in my day, selling high price electronics. Haggling would lead to instant termination, no exceptions. It was considered theft.

Meaghan April 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Great advice for saving money in these tough times!

Fortune Hunter April 24, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Growing up and in my early 20′s I never haggled, I guess I was embarrassed. Then I married a Greek girl whose father was from the old country. I don’t think my father-in-law has paid for retail for anything in his entire 84 years! He bargain shops and haggles for everything. I learned well from him and now I haggle a lot. It is actually pretty easy once you practice and start realizing that you have to be prepared to walk away no matter what. I am not talking about bluffing I am talking about actually walking if you can’t get it.

I have to prepare myself mentally ahead of time to be prepared to do this, which also gets easier with practice and a little pre-planning for purchases doesn’t hurt either :)

Anne@Besttermlife April 27, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Hi Jacques, yes, it’s my “weakness” not to bargain nor lower the price if the vendor is frail, very old and sickly. I have that “instinct” to know if that vendor is just doing a “drama” or something like that (I will not even go near her wares if I sense something “fishy”). Speaking of charities, I have this notion to give the help instead to the concern individual. (Am I too good? yes I am and this is my weakness – by the way, only for the “chosen few”.

Caitlin May 4, 2009 at 9:34 am

I have to agree with a lot of these comments. At a lot of retail stores these days, prices are set by the head office and not even the district manager has any power to change them. Haggling in those situations just makes you look incredibly rude, and doesn’t save you any money since no one can lower the price for you even if they wanted to. It’s true you’ll never know unless you try, but don’t be a dick about it.

That said, I do agree that there are still several places in the modern North American culture where haggling will get you a better deal. I wish I was better at it for these situations.

Ryan May 21, 2009 at 4:20 am

I disagree with several comments here. I have worked retail at Radio Shack and we were able to haggle in certain situations. I have also haggled at places like Best Buy and especially Kay Jewelers. I walked into Best Buy last November and dropped $2100, and I got a $1400 Plasma TV, a $280 TV wall mount, a $300 HD Tivo, a $400 Xbox 360 Elite, along with a couple hundred in accessories. Plus I got probably $120 in Christmas gifts for nieces and nephews. I also got the $250 4 year warranty on the TV and the $60 4 year replacement warranty on the Xbox.

I got $3000 worth of stuff, and I did it by walking in, finding a clerk and telling him I need this TV, and told him to grab the Xbox and HD Tivo while he was at it, and I’d be back with some other stuff. I got everything I needed and brought it up to the clerk who was at the desk in the AV section with the TV and stuff. I told him that I wanted it all for $2000 (I had a $2000 gift card), work it out and see how close we get. He got working on it, got a manager, and about an hour after I walked in the door, we were loading EVERYTHING I asked for into my truck.

As far as Kay Jewelers, I got my wife’s engagement ring ($1000), with an upgraded certified diamond ($2300), with wedding band ($600) and lifetime replacement warranties on both for $1750. I spent an hour and a half working that deal out, making sure to get the exact diamond I wanted, but it was well worth it.

ALWAYS TRY TO HAGGLE. Store managers have the ability to offer discounts even at Target, they can give you an “open box” discount, it doesn’t have to be a returned item. There are things they are authorized to do, every store has discounts in there computers for something or another.

Contractor NJ August 1, 2009 at 4:31 am

Great tips! We’ll see how well they work in Guatemala this coming week

Roll Off San Diego August 25, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I used to hate haggling, but after spending several months in Latin America, haggling has taken on a new light for me!

Negotiate September 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm

It is so funny how most Americans are afraid to negotiate. We have an unspoken stigma in the US, that you “should” be wealthy enough to not have to negotiate. Where as in other cultures the stigma is in not getting a good deal.

NetHaggler October 12, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Hey Friends,

Here is one new application “NetHaggler”.

NetHaggler Saves Money While Shopping… An innovative shopping service using consumer-friendly shopping concepts and a browser applet. Using the concept of Tag, Nag and Haggle, consumers can monitor for price drops, bargain for discounts, and join up for volume discounts.

To get started with the exciting new innovation, shoppers have to install a simple and secure bookmarklet on their browser.

NetHaggler supports several popular online merchants and will be adding more.

To learn more visit http://www.nethaggler.com.

Susan Jacobs January 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I love to negotiate! I use PriceQuest to negotiate prices for anything you can buy online. I got some great deals through them.

Gib May 6, 2011 at 5:20 am

This a really useful, simple and straightforward article, thanks Jacques for sharing your experience.
Like you, I also learn the skill of haggling abroad in the UK. I honestly thought you couldn’t do that in retail stores; I thought it was something reserved to flea and public markets.

It wasn’t easy to leave behind my shyness in order to haggle but you made two really good points: it’s your hard earned cash and you should NOT just give it away and also, it’s a win-win for both parties, so I would only add one third point: it doesn’t cost any money to haggle or ask for a better price and it definitely makes a difference in your wallet.

This isn’t about being cheap, it’s about buying smartly. When I haggled the first time and realized I could in fact get something for cheaper, then I knew that was the way for me — I almost refuse to pay the tag price now!

try it and good luck!
Gib

phil June 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I have haggling in my blood and I’m American — it can open you up to tons of money. I also have selling and business in my blood too. :)

Jerry Lapple September 2, 2011 at 5:47 am

Set it up for a final offer……..make it and SHUT UP!…….Usually the first one to speak LOSES.

kay October 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Funny how everybody is so quick to complain about how they don’t get paid nearly as much as they should and yet are always trying to cut every corner and get the best price on items.
I work in retail and every day have to argue with people who want to spend hours trying to talk down prices while other customers have to sit and wait.
Here is a fact: not EVERY place marks up their merchandise sky high. And salespeople have already HEARD how much ‘so and so’ has it for…..awesome. Go there and get it. Shop online and don’t use up employee’s time and effort.
I love helping people and learning products and showing people how to use things, but the people who come in, get rude and demand discounts ‘just because’ and throw fits really try my patience.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 10, 2011 at 12:30 am

I come from a family of “hagglers”. My grandmothers, in particular, were astute and experienced hagglers. But heck, it must be a cultural thing too!

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