Haggling isn’t widely practiced in the United States.Sure, sometimes you haggle at the car dealer or maybe with some local craftsperson at the craft fair, but it’s not a big part of our culture. Most people are too embarrassed or unsure to even try it. However, many more places than you might think are receptive to haggling and it can be a great way to save some money.
I learned this lesson when I had to have some expensive dental work done that wasn’t going to be covered by insurance. The dentist quoted me a price that was far more than I wanted to lay out at one time. So I screwed up my courage and asked for a a discount. At first he said no, but then I said that I would go get a second opinion in a city that I knew was likely to be less costly. Suddenly the dentist, when faced with the loss of all money, was more willing to negotiate. We talked for a while and came to an agreement where, if I would pay cash, he would reduce the cost by forty percent and spread the work out over several visits so that I wouldn’t have to shell out a ton of money at one time. The deal was great for me and I suspect he still made a decent profit.
Since then, I’ve been more willing to haggle if the chance arises. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it never hurts to ask. There is an art to it, though, and some things you can do to improve your chances. Here’s a primer if you want to try haggling.
Shut up: Many people feel compelled to fill every moment with talk. When you’re haggling, though, it can work in your favor to just shut up. Ask for what you want and then let the other person think it over and respond. The more you talk, the more unsure you seem and the more likely you are to reveal something (like desperation or desire) that the seller can use to jack the price higher. Be quiet and see what’s offered before you speak again.
Be willing to walk away: This is crucial. If you want the item so badly that you’ll buy it regardless, the seller has no reason to work with you. You have to be willing to walk and either do without or buy it elsewhere.
Don’t worry about what others think: Many people think haggling is embarrassing. Get over it. There’s nothing wrong in asking for a better price and unless you make a fool of yourself in anger, nothing to be ashamed of. Who cares what everyone else thinks?
Be armed with prices from competitors: It helps if you can tell the seller that so-and-so up the street has the exact same item for ten dollars less. This makes them more inclined to at least match if not beat that price. Also make certain that the items are identical. If they’re not, your seller can refuse to deal on the grounds that the item at the other place isn’t exactly the same.
Aim for a fair deal for both of you: You want a great price, but the best deals are those that result in a great price for you and a profit for the seller. If you’re trying to cheat the seller out of his profit, he has no reason to work with you. Aim for fairness so that you both get what you want.
Know where you will likely have the best success: Many chain stores do not have the authority to change prices unless the item is damaged or defective in some way. Prices are set at the corporate office and that’s that. You’re likely wasting your time to try and haggle at the big box stores, unless you’re aiming for a price reduction on a floor model or ding and dent item. Locally owned stores and services are likely to be more receptive to haggling since they set their own prices and rules.
Know your buy price: Go into the haggle knowing the price that will get you to buy and then buy the item if the seller matches it. You’ll only waste time and anger the seller if you keep trying to lower the price beyond a comfortable point. Know what would make a great deal for you and what would be a so-so deal that you would still buy. Aim for the great deal but if you’re offered the so-so deal, take it.
Cash might get you a better deal: Businesses like cash. There are no transaction fees and no chances of bounced checks. As a result, you can sometimes score better prices if you’re offering cash on the spot.
If the price is fixed, haggle for extras: If the seller won’t budge on the price, see if you can get some extras thrown in for free like an accessories package or upgrade. These can be worthwhile if they are things you need or want in addition to the base product.
Don’t be a jerk: Whatever you do, don’t get angry, yell at anyone, call anyone names, or try to intimidate a seller. Not only do you look like an idiot, you’ll only anger your seller and cut off any chance of them working with you. You’ll be lucky if they don’t call the cops on you. Be polite and kind. Even if the seller won’t work with you, thank them for their time and leave quietly.
Haggling isn’t illegal or even embarrassing if done politely and well. You might not always succeed, but the times that you are successful can save you some serious money.