Haggling, also known as bargaining, is a form of negotiation two parties engage in when trying to come to an equitable agreement for the price of goods or services. In most parts of the world, haggling is a way of life. Unfortunately, it’s not as popular here in the United States as it is in other countries, but that’s quickly changing.
It may have taken us a bit longer to catch up to Europe and the rest of the world, but Americans are beginning to realize the advantages of negotiating for a lower price. Haggling is a skill that takes time to develop. Some might even consider it a form of art. However, once you have a firm grasp of how it works, you will recognize how rewarding and even enjoyable haggling for a lower price can be. Read on for tips on how to become an excellent negotiator and get the best deals on your purchases.
The Art of Negotiation: Tips for Scoring the Best Deals & Prices
1. Know What You Want
Going into any negotiation properly armed with the information you need to make educated decisions is always the best way to ensure you get the best deal. Find out exactly what you want to buy before you head out to the shops. Know the brand, the model, and any color or size specifics before you leave home.
Not only will your knowledge of the item impress the salesperson, but it will also help in the negotiation process. For instance, it may force them to set a lower opening price than they usually would. If you seem knowledgeable about the item and its value, they won’t want to scare you off with an unreasonable opening demand.
2. Know the Retail Value of the Item
Speaking of value, before you walk into the store, it is imperative that you know the retail value of the item you want. Do a quick online search to determine a narrow but reasonable price range for the item. Check it with several online retailers, and read the comments of the people who have already purchased it. This can be very important in ascertaining the value of the item, not just the price. If possible, check the price on the manufacturer’s website, as well.
Knowing the value of an item in advance will give you a knowledgeable foundation for your negotiation strategy. It will also help you avoid the embarrassment of haggling for a price that’s too low. Before you make a reduced-price offer, think carefully. Asking for a reduction of 20% to 30% is typically considered reasonable haggling. However, asking for a 50% to 60% discount will likely not be well-received.
3. Know the Best Time to Haggle
Shopkeepers are usually most open to negotiating when the store is not busy. If there are several customers requiring attention, they may not have the time or the desire to begin a long, drawn-out session of bargaining. The end of the day is usually a good time – it’s not as busy, and the shopkeeper may want to move some product, especially perishable items, before closing up.
You can also get some wonderful deals by bargaining at different times of the year. For example, it’s easy to secure good deals on Christmas decorations after New Year’s Day. Also, it’s much easier to buy a new winter coat at bargain basement prices in the spring than in the fall or winter.
4. Bring a Friend
For some reason, salespeople seem to prefer haggling one-on-one. When you bring a friend along, it seems to make them nervous. Perhaps they feel outnumbered. Or maybe they think that your friend will interject at the precise moment they are about to close the deal.
In any case, having a friend tag along can work in your favor. It will motivate the salesperson to close the deal as soon as possible. The salesperson may even opt to leave some profit on the table and close the deal quickly rather than risk having tagalong friends mess up the sale.
If you’re alone, another trick that works similarly is calling a friend on your cell phone for advice while you are in the store. Many times, the salesperson would rather come down slightly in price than risk losing the sale.
5. Shop Around
Before you walk into the shop you have targeted to make your purchase, visit similar stores in the same area. Shop around and check out the prices of the item you want. Ask as many questions about it as possible.
Hopefully, you can find a chatty salesperson that will give you vital information – perhaps the item hasn’t been selling well lately, or there’s a glut of inventory on the product. Any amount of information, no matter how insignificant it may seem, can help in your negotiations.
6. Use Your Smartphone
For those times when you come across an item you had no idea you wanted until you saw it, you’ll want to have your smartphone handy. Your phone is a reliable tool that will help you research on the fly.
It is also useful for verifying claims the seller is making about the item in question. For example, if the seller states that you can’t find the item any cheaper than the price they are quoting, you can settle the argument on the spot using your smartphone.
7. Dress Appropriately
Everyone wants to look good, but if you go looking for deals dressed like money is no object, the salesperson may be less inclined to lower the price. You might think they won’t notice, but experienced salespeople are trained to be extremely observant. It’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion.
After all, why should they give you a discount if you look like you’re rich enough to pay full price? If you dress down while still appearing put together, this will leave them guessing as to what you can and can’t afford. Remember, dressing down is not exclusive to clothes only. Expensive sunglasses, jewelry, handbags, shoes, and a multitude of other things can tip off an observant salesperson.
8. Be Pleasant and Relaxed
If you are nervous when you walk into a store, the salesperson will sense this instantly. You need to take things nice and easy, as though you’re out for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon. Doing so will set the tone for your bargaining session and will be a clear signal to the shopkeeper that you are confident and in control.
Also, it’s always a good idea to be polite to the store clerks. It’s natural to harden yourself against someone you believe is going to be hostile with you, and you want to avoid giving this impression. Be pleasant, and the salesperson will be more inclined to accommodate you.
9. Don’t Rush
It’s not a good idea to rush right over to the item you want. It will tip off the salesperson, showing them how badly you want it. This is a vital piece of information you don’t want the salesperson to have. It will set the tone of the negotiation and give the advantage to the salesperson before you even begin.
If you look over several different products first, then calmly come across the item you truly want, you won’t be giving anything away. As a result, the salesperson will not have a clue as to how badly you want it.
10. Don’t Be Arrogant or Condescending
In a lively session of haggling, tempers can sometimes flare. Always keep your cool, and don’t be offendable. Additionally, watch what you say so you don’t offend the salesperson.
Salespeople consider themselves to be experts on the items they are selling. Bearing that in mind, it’s always good to show your knowledge on a particular item. This will help in getting a better opening price at the start. However, talking down to the salesperson is not a smart way to get a lower price. If you’re not careful, it could have the opposite effect.
What many people don’t realize is that some salespeople, especially the experienced ones, have made up their minds about you within 30 seconds of beginning a dialogue. Depending on their first impression of you, they may refuse to haggle at all, standing firm on the price.
Before you begin bargaining, they may decide that you’re someone who is not serious about purchasing an item unless it’s at a rock-bottom price. Ordinarily, people like this are seen as bad customers who are not worth a salesperson’s time or effort.
11. Don’t Take Things Personally
Just as the first impression you make on the shopkeeper is essential, the impression they make on you is equally important. Haggling can sometimes get a little intense, and just as the shopkeeper does not want to deal with someone unpleasant, you shouldn’t have to either.
Every once in a while, things are bound to get a little heated. This is always the case when you are walking a fine line between managing human emotions and seeking the best price. No matter what happens or what is said, don’t take things personally. If haggling for a particular item ever starts to become aggressive or extreme, walk away.
12. Understand the Salesperson
The best way to have a successful outcome when haggling is to understand the person you’re dealing with. Once you have a firm grasp of the salesperson and what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge in several ways. This information can potentially help you judge how open they are to lowering the price, and to what degree they will reduce it.
But how can you understand the reactions of a person you have never met before? Watch how they behave at their job. As you are browsing through the store, observe the salespeople. Scrutinize how they react with other customers. For instance, if another customer is already bargaining with them, that’s a golden opportunity to gain some insight.
13. Consider the Venue
Before you can begin to negotiate for a lower price, you must first determine if the establishment you are in is an appropriate venue for that kind of activity. For instance, in most cases, the prices in large department stores are fixed, whereas smaller stores and family-owned shops are more conducive to haggling. Whenever you are dealing with the owner of a smaller store, there is a good chance they will be open to reducing the price rather than losing a sale.
Sometimes even the midsize and larger stores can be persuaded into giving you a better deal – large furniture stores and car dealerships are two examples. When a salesperson is working on commission, they usually have a tiny amount of leeway in the final price. You will not be able to haggle with them as effectively as you would be able to with the small store owner, but a deal may still be possible.
The services sector operates the same way. For example, you will not be able to haggle with the man from the cable company, but a self-employed handyman or contractor is usually open to bargaining. If an independent contractor asks for an unreasonable price to cut down the dead tree in your backyard, that’s an excellent opportunity to rely on your haggling skills.
14. Negotiate With the Right Person
Not all salespeople are authorized to lower the price on an item. The person you want to deal with is someone who has a certain amount of authority. Managers, supervisors, or senior sales personnel usually have the power to offer you a deal, so don’t waste your time trying to haggle with a sales clerk.
In smaller stores and shops, you’ll want to speak directly with the owner or manager. These are the people that have the power to give you the best possible deal. They may even let the item go at a shockingly low price if it’s been sitting on the shelf too long. An ordinary salesperson usually does not have this kind of power.
15. Make Them Set the Price
When you make contact with a salesperson, one of the first things they will try to gauge is how much you are willing to spend on the item in question. They may even try to get you to start with an opening bid – this is unwise and should be avoided at all costs. Always make them set the opening price. This way, you will never overbid, paying more than you needed to.
One of the biggest mistakes novices make when trying to bargain for an item is telling the salesperson their budget. You may think you’re playing it smart by doing this because they wouldn’t dare go over this price. On the contrary, what you’re doing is telling the salesperson how much you’re going to spend, which is vital information you should not be giving away.
16. Set a Budget and Stick to It
Before you make contact with a salesperson, set a limit in your mind and stick to it. And when you begin negotiating, always play it close to the vest, giving nothing away.
Setting a limit is different for everybody. However, once you begin the negotiation, you will likely have to make a snap judgment to decide what price you are willing to pay for the item. This can be an emotional decision. Setting a budget in advance will help you keep a level head during the negotiation and walk away with a successful outcome.
It is worth noting that if you are ever bargaining and are very close to closing the deal, offering to pay cash can tip the negotiations in your favor. This is especially true if you find yourself haggling in bazaars, kiosks, and flea markets in foreign countries. Before you do this, find out the local currency preferences. For instance, the USD is more sought after in some places than other forms of currency.
17. Show Disinterest
Never show the salesperson how much you want the item. This can be difficult, especially if you really want it. However, a bit of acting is always required in a successful bargaining session. Remember, you’re up against someone that does this day in and day out. If you show the slightest bit of enthusiasm for the purchase you are about to make, the salesperson will pick up on this. You would be giving them the upper hand, and any chance of a good deal on your part would be ruined.
The best way to avoid this is to approach the salesperson with a flat, unenthusiastic demeanor. Don’t let any facial expressions give away your true feelings or intentions on the purchase. Having a poker face will serve you well here. If you want to get a good deal, remember to hide your emotions. In doing so, you’ll make them wonder where you stand, thereby keeping the playing field level.
18. Be Assertive
When you engage in haggling, be assertive without being rude or aggressive. Maintaining eye contact with the shopkeeper is important. This will prove that you are sure of yourself, you are taking charge of the sale, and you will not back down. When bargaining, it is an absolute must for you to negotiate from a position of authority. Remember, without your approval the deal cannot go through. The shopkeeper knows this.
Regardless, they will still try to control the transaction and drive the bargaining in the direction that suits them. Stand firm, be polite yet assertive and don’t be afraid to show that you’ve done your homework. By demonstrating your knowledge, they will be less inclined to make exaggerated claims about the item.
19. Be Willing to Walk Away
You have a set price in your head, but you’re not there yet. The salesperson is playing hardball and does not wish to go down a penny further. When you reach an impasse in the negotiation, it is time to consider walking away. Unless it is a truly unique item, most likely you will find it or something similar elsewhere.
Thank the salesperson, walk away, and don’t look back. Many times, they will stop you by offering an even lower price rather than risk losing the deal. If not, perhaps in a day or two when you are in the same store again, they will be more open to cutting the price down further.
However, if you use this tactic, don’t make a beeline for the same item. Instead, casually browse for something else. If you show the slightest bit of interest in the original item the salesperson will know you want it very badly. Wait for them to approach you and offer you a better deal. Show your indifference, but ask if they are willing to come down in price any more than they did the other day. If not, walk away and forget about it.
20. Show Hesitation
People who know what they want do not hesitate. If you hesitate while bargaining for an item, it is a signal that you are not sure if closing the deal is a good idea. Perhaps the price is too high, or maybe you’re not certain you want the item. This is a clear sign to the shopkeeper that their work is cut out for them.
They need to engage you and have you committed to a price, closing the deal as quickly as possible before you walk away. This is a wonderful opportunity. By hesitating, you can convince the shopkeeper that the sale is about to be lost. At this point, haggling on their part goes out the window in favor of cutting it down to the absolute lowest price.
21. Listen, Don’t Talk
Silence can be a powerful tool when haggling. When the salesperson goes into a well-practiced sales pitch on the item, staying quiet is a good way to shake their confidence. When you don’t talk, they have no idea what’s going through your mind. They are not sure what price to open with, they don’t know how serious you are about purchasing the item, and they certainly don’t know if you’ve been shopping around for the same item in other stores.
In other words, they are going into the negotiation without any information that can give them an edge. Salespeople don’t like this kind of situation. At a minimum, it will force them to consider the initial bargaining price carefully. More often than not, they will set the initial price low to avoid scaring you off.
22. Ask for a Deal on Multiple Items
If you have not yet reached a deal with the store owner and are still haggling for a lower price, you may achieve the price you want by bundling one or more items. This works by agreeing to pay the price the store owner wants, or perhaps even a little more, but only if they throw some other item into the deal.
If this is your intention, you need to browse through the store and identify other items you may want before engaging the store owner. Use the calculator app on your cell phone to come up with some figures that make sense. There’s no point in getting a discount on item A if you are going to overpay for item B. Asking for a deal on multiple items only works if you are prepared, know exactly what you want and how much you are willing to pay for each item.
23. Point Out Defects in the Item
It’s the shopkeeper’s job to talk up the item you are haggling over and sell it for the highest price possible. Similarly, it’s your job to make it seem that the value of the item is not worth the price. This can be tricky. When trying to talk down the price, you are walking a fine line between being discerning and being insulting.
Pointing out imperfections in an item can bring down the price, but you have to be careful how you do it. Proceed with diplomacy in mind. Politely bring the imperfection to the attention of the shopkeeper without giving the impression that you think the merchandise is junk. However, no matter how inoffensive you think you may have been, sometimes the shopkeeper will still take such comments personally.
Be warned that this could be a ploy on their part. By pretending to be insulted, the shopkeeper may be trying to put you on the defensive so you will be much easier to deal with. In this case, offer a token apology, and then continue bargaining as hard as you did before.
If you have never had any exposure to haggling before, it may seem like a strange way to conduct business. Walking into a store, picking up an item, and paying for it without question has been the norm for westerners for as long as we can remember. However, throughout the rest of the world, haggling is a way of life. Not only is it prevalent in most countries, but it is also the way prices for goods and services have been agreed upon since time immemorial.
At times, this type of bargaining can seem like a confrontation between two opponents. While this is sometimes the case, haggling for a lower price can also be incredibly enjoyable and vastly rewarding. Just remember to stay detached and unemotional. And more than anything else, try to have fun.
Have you ever haggled for a lower price on any goods or services? If not, is it something you have considered doing?