How To Haggle Without Being A Jerk
I think the last time I haggled was when I was in second grade. My neighborhood was having a community yard sale, and three doors down they were selling a righteous used hamster cage that I just had to have. (In an effort to convince my parents that I needed a hamster, of course.)
Anyway, the cage was something like $3, which I didn’t happen to have at the ripe old age of seven, and as I was keeping this a secret from my parents (Surprise! I bought a hamster cage … now you have to get me a hamster!), I couldn’t just ask them for the cash, now could I?
So I haggled. Maybe it was my powers of persuasion, maybe it was the pigtails — whatever the reason, I got that grumpy old neighbor down to something like $0.50, which I did have. This, I thought, was amazing. (The cage still had dried hamster pee in the corner from its previous inhabitant, by the way. This cage was not even at bargain at $0.50. It belonged in the trash.)
The point is — a haggler I have not been. In an effort to become more of a grown-up, though (and to not get duped into paying way more than is actually fair), I’ve recently become more interested in learning about the ins and outs of haggling. For instance — do you always have to be a jerk when it comes to haggling? How do you approach a haggle? Are there certain items that are more likely to be haggled down in price?
I did a bit of digging. Here are five helpful tips I found to get me started:
Do some research.
It’s much easier to haggle for a better price when you know what a store’s competitors are offering. Check out the local paper and online at places like checkbook.org to see what similar businesses are offering on the same products, and use those prices as a bargaining tool.
Know who to ask.
According to most of what I’ve read, prices on big-ticket items are usually negotiable. Not every person in a store is capable of offering deals, though. If you find someone who doesn’t seem like they’re going to budge, try saying something like: “It seems like you won’t be able to help me out with a deal here. Can you point me in the direction of someone above you who can?”
Practice makes perfect.
You’re not alone if you hate to haggle — most people feel uncomfortable with confrontation. (And let’s be honest — haggling is a form of confrontation.) You’ll never become more comfortable with the process until you start trying it. Remember that at the end of the day, most salespeople really want to make the sale, so it’s in their best interest to work with you. A little awkward silence seems like it goes a long way, too. Say something like, “I’m just not sure, the price seems a little high …” and let it dangle. See what they come back with.
Contain your excitement.
A few years ago a former boyfriend and I were heading off to view an apartment we were interested in. Before we met with the realtor he said to me, “Now don’t go getting all excited if you love it. We want to be able to negotiate.” Of course the second I walked in the door I couldn’t stop gushing. I loved the paint color, the layout of the kitchen, the tiny little nook that would be perfect for my work desk … essentially everything about the place I loved, loved, loved. But ex-boyfriend was right — I shouldn’t have done that. Your initial reaction to a product will immediately let a salesperson know how much you really want a product, and whether or not you’d be willing to buy it even without the haggle. Letting on how much you can’t live without a product puts all the power in the sellers hands.
Consider another deal.
If you seriously love that couch, but you just can’t seem to get the salesperson to come down any lower, consider whether something else would make it worth your while to purchase said couch at market rate. Perhaps they could throw in free delivery? A free slipcover? Removal of your old couch? At the end of the day, if you love something so much that you’re going to buy it even if you have to pay full price, it never hurts to ask for something else to make the deal a little sweeter on your end.
Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at wearywanderer.wordpress.com.