How To Haggle

The pricetag is no longer the final word, stores are playing “let’s make a deal,” and haggling is in. Consumer Reports Todd Marks tells The Today Show the secrets to haggling success:
  • Be open and friendly in your discussion with the salesperson, ask for them to “work with you” on the price
  • Be discreet, don’t broadcast to other shoppers that you’re getting a deal
  • Escalate to a manager if the salesperson isn’t empowered to make a decision
  • Do your research so you know the fair price to ask for
  • Be creative, ask for free shipping
  • Offer to pay cash so they don’t have to pay a credit card transaction fee

Still sound hard to do? When Consumer Reports surveyed its readers, even if they were embarrassed by the process, they reported being successful more than half the time.

Check out some of our other posts on haggling for more tips on the art of the deal.

Comments

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  1. snoop-blog says:

    one overlooked place haggling can really save you some money is on rental moving trucks. uhaul, budget, etc. also occasionally rental car services as well.

  2. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Unleash the “haggling is for cheapskates/scumbags” hounds!

    Seriously, those of us who are intelligent enough to not pay full price are tired of those who think they have to.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I even haggle at the ten-minute oil change…”can you do it in 9 minutes?”

  4. humphrmi says:

    I wasn’t very good at haggling until I took a vacation to several countries on the Black Sea… that’s a real eye-opener, if you’re embarrassed about haggling. Haggling takes on an art form in Turkey, it’s more of a social event – sit down, here’s some tea, let’s chat about family. Oh yeah, how much do you want to pay for this? Because of the social aspect of haggling, it’s considered a minor insult to NOT haggle over price, like you don’t really want to know anything about the seller’s family. Americans are tolerated because of their propensity to spend but you really get a better experience when you play along.

  5. oneswellfoop says:

    Errrrr, as far as I know it’s a violation of the TOS between the business and CC company to charge one price for cash transaction and another for CC. I could be wrong, I’ve known a couple of businesses that listed diff prices on their shelves.

  6. humphrmi says:

    @oneswellfoop: It’s pretty hard to enforce. A business can charge whatever price they want. A customer saying “Gee, let me see how much CASH I have here in my pocket”, and a salesman saying “Gee, let me see if I can make that work for you” isn’t a violation of the TOS.

  7. ratnerstar says:

    @humphrmi: I lived in Morocco for some time and that’s certainly where I got all my (very limited) haggling skills. But you have to be careful in those sorts of environments — yes, haggling is very common, but it’s also played up for Americans and other rich tourists. Americans get a thrill out of the experience and walk away thinking they got a great deal because they took 200 dirham off the price. Of course, a local would have paid an order of magnitude less without haggling at all.

    My advice to people traveling is: don’t worry about sharpening your haggling skills, learn some of the damn language. I always got better deals once I spoke a little French and Arabic.

  8. BoC says:

  9. @doctor_cos: I got my oil changed at a wal-mart a while back, and the guys in the shop where having a fun day competing with each other over who could do oil changes faster. I don’t remember exactly how long it took, but it was dang fast.

  10. BoC says:

    This is how you haggle.

  11. RandoX says:

    @oneswellfoop: Lots of gas stations have different cash/credit prices. I know of a gun store that advertises a 3% cash discount.

    Entirely possible that it’s still a violation of the agreement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the item cheaper with cash.

  12. sam says:

    I like how the guy totally misunderstands what he says about delivery and starts talking about the shipping and logistics.

  13. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @oneswellfoop:

    Errrrr, as far as I know it’s a violation of the TOS between the business and CC company to charge one price for cash transaction and another for CC.

    Not at all. It’s only against the rules if they try to charge a premium over the regular price for a CC purchase. Offering a discount for cash purchases is just fine.

  14. kimsama says:

    My best haggling tips:

    1. Be shameless. If you’re embarrassed, you won’t do well. You have to be in it to win it and not care if you look a little dumb/cheap/greedy.

    2. Be persistent. If they say no to something, just repeat your request and how it’s important to you to get it, or ask for something else that they can do instead.

    3. Be creative. Maybe they can’t lower the price much, but they can give you something for free (accessories, gift cards, promo items, etc). Bring these options up if you’re not getting anywhere.

    #1 & #2 account for 90% of my successes in haggling. Having sales experience helps (because you will definitely have these 3 tips down to a science already!).

    Secret bonus tip #4, be attractive and charming ^_^.

  15. Note: I’m responding here to the person who will say haggling is “unfair”. Who says someone has to say it’s unfair before I can say it’s fair? I didn’t see it in Robert’s Rules of Order.

    @once-and-future-post: I see no reason why someone with tact and skill shouldn’t be able to get a better deal than a uncouth ass. None at all. I call it “the jackass surchage”.

  16. deadlizard says:

    They forgot the most important thing: if it all fails, bring William Shatner.

  17. snoop-blog says:

    i like to haggle with the street walkers. talk em down as low as i can go and then change my mind. i’m amazed at what $20 can buy you nowadays.

    ok but seriously, i have succesfully haggled at a radio shack, but they are all individually owned and operated.

  18. rickhamilton620 says:

    @deadlizard: LOL :)

    As for negotiating in general, I’ll probably give it a go next time I gotta buy something worth haggling over.

  19. redheadedstepchild says:

    When I worked upper-end retail, I’d often throw people out for haggling. The prices we set were fair, and often significantly lower than competition. It always pissed me off. I didn’t need that particular sale, people who haggled would be way more likely to need hand holding and huge amounts of after sale service.

    If you can bring something to the table, go ahead and haggle. If you are just a standard sale, I’m really not interested in listening. I can go sell to somebody else who doesn’t think they deserve a special deal.

  20. rmz says:

    Reposting from the other thread (sorry if there’s a double-post, this preview thing had me temporarily buggered):

    Know when and where to haggle.

    Haggling at an auto dealership or an appliance showroom? Sure.

    Haggling with a minimum-wage clerk at the video store? No.

  21. humphrmi says:

    @redheadedstepchild: Good thing you don’t work in upper-end retail, that sector is getting hammered by the current economic conditions. Given the increase in luxury cars in Wal-Mart parking lots and the empty upper-end retail stores, I bet you’d have a different attitude toward your customers today.

  22. ElizabethD says:

    @humphrmi:

    So true about retail trends. My teen daughter works at a Forever 21, and they are doing a BOOMING business… She has seen well-to-do locals popping in to buy accessories, little tops, sundresses.

  23. redheadedstepchild says:

    @humphrmi: Actually, the store is doing great. They’ve got a reputation for INSANELY great service, and reasonable prices. People would regularly drive hours to get there.

    People who think they are special would almost always cost us money. If we charged for customer f-up service calls, I’d probably be willing to put up with it. As it was, somebody who wanted a deal usual meant they would need more service later on.

    Seriously, any individual sale was not that important. I didn’t have the most sales, but I was the most profitable, and had more referral customers than most.

  24. bbagdan says:

    @redheadedstepchild:

    There are two telling words in your post: “worked” and “when”. Care to explain why you no longer work in high-end retail? I suspect business was not so great due to poor business sense.

    Negotiating is a part of most businesses these days. When I sold Mercedes, the more expensive the car, usually the less profit we made because wealthier buyers had the most refined negotiating skills. On the other hand, they usually understood that we had to make a reasonable amount of profit as a business.

    Which brings me to my negotiating point: Don’t be too greedy. Understand the economics of a business and make sure your offer covers their costs and gives a fair amount of profit. You cannot directly compare an online price to a bricks-and-mortar price. Factor in shipping, convenience, potential servicing needs, exchange rates, overhead, etc. Everyone needs to make a living.

    If you had a business you would not want to give stuff away for “free”, so don’t expect stores to give away merchandise either.

  25. snoop-blog says:

    @redheadedstepchild: you would throw people out for haggling? i think we now know why your not still there. if your company policy is to not haggle then just say that. i don’t see the need to go the extra mile to show everyone what an upper-no-class snob you are by “throwing people out”.

  26. redheadedstepchild says:

    @snoop-blog: Ah, really, it’s not so much the haggling as the reaction people get to being shut out from haggling.

    Usually, when some says “I’ll need to speak to someone with the authority to give me a better price,” they are going to get nasty when they find out they won’t get it.

    We had a lot of wealthy people who would get abusive when they didn’t get their way.

  27. snoop-blog says:

    and heaven forbid your store has to provides some customer service at no profit. and i’m expected to believe they have “insanely great service”, when your too good to talk to someone on the phone who may have a legitamate problem?

  28. snoop-blog says:

    @redheadedstepchild: so you would throw them out for getting abusive then, not for haggling? those are two completely different things. i can understand throwing out a patron who’s cussing at you or loudly dissing your products worthiness. but not if someone ask’s if they can get 10% if they buy $xx worth of clothes.

  29. redheadedstepchild says:

    The service department has ALWAYS operated at a loss. When people had problems, they were fixed. No question. We’d warranty stuff manufacturers would refuse to touch, go on service calls on holidays, what ever was needed.

    Oh, and no phone sales. And no real phone support either – the products didn’t lend themselves to it. We’d always try, but most customers were more comfortable with scheduling a service call.

  30. redheadedstepchild says:

    The haggling and abuse is a fine line. Lots of people think the best way to haggle is to denigrate the product and staff.

  31. redheadedstepchild says:

    Actually, let me change that. The customers who don’t immediately offer a tit for tat deal (buy more product, pay in cash, etc), are most likely going to try to lower the price by attacking the product or staff.

    Think about it this way – the cust wants me to give a better price – they need a reason.

    They have something to offer – larger purchase volume, less need for post sale service, lower transaction costs.

    OR

    They want to convince me that the product or the “sales experience” isn’t worth what the asking price is.

  32. ellastar says:

    @snoop-blog: No, the only RadioShacks that are privately owned are a small percentage of franchise stores, the ones that will usually say “(So and So) Electronics AND RadioShack” on the sign. The majority of RadioShack stores are corporate and are not allowed to haggle. Any associates haggling are either giving you a deal that we already offer (and not telling you that anyone who walks in can get it) or are doing so unscrupulously. All price changes and discounts are looked over in the daily reports, so if associates discount something they’re not supposed to, they probably won’t be there for very long.

    Haggling might work at some companies, but it doesn’t at RadioShack. It annoys me when customers walk up to the counter with their purchase and expect me to throw in $20 of batteries for free (has happened too many times). I can give them a pretty good deal on batteries (and they actually last longer than other batteries on the market), but I can’t just give them away.

    However, it is nice when, after spending time changing someone’s watch battery or detailing how to hook up an extensive home theater, they ask what the charge is for my time and I tell them that there is no charge. They’re always pleasantly surprised and grateful.

  33. humphrmi says:

    @redheadedstepchild: So if a customer did offer you something – an upsell, cash, whatever… you would consider a price reduction?

  34. b_rent says:

    And before anybody starts thinking that they are going to save hundreds a month haggling every last thing remember that the only sales person that is going to give you the time of day haggling is the one that is payed on commission. I would love to see Walmart Joe’s face when you ask if you can get 10% off if you buy 300 dollars worth of stuff.

    And having worked retail (RadioShack) on commission, the only way I would ever contemplate discounting any would be if you purchased a lot of stuff, preferably accessories. Buying an xbox 360 or iPod? that’s great but I don’t get squat from that besides making my $/hr look better. Want to spark my interest? Ask about getting 15% off of 3 accessories with that iPod, cuz that’s where my money is coming from.

  35. lastingsmilledge says:

    make sure you read – and then re-read – number 3. i’m a college student who works part-time. don’t get all cranky when i tell you that i can’t cut you a deal…. i don’t have that authority.

    be careful with number 4. it’s good to have a clue what you’re talking about, but don’t come off as being a “know-it-all” – i can tell within a few seconds if you did a few minutes of googling whatever you’re buying and think you have a phd.

    and please never use the whole “i’ll just take my business elsewhere” kvetching. i don’t get a christmas bonus, i don’t get commission – i don’t care. if anything, don’t shop at my store…. i won’t have to clean up after you.

  36. matdow says:

    Having not watched the Today Show for months, Matt Lauer is soooo dying his hair.

  37. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @redheadedstepchild: I would never ‘denigrate’ the staff to haggle. The product, maybe. Most of this stuff is crap compared to how things used to be (look at vintage 70s/80s audio equipment on eBay and what the good stuff sells for…the ‘good stuff’ now is way overpriced and aimed at the snobbish market who wouldn’t know good audio/video equipment if it fell on their Lexus).
    But when staff is condescending and borderline rude, then they are fair game.

  38. chris_l says:

    It baffles me he never once mentioned simply walking away. Your biggest strength in negotiation is showing that you want something, but you don’t NEED it. I don’t care if it is a car, a TV or furniture. If you say “Can you give me X? No? What about Y?” shows that you want to make a deal, but you don’t feel obligated to settle on something. If your requests are reasonable, there is no reason for your offer to be rejected.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Haggling at the car dealer is a hoot! I love how people always think they negotiated a better deal. Sure they’re giving you a discount. Do you buy a car 6 days a week, 10 hours a day? I’m sure we can out haggle those salespeople. You sure look lovely, the way the blue in your dress brings out your eyes. We just got this Escalade in, haven’t even had time to detail it yet………