Haggling 101

by Lisa M. Maloney

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For those of you who may not have been lucky enough to learn by example when growing up, here are the basics of how to get a good deal:

Have the Right Attitude

The whole point of haggling is to arrive at a deal that makes everyone happy. You're not trying to cheat the other person; you're making them a deal too good to refuse, offering them something in return for a cut in price. Smile and make nice because that smile is your opening offer. Merchants prefer to deal with pleasant, respectful people rather than those people that make angry demands. Don't you?

Always Ask; It Won't Hurt a Bit

While not every customer service clerk has the authority to cut you a deal, many managers do (even those in big-name stores), but they usually won't advertise that because, of course, they'd prefer that you pay full price. So if you want the best deals, you're going to have to ask for them.

Don't Be Insulting

It's okay to start low and work your way up, but don't start so low that you're wasting the other person's time. If you're not sure what an item is worth, research it online or make a few phone calls to local competitors.

Play the Price-Matching Game

Many merchants will happily meet or beat a competitor's offer because it means getting your business and beating their competitors out of a sale, all in one swoop. Even if they can't afford to match the best offers, they might be willing to meet you partway. Be prepared to provide some sort of proof like a competitor's ad from the paper or a print-out of an online offer to claim the deal; they might even call the other business to verify the price you're claiming.

Know What You're Buying

Having a keen eye for an item's actual value (how much it costs in a store) as well as its perceived value (what it's worth to the person selling it). This knowledge will help you to strike a good deal. Somebody who's not interested in archery is likely to sell you a bow and arrows for less than an archery enthusiast just to get the unwanted items out of their way.

Be a Convenient Customer

Time is money, so convenient transactions are more attractive to both buyers and sellers. Offer (and be prepared) to pick items up immediately. Bring friends to help lift and haul so your seller doesn't need to lift a finger (this applies to personal and small business transactions more than big box shops). Have cash ready to complete the transaction instead of a credit card or check (so that merchants can avoid paying credit card or check processing fees), especially when dealing with private parties. And always be on time!

Express an Interest

I once got a 10% discount on two shirts for my non-haggling boyfriend just by asking. "How'd you do that?" he asked, mystified, since the transaction had taken place while he was out of the room.

It was simple. All I'd done was explain to the saleslady that he wanted both shirts, but the price for two was just a little high. So which one did she think he should get? This gave her an easy opening into a win-win situation. She offered me a ten-percent discount on both so we got a good deal, and she sold two shirts instead of one at a tidy profit. If she hadn't responded to my implicit declaration, I could have always politely asked her, "Would you be willing to come down a little on the price?"

Hold Your Head Up

This might be the most important tip of them all. There's absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a better deal. Yes, whatever the other person happens to be selling is valuable, as is their time. Your time is valuable too, as is your business, so you should be proud of the ability to make sure that you're getting something good out of the deal.

Lisa M. Maloney writes extensively about thrifty living and outdoor pursuits. She also blogs at http://writerinfo.blogspot.com.

Take the Next Step:

  • Remember that it's possible to get a better deal. You just have to ask!

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