Some Thoughts on Haggling

A very kind reader recently sent me a link to a fascinating article at Salon.com entitled How I Learned to Haggle. The article outlines a woman’s experience with haggling, culminating with the author actually requesting a discount at a dollar store:

So before I can think too hard about it, I drive to my kids’ favorite place of business, the 99-cent store — where everything is now upward of $1.29 — to shop for an upcoming holiday. My extended family is coming to town for a big celebration, so I stock up on several items in bulk. Taking deep, relaxing breaths and focusing on the joy the plastic doodads I’m clutching will bring to my offspring and their cousins, I wait for the long line at the register to taper off. Then I unload the contents of my basket onto the raised counter, look up at the woman on the platform behind it and say, with a surprisingly steady voice, “I’m buying a lot. Would it be possible to get a discount?”

She looks at me, clearly taken aback and a little irritated. “I’d have to get the owner,” she says, as if that will end the conversation.

“OK,” I say.

She rings up three more customers while I wait, probably hoping I’ll give it up and go away, then reluctantly rouses herself and comes back with the owner, a kindly man to whom I repeat my question and fall silent.

He smiles at me. “Well,” he says, “you are buying a lot.”

He turns to the woman at the register. “Charge her 99 cents for these,” he says, pointing to eight items in my basket priced at $1.29. And these,” he says, waving at eight more priced at $1.49.

Then he looks at me apologetically, eyeing two large items selling for $1.99. “I can’t go any lower on those. Just the delivery charges have gotten so expensive.”
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“I understand,” I say.

Then he says, “OK, charge her $1.49.”

The woman at the register sourly does as she is told. I thank them both and pay in cash.

Unsurprisingly, with a story like that, the comments are pure gold, alternating between people sharing their own haggling tips and cheering on the writer to others disgusted at the thought of haggling at the dollar store.

My thoughts were pretty diverse on the issue, but I largely support what the woman did. Here are some of my thoughts on haggling – many of which I’m sure will generate some discussion.

Jem haggling, Marrakech.  Photo by Steve & Jemma CopleyA person’s desire and ability to haggle depends on their personality. Some people are born to haggle. Others are brought into it culturally. Others simply have neither the innate desire or the cultural pressure to do so – or only feel like it’s appropriate in some situations. Given that there are so many personal feelings about bargaining and there are vastly different cultural expectations about it in different parts of the world, it’s pretty much impossible to come to a single clear set of rules about what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to this art.

At the same time, it seems that in a world of haggling, introverts are directly financially penalized. A person who is naturally introverted or timid will simply not negotiate as strongly as an extroverted person who is willing to make a public scene to save a few dollars. Should the introvert be financially penalized for their nature? Would it be similarly appropriate to financially penalize people for other aspects of their nature – for the color of their skin, perhaps?

It’s because of this that I largely support standardized pricing within stores and competition among stores – everyone gets the same deal and the people who are rewarded are the people willing to put in the footwork and do comparison shopping, not the people who are willing to be pushy for it.

Businesses that expect haggling will price accordingly. Take yard sale pricing, for example. Whenever I run a yard sale, I usually price things on the high end of what I think is a reasonable yard sale price and I allow and encourage haggling. As the weekend goes on, I drop my prices over time.

This is true of many businesses, particularly “mom and pop” type businesses and also businesses from other cultures outside of the United States. They expect some degree of haggling from some percentage of customers and price accordingly. Quite often, I don’t mind not haggling at these events and paying their face price because I like supporting local businesses, but I have no qualms with haggling if a price seems particularly out of line.

Businesses that don’t expect haggling won’t tolerate it. On the other hand, in many stores, haggling simply does you no good. Large chain stores – particularly on less-expensive items – simply have no room at all to change prices. They’ll simply refuse – and you’ll simply have wasted your time. So, don’t haggle over the price of a tube of toothpaste at your local Target.

Taking those factors into account, I see no reason not to ask for a discount in many situations – but doing it where there’s no real chance of it working is annoying to those around you and potentially damaging to your reputation. If you’re standing in line at the local department store (that is obviously not a place with a haggling reputation) and make a big scene over trying to haggle over a few items, your only outcome will be to frustrate and annoy those around you. Even worse, some of those people might remember you – and your annoyance to them may come back to haunt you later.

My final point is perhaps the biggest one of all. If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all? Take the example in the original story. Why is that person in the dollar store at all? Are “plastic doodads” from the dollar store really a worthwhile purchase?

While I can surely appreciate the sentiment of wanting to make a child happy, why not actually do something special with that time and money, like make a batch of their favorite kind of homemade ice cream together? Or even play a few simple games in the yard with them? Children are happy whenever you show them genuine love – it doesn’t have to take the form of a “plastic doodad” you bought for a buck at the dollar store.

This expands into a more general principle. Most of the items you might haggle for aren’t necessities at all. Unless you truly do want the item (and it passes the ten second rule), don’t even bother haggling over it or putting it into your cart. Just walk away and keep that cash in your pocket. Haggling to get a “deal” on something you don’t truly want and don’t need is just another way to watch your money slip through your fingers.

I look forward to your comments on haggling.

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99 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Haggling

  1. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    My wife is the expert haggler in our relationship. I feel uncomfortable asking for things like that most of the time, but my wife is exceptional at it and asks with a big smile and without batting an eye. She appears completely clueless as she asks but of course knows exactly what she is doing. She takes a lot of pride in her haggling abilities and is something of a minimalist. If she gets something nice, it’s usually for me.

    When I got my first job after becoming a lawyer, she came home with a nice leather briefcase. I had looked at briefcases some time back before concluding I didn’t need one. This particular one had been $150. I chastised her for spending $150 on a gift. “I got it for $89,” she said. “It was on sale?” I asked. “Nope, I showed them every blemish and asked what they’d sell it to me for. They said $115, I offered $89, and they sold it to me.”

    The amazing thing about this was that the case was in very good condition. What she called blemishes were the types of things you’ll find on every piece of leather. Anyway, I have a very nice briefcase now thanks to her.

  2. All I know is that–until recently–I was completely unaware of the fact people actually haggled on things other than car prices. Growing up, I just never saw anybody do it at all.

    Having read so much about it recently though, I gave it a try on my internet/phone bill. I knocked $30 off the price on an ongoing basis! Same exact bundle of services. $30 less every month. I had no idea it would work that well.

    It took about 45 minutes on the phone, which sucked. But in my head that’s absolutely worth it.

  3. As long as you are respectful, it’s fine. you should ask for a break, but you shouldn’t expect one.

    Once you become insistent that you somehow ‘deserve’ a break, then you are being unrealistic.

    I tried to haggle once and failed miserably. I may try it again for the sake of experience.

    -Nate

    -Nate

  4. leslie says:

    I have only haggled in a store once and I feel justified because I told the woman up front what my price range was.

    It was a privately owned clothing store and the owner of the store was helping me find a pair of jeans in my size. She pulled two off the rack, I liked them but then said they were out of my price range. After picking out two pairs of cheaper ones to try on, she handed me the expensive ones and told me to try them on “just to see.” Of course, they fit great.

    When I came out of the changing room, I told her that I appreciated all of her help and I did like the jeans, but I just could not afford them at this time. She then offered to take 20% off. Even with that discount, it was still too much for me so I said flat out, “I can’t give you any more than $…” (It was about $15 less than the price after the discount.) She easily agreed with that! I had never haggled like that on clothing, so I was surprised it went so smoothly.

  5. Derek says:

    I think haggling is perfectly fine to do. I do agree that you should only haggle on things you need (I still think it’s a bit strange how you transitioned into that at the end of the story since it was about haggling). I think that as long as you’re making a worthwhile purchase to the place you’re doing business with, than haggling is a totally legitimate thing to do. In fact, haggling at the department store is fine too (mainly you’ll just get the coupons that you aren’t carrying around with you).

    The one thing to keep in mind though is that you’ll never know the answer unless you ask the question. If it’s something you need and you’d like it for less, I think you should feel free to ask for a better price. You should be respectful when bargaining and be willing to take no for an answer. Who does it hurt if someone is willing to sell you something you need for less? They can always say no and be done with it.

  6. Kat says:

    I’ve pointed out flaws in items to get a discount in large chain stores, such as Hallmark and Dress Barn. I have sincerely said I wasn’t going to buy shoes at Macy’s because of the price, only to be offered a sale price for them, and this was at the huge NYC one. So, while I really doubt Target would haggle over toothpaste, it is worth it to ask for a “sale price” or point out a flaw in the merchandise for a discount even at larger stores.

  7. Joe Light says:

    I, too, never haggled on anything but a car before last year. It just never occured to me that it was even possible…we live in such a fixed price culture here in the States.

    But then, over the winter, I visited Egypt, where everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…is up to negotation. I learned to haggle simply because I knew I was going to get completely fleeced as a tourist if I didn’t. (I still probably got fleeced, but not as badly.)

    Since trying the tactics here in the States, I’ve found that the absolute most important step you must take before haggling is effective is to find the person who has the power to lower a price. In a small store, maybe the sales clerk does have that power, but in a big retail operation, they get annoyed at the request for a discount simply because there’s nothing they can do about it but call the manager. If I went into a store and expected to ask for a lower price (in an environment where that’s uncommon), I’d target the guy with manager on his tag. If you’re going to haggle over the phone, ask for the manager or with on-going services like cable and phone, threaten to quit (which will get you to a retention specialist who can lower the price).

    Another tip of etiquette I’ve picked up here…if you offer the maximum you’re willing to pay for the item, and the person accepts it, take it! No one’s going to kill you if you then offer something even lower, but it’s poor form and will hurt you if you ever have to negotiate with that person again. That’s just my opinion.

  8. Jenny says:

    I definitely agree with you — here in the US, haggling is almost seen as shameful. In other countries, it’s expected. When I traveled in Russia, I wanted to buy a lot of tourist-type items and souvenirs for my family, but I knew that I would be charged tourist prices. I refused to pay full price on anything I bought off of a cart, and in a few instances, got the price down to less than half of the price they originally asked. They price souvenirs knowing that many vacationers will be too timid to haggle, and they’ll make a profit off of them!

    I definitely believe (as you said) it’s all about context. In a small shop where you have an opportunity to work directly with the manager (and you’re buying a lot), you can usually get some kind of deal, even if it’s just throwing an extra item on for free. In a chain store, it’s nearly impossible. However, my uncle has had luck negotiating down floor models — tvs, monitors — on the basis that the item may be slightly scratched, and they want to get it off the floor. However, there’s a lot more red tape in higher-end chain and department store situations, and the benefits often aren’t worth your time.

  9. Paige says:

    “If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all? Take the example in the original story. Why is that person in the dollar store at all? Are “plastic doodads” from the dollar store really a worthwhile purchase?”

    I have to agree with the above statement. That woman wasted her money on the plastic doodads, b/c while the children may be happy with them for a couple of days they will ultimately be tossed to the side, and when this happens in my house they get tossed in the trash, which means less crap for me to keep up with. The only time I “haggle” is at yard sales, and that is b/c they price their items expecting such.

  10. Cookie says:

    I am not a haggler by nature. But one thing I know about negotiaton is the value of silence. Make your offer or ask for a discount and just be quiet, let them respond.

    Recently when furnishing a theater room I noticed that one pillow of the sofa set we had chosen had a small pen mark. I politely asked if they would be willing to give any discount and the owner of the store offered to reduce the price by $100! Apparently this was the last of the set and they wanted it gone.

  11. IRG says:

    I’m of two minds about haggeling.

    I think Trent makes good points that it’s important to know where you have room to haggle and where you don’t–where it doesn’t make sense and where it does.

    What I’ve observed is an attitude with some hagglers that turns me off. It’s the “I deserve it.” bit that gets to me.

    No. You don’t. Someone has the right to price items they are selling as they see fit. If they don’t want to budge, then that’s it.

    Too many people who haggle are often very nasty in their approach and demanding. (I hate to say this, but some cultures more than others seem to have haggeling as part of it. But what works in a foreign market, does not fly in a Wal-Mart or department store.)

    I think it’s different to negotiate on price when there is a benefit also to whomever you are buying from. Say, huge quantitites, unwanted items they can’t sell off, etc. You will pay cash and not charge it so they save some fees while passing some money on to you.

    I think negotiating price should benefit both parties in some form. Not be a ripoff for the seller, unless, for some reason, you are in a place where it’s clear that something is so super-marked up (and why would you shop there anyway?).

    Trent, I think you get off track when you start debating why someone is even buying something in a dollar store. That woman may also be doing the other personal things you suggest. But even if she isn’t, it’s her business and a lot of people can only do things by buying at dollar stores.

    You gotta get off the judgmental thing on this.

    My sister in law is one of the most careful and frugal people I know and she shops at dollar stores for the wonderful parties she throws where people do enjoy the stuff she picks up there.

    That stuff is NOT a replacement for personal time and attentio.

    But seriously trent, some kids DO still love the plastic doodads, whether you think they should or should not. Pretending they don’t exist…well, doesn’t always work.

    Where I have a real issue with haggeling is in business.

    As someone who both provides and purchases business services, I’m on both ends.

    I deeply resent potential customers who start out by playing games with prices and in the process manage to basically communicate: You’re not worth the price to me.

    Well, guess what, that’s not how you start a professional relationship.

    Over the years, I’ve worked for clients with tight budgets when I’ve had to hire other vendors.

    I never ever criticize someone’s pricing. What I will do is say something like, “We have X dollars for a photo shoot. Here is what we need. I realize your day rate is more than our budget. We would love to work with you. Our client would be thrilled to have you shoot their products. Is there anything you can do?”

    Nine times out of 10, when dealing directly with the photographer or whoever was actually providing the service (not their agent or other rep), they would come up with an alternative that worked for them and us. (We got some extraordinary shots from one of the top 10 editorial photographers this way because he gave us three hours of his time after an earlier shoot, where lights were already set up in his studio. We had our own stylist, had done shot mockups and rushed in and set up in record time. All because he liked how we approached him and was willing to be flexible in his own work schedule. We subsequently raved about him to our client, who then raved about him to other divisions in their company, a Fortune 50 company, which gave him a lot of full-price work. But again, I never used that as a barganing chip and did not even mention the client name during the negotiations.)

    I never begged, never played head games and never tried to work someone. I never denigrated their right to set their fees. And I always accepted that the issue was the budget and nothing else.

    Real professionals appreciate that.

    On the few times it did not work out, we had to scale down our plans. But no one we worked with felt pushed up against the wall.

    Like many other service professionals, I am not swayed by the old carrot, “Do a cheap job for us on this project and then we’ll give you lots of business in future.” when a potential client asks about fees. Sorry, unless you contract for my services for an extended period or on multiple projects, you don’t get a discount upfront.

    We can scale down your project (which rarely works for creative stuff) or they can contract for more work upfront but no outright discounts for the sake of discounts. I price my fees at the rate I believe is appropriate.

    I give the equivalent of “quantity” or continuity discounts, where appropriate. (Which works well for both parties. Clients can get more for less of the work they want and I know what my income will be for a set period.)

    It’s the same when I buy something personally. I may want an Armani suit, but if I can’t afford it (on sale or otherwise), I can’t afford it. That’s not Armani’s problem.

    And if I don’t think something is worth what someone charges, to me, I don’t denigrate it’s value, as many hagglers do, to try for a discount.

    Think about how stupid that is, particularly with top quality goods or services in any area.

    FYI: I love your point about introverts losing out. You are so right. The “entitled” and the extroverts and the very confident have no problem asking (sometimes demanding) discounts up front.

    The only time I ask for discounts is when I buy in bulk or have been a strong repeat customer at a small, local store (not a chain) but even then I am hesitant, because I know the small shop keeper is not the one making a huge profit margin and can least afford a discount. I feel like I’m taking the money right out of their pockets.

    By the same token, I use every coupon, promo code or whatever to save on something that is on my list to purchase so that I can get the most off.

    And if I’m overcharged, I ask for my money. That to me is more important than haggeling, given the problems with today’s scanners!

  12. Dave says:

    I don’t like haggling. At least with a car, you can search online and see what other people are paying… but you can’t do that with everything. In Mexico a few years ago, I picked up a few souvenirs. I haggled down to about half price and felt good about myself… until I saw a price even lower than that at another store. I think this is why people prefer no-haggle car dealers, so they know what they pay is not higher than anyone else.

  13. IRG says:

    One last bit:

    I don’t think anyone should use the line

    “I can’t afford it” or ” I don’t have the money for it” or the like

    When haggeling.

    You don’t have enough money? NOT the store’s problem

    There are as noted much better ways to haggle.

    FYI: From personal observation, people with the most discretionary income tend to be the best hagglers. It’s a confidence thing. They know they have enough to buy it anyway and they also know they can just walk away and not buy it at all.

    Thos who “gotta have it” and those who really don’t have enough money…well, people can sense that!

    So check your attitude.

  14. Tony says:

    I think haggling comes with practice to some extent. The first time I bought jewelry I paid full price. Little did I know how obscene the markup on jewelry really is. Now I avoid buying jewelry without haggling or at least a good sale/discount. Most people know to haggle over cars, but what about other items that are either large purchases (major appliances, jewelry, furniture) or that have large markups (jewelry, clothes). You may have to pick your battles with clothes, but the other areas are almost mandatory for haggling/sales/discounts.

  15. Allie says:

    As someone who has been on the retail end and listened to endless people asking, “what’s my price?” and “what’s your mark-up?” and even “well so and so has it for $X, so I know you can go lower” I think it’s one of the rudest things you can do in a business, even when done politely.

    If it’s a business where haggling is encouraged, like car sales, go for it. There are cases where negotiating on a price for a big ticket item might be acceptable, or something like a yard sale where costs and profit are so dynamic, but beyond that I think you should respect the prices set by the business. I see this as akin to the people who refuse to read signs or adhere to rules, because they don’t feel those signs apply to them.

    If the business owner brings up a discount or some other thing when you mention you can’t afford something you want, that’s a different situation, since they initiated the haggling process.

  16. Jim says:

    “If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all?”

    I don’t follow the logic there. Haggling is just a money saving tactic. Like clipping coupons or going to sales.

    I really don’t think that haggling in an attempt to save some $ is an indication that people don’t need the item in the first place. Haggling isn’t an indication that you couldn’t afford it at full price either.

    Now if you mean to say that people don’t need to buy junk at all then fine. But not buying junk is not really tied to haggling at all.

  17. troy says:

    Shopping in a dollar store then bragging about how she haggled off a few dollars on completely worthless junk. Nice.

    This lady just paid dollars for items worth pennies. Very nice.

  18. Dave says:

    Oh… on the other side of haggling… I was once selling a desk chair on Craigslist. I couldn’t figure out how to get the chair to go up, so the buyer asked for a discount, and I gave it to him. Then when he went to get his car, I realized the chair wasn’t going up because it was at the top already… so I figured out how to lower/raise the chair. He came back, I told him I figured it out… and he asked if he could still get the discount. I looked at him funny and said “Uhh… no.” I didn’t appreciate it too much, and it was no skin off my back if he walked away. He paid in full…

  19. Jeff says:

    I haggle all the time, but I have a good feel for where it is appropriate. I have been on a “Promotional” rate for my Cable, Internet, and home phone, and cell phone service for going on 4 years now.
    Its quite easy with Cable and phone companies, I just call in and politely ask if as an existing customer who has always paid on time if I can get the same deal that they are offering to new customers. I then get the deal for 6 months. 6 months later I do it again. Only once have I had to say I would cancel, and as soon as I said that Customer retention gave me a deal. Same goes for phone service.

    It also works very well with banks, Any time I have a bank fee for anything, I politely ask for them to waive that fee, and they always do. I actually convinced my bank to stop charging me ATM fees by saying I would switch to a bank that didnt charge them.

    I dont do this much at retail places, but anything that is some type of service, it usually will get some results. I have received many discounts on automotive work by simply asking and stating that I continue to bring my cars to the same place, so how about a loyal customer discount. Not only do they regularly give me a 10%-20% discount, but the mechanic will randomly just put new wiper blades on my car at no charge when it is in for something else.

    Other places where I have been able to negotiate are things like my lawn care service (trugreen), getting my driveway sealed each summer, newspaper delivery, etc.

    Most of the time it doesnt require any sort of arguing, just ask. If you are a good customer and dont have issues paying bills on time, you can usually get what you want.

  20. Tony says:

    @IRG You make excellent points and I agree with you for the most part. However, not everyone on the business side operates with the respect and decency that you obviously do. Too often, salesmen exaggerate the qualities of their own products and push people towards more expensive items for their own gains. In situations when salesmen/businesses act like this, it should be perfectly acceptable for a customer/client to counter with questions re quality and comments re budget in an attempt to balance the two sides again.

  21. Paul says:

    I discovered the power of the words “Is that the best you can do?” Frankly I’ve been blown away by the deals you can start with those words. I’m not confrontational by nature so that’s an easy way for me to get a conversation going and it has worked wonders. I recently purchase an office cubicle for my home office complete with a CAD drawing for assembling for $200. BTW makes an awesome home setup if you can deal with having a cubicle.

  22. Johanna says:

    I agree with Jim – if you apply the “why are you buying it at all?” objection to situations where haggling is accepted and expected, it starts to make a lot less sense: If you’re not prepared to pay sticker price for a car, why are you buying it at all? If you don’t want to pay the asking price for a home, why are you buying it at all? If you don’t like the interest rate you’re offered on your credit card, why have a credit card at all? If you feel the need to negotiate for your salary, why are you taking that job at all?

    I’m of two minds about the “discriminating against introverts” point. On the one hand, I don’t think that treating people differently based on their behavior is at all like treating people differently based on the color of their skin. (If people who ask nicely are more likely to get what they want than people who make rude demands, is that discrimination against rude people?) On the other hand – and here I’m thinking mostly about salary negotiation – having a culture that rewards people financially for personality traits that are more common in men than in women certainly does contribute to the marginalization of women as a group, and I do think that’s something worth taking seriously.

  23. Geoff K says:

    I really don’t think extroverts being rewarded by haggling is discrimination. If an introvert chooses not to haggle it is their choice. Is it discrimination if a intelligent student is rewarded with high grades? Or a athletic person rewarded with medals? I think it’s ridiculous to compare this with racism.

  24. Bill in Houston says:

    I find that the only American businesses willing to haggle more than a token “2% discount for cash” are privately owned ones. I can’t go into Kroger and haggle over the price of a spatula but I could go into Bob’s Spatula City and discuss it with Bob.

    My wife and I will be in Mexico for a week and a half next month. I plan on haggling for every single non-comestible purchase.

    To IRG, I never say “I don’t have the money” but I do say “I think that’s a bit high” or “Maybe I don’t need this that much.” Politely and tactfully. You’re right, saying you don’t have the money isn’t the store’s problem. I’ll also pay in dollars. In our neighbor to the south you can usually get a discount for dollars.

  25. I’m not sure introverts are at a disadvantage; there are just a different set of tactics to use. (I actually have a very different definition of introversion/extroversion, but regardless…)

    Someone who doesn’t have the desire to point out flaws or start a debate can simply offer a set amount of cash, take it or leave it. Of course, the ability to actually walk away is the key part!

  26. Sean says:

    If you’re unwilling to negotiate (for whatever reason), you’re already hugely financially penalized–in salary. Lower starting salary (and thus less compounding through raises), lower raises… The difference can become enormous.

    This is one of the underlying causes of the gender gap in salary.

  27. TJ says:

    Some people may be surprised to find out that my father had no problem bargaining at the local Walmart. He was the local ferret shelter, and needed to buy chicken babyfood in large quantities. Walmart already had the lowest price, but he got a manager and asked how much lower they’d go if he bought the babyfood by the case. He was able to get the manager to drop the price further, and my dad saved a lot of money.

    Also the produce section of your grocery quite often will allow haggling. Just depends on the corporate office. Safeway doesn’t, but some of the other stores will work with you.

    I agree that while the US culture isn’t big on haggling, it is expected in other cultures. It was a huge learning experience for me both in the Bahamas, and Mexico where I had to not only haggle, but do pesos to dollar conversions in my head while conversing in Spanish.

  28. Brent says:

    3 things that deserve haggling
    1. Keeping inventory is expensive (houses, cars, appliances etc).
    2. You are increasing the sellers margin or that margin is already high. buying in bulk or combining orders. Or to keep the buyer loyal.
    3. When the product has some small defect or other undesirable condition compared to others.

    When haggling is expected and routine, the whole market suffers because it takes so much more work to get the market price. It makes us do non-useful work to find the real market price and that results in a net detriment. The practices that should be encouraged are things like volume pricing, loyalty programs, and the clearance bin. Everyone pays a clear price and managers don’t have to step in every 5 min.

  29. Marcus Murphy says:

    Well my friend has a blog, and she decided almost a year ago, that every day going forward she would make it a point to ask for something. Most of the asking amounted to haggling of sorts. You can read more in the about pages of the blog. But there is a lot of good writing and funny stories amidst all the haggling. Maybe some of you would enjoy it.

    It’s called The Daily Asker

    http://thedailyasker.blogspot.com/

    Enjoy :)

  30. Angie says:

    It’s hard for me to haggle in foreign counties, like when I went to Peru last summer. Everything was already so cheap, and the people were living with so much less, would I really miss the 10 soles (about $3.25) for the alpaca scarf overall?

    Maybe I’m too much of a softie but it kills me to haggle in situations like that.

  31. Tabitha says:

    I hate to haggle b/c usually I feel if I want an item, I’ll be willing to pay the price or maybe I’ll wait if I don’t feel it’s worth it.

    But one thing I’ve tried that consistently works is asking for a discount on a slightly damaged item. Of course, you have to weigh whether or not the item will be worth it even with the discount. Normally this is 10%, even in big box stores and outlets. After reading one of the other posts above, I may try to finagle a slightly better discount by haggling if I think the 10% is not an acceptable discount and I HAVE to have the item. Normally, I can take or leave these things though.

  32. Anne says:

    I completely agree with IRG in #9. I’m quite introverted but I’ve managed to be a pretty effective haggler just by making sure that my attitude is always right. I just go into the situation 100% committed to walking away if it doesn’t work out. It’s no problem because I already have one possible end point to the interaction all worked out in my head.

    At work my boss is an expert haggler. She can get deals on this I didn’t realize were at all negotiable. I’m an awesome negotiator because I can calmly invoke my “higher power” because, honestly, she’s NOT going to pay $X when she knows she could pay $Y.

  33. Introverts do have one advantage. All that small talking flea picking bonding doesn’t work on them, so they can walk away from a deal more easily than an extrovert that feels obligated to take something at a given price once the buyer and seller has bonded in someway.

    Of course at a checkout line there is no such bonding.

  34. Gexx says:

    I’ve learned that haggling works in a few cases, some which have been outlined above.
    1) when you state a price range for a particular good/service and the sales clerk pushes you over your limit.
    2) when the object is used and is being resold (yardsales, antique shops, etc)
    3) when an unused object in a store is damaged (when I worked retail I would take off for this, I felt bad charging full price for chipped goods)
    4) when you buy objects in bulk – Liquor stores are good for this (depending on your state’s laws, I guess) It’s not unusual for liquor stores to offer 10-15% off a case of wine. If it’s not listed, ask. If it is and you’re only getting a half case, ask.
    5) and all of these will be augmented if you’re a known customer (especially bulk liquor prices)

    My big “haggling” item is wine. I’ll buy a case at a time (12 bottles) but it’s normally a mixed case – holidays, gifts during summer trips, etc. Technically my store’s discount doesn’t count towards mixed cases, but one day I asked. Wouldn’t you know I got the 15% off – I saved about $20. I don’t just buy wine there, I’ll go in for a bottle of something here or a bottle of something else there. But now when I get my cases of wine I ask, and it normally works. What’s the worse they’ll do? Say “no” and I pay the intended price.

  35. Steve says:

    It’s kind of hard for me to imagine a world where no one ever haggles. Imagine this situation: I go to a store, where I see an item I would like to buy, but the list price is more than that item is worth to me. Yet, there exists some price I am willing to pay that is between the list price and the cost to the merchant. If the merchant and I can work together to find that price, I get the item, the merchant makes a profitable sale, and everyone is better off. This can be true even if the merchant would not be profitable (due to overhead like rent for the storefront) if they sold this item to everyone at the price I just paid.

    In theoretical economics, supply and demand are two curves that intersect, and everyone who buys something buys it at the price where it intersects. But in the real world business are constantly looking for ways to get more money from people who are willing to pay it, while still making sales to people who are only willing to pay less. They do so with things like coupons, sales, clearance bins, rebate programs, restrictions (e.g. saturday night stay), and any number of other tools. Allowing haggling is one such tool, and it is the business that is using it, not the customer!

  36. karishma says:

    2 things I thought of reading your post:

    1) My MIL at the flea market trying to haggle down a toy truck for my son from 50c to a quarter, and walking away when the seller wouldn’t budge.

    2) Last night’s episode of UK Apprentice. They had 1000 pounds, a list and the team who had the most money left after buying all the items won. Lots of haggling, as well as “not having enough on them.” One guy did a miserable job bargaining down a bottle of champagne. At the end he got it down from 49.95 to 49.90 (woohoo!)

  37. mes says:

    I’m really not a big haggler. The whole offer, counter offer process makes me nervous and uncomfortable. If there’s genuinely something wrong with an item, I have no issue asking for a discount, but I don’t ask for a discount “just because.” The best haggling I ever did was in a big market in Mexico. I looked at an item and asked the price. It was too high so I walked away. After the vendor saw me looking at similar items in adjacent booths, he chased me down to offer a better price. I think he did it 3 or 4 times in total before he got to a price that I thought was acceptable. Walking away was absolutely key.

  38. Keith@bewealthygethappy says:

    I used to live overseas, where people haggled for pretty much everything from CDs to groceries. When I moved back to the states, I tried the same techniques I learned over there, and discovered they work in the US most of the time as well.

    I was really surprised when I haggled the price down on a new laptop computer when I was in college – I got the price dropped, and that was at a big box retailer (that is no longer in business).

    The fact of the matter is that if you are patient, and respectful, there is SOMEONE in the store with the power to give you a discount. You just have to talk to that person and make them want to help you.

  39. Ken says:

    I liked this post, right up until you started judging the author of the article for taking her kid to the dollar store.

  40. ngthagg says:

    I worked in retail for a few years, selling electronics and haggling was definitely a factor. My favourite experience came while selling a cordless phone. The customer, it turned out, was the man who had delivered pizza to my house just the night before. Having recognized me, and apparently assuming that delivering pizza meant a bond of friendship, he prevailed on me to lower the price. I was polite, but refused to budge. After all, when he delivered the pizza to me, not only did I not request a lower price, but I paid him extra money!

    I love the cognitive dissonance of living in a society where both haggling and tipping are accepted behaviours.

  41. Prasanth says:

    Here in India haggling is expected and is a standard practice. Just the degree varies depending on the kind of store you are in. So next time any of you are in India, haggle, and don’t take no for an answer. You can save a substantial amount that way.

  42. tightwadfan says:

    Haggling is fine as long as you’re polite and willing to take no for an answer as people have brought up. My main objection to haggling is Trent’s point that, eventually, places that expect haggling will simply raise their prices. Compared to other countries where haggling is everywhere and everything is overpriced, I prefer shopping here where most places set standard prices according to a fair market value.

    One reason I don’t haggle much is that I dislike it when I do freelance work and customers try to haggle with me. I set my freelance rate based on the current rate in my field, I feel that it is a fair rate and, while I try not to take it personally, when someone asks for a discount I can’t help feeling there is an underlying assumption that I’m overcharging. I think it would be unfair to let my customers pay different rates so I don’t take jobs for discounts. If someone has a budget limit I can provide a lower level of complexity to come within their budget. Or if someone like IRG tried to work with me in such a way that lowered my costs I could do that. But nobody’s ever tried that, they just ask me to do a job for less money.

    One thing I wonder is how hagglers would feel if their bosses started haggling with them. Most of us work at places that allow us to make mistakes every so often, how would we feel if our bosses started asking for discounts on this month’s paycheck due to every tiny “blemish”?

  43. Rob says:

    There are times, places and cultures in which haggling is okay – having visited China and Thailand in the past year there’s a lot going on there, haggling wise. But that being said, if you’re haggling in a dollar store, in America… sorry, you fail.

    Personally, my time is much more valuable to me than money or asinine social game-playing, which is what haggling devolves to rather quickly… I’d much rather go in, get what I need and get out. No muss, no fuss, no bs.

  44. ChrisD says:

    I am not a haggler by nature. But one thing I know about negotiaton is the value of silence. Make your offer or ask for a discount and just be quiet, let them respond.

    That is really key. Last time I negotiated a contract I just sat quietly and waited and they went up another 100 a month.
    I also would not haggle in a poor country where everything is cheap and where the people are really poor.
    But many businesses want to offer discounts for people who could not otherwise afford the service while charging a fortune to people for whom price is no issue. In this situation just asking nicely is well worth the effort.
    I liked IRGs comments about working together to find a solution were everyone benefits.

  45. mike says:

    we were at Best Buy at on monday as all three of our cordless phone batteries were almost totally toast. I had 15.00 in reward zone certificates and wanted to use them. Batteries were 23.99 each and i was purchasing 3. I politely quipped to the clerk i would hope i could get a discount as i was buying multiples. She check with the manager, he brought them down to 19.99 each plus with the certifcates i had gave me a net cost of 15.99 each…nice to have an overall savings of 27.00! My wife was proud of me…she is the haggler….i normally hate it.

  46. Brandon says:

    I have to agree with Jim, Johanna, and Ken. This was a great article until “My final point is perhaps the biggest one of all. If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all?” which is where you totally lost me.

    That is a generic piece of PFblog bull**** that has nothing to do with haggling. Saving money on something you are going to purchase anyway (or even pushing something that might be too big of a luxury into your price range) is a completely different tactic than showing discretion in what you purchase. Sure, there are other ways to make a kid happy, but how dare you judge someone else for what they choose to do. Also, if you are not one already inclined to have the materials for homemade ice cream, that would cost a lot more than a ‘plastic doodad’. It is also consumable which means there is a 0% chance of continued enjoyment without spending more money (versus the roughly 10-20% chance with a cheap toy, I remember how fleeting new things were as a kid).

    Anyway, get off your high horse Trent and post something ianteresting without trying to enforce your own agenda on it.

  47. dream says:

    About 2 months ago I found out I was going to have to accept a 20 to 40% reduction in hours this year. Having used all my extra money to pay down debt, I was faced with figuring out a way to make income from other sources leveraging my credit. (I feel it’s in my best interests to make sure I’m available for my main job because it also pays towards my retirement, health insurance and a good wage when I can work.) That stated, I bought a few “lots” at a local auction of new merchandise for resale. I have some on ebay, amazon,craigslist and sometimes have yard sales.
    Since most of my sales at the yard sales would be to neighbors I priced the items (I live in a fairly poor area.) VERY low indeed. Instead of being appreciative of great bargains, (about 60% off retail!!) everyone acted as if I were trying to rob them when I couldn’t go much lower on prices.
    Now I’m a firm believer that everything is negotiable, but before you start haggling ask yourself, 1)” Do I REALLY need a better price before this is worth it to me?” & 2) “Is this looking for a bargain, or taking advantage of someone elses’ financial distress?”.
    Like the young lady mentioned about her experience in Peru, do really feel it’s good Karma to take exploit others for a tiny gain? My point here is this: Try to put yourself in the other persons place BEFORE you start haggling!! After all, there IS a reason it’s referred to as “the Golden Rule”.

  48. Trent says:

    So, let me get this straight. A number of you think it’s a BAD idea to use the ten second rule and ask yourself whether you really need the item in the first place?

  49. M says:

    People love to take me shopping with them, I love to negotiate, it must be fair to both parties. I went with a friend to Old Navy and pair of pants she was buying had a dirt mark on the leg and it was the only left in her size. When we got to the checkout to my friends horror I asked for a discount she got it 1/2 off but couldn’t return them if the stain didn’t come out, she was buying them anyway so she really wasn’t losing on the deal. Another time seam wasn’t sewn correctly and I mentioned to the manager they probably would just have to send it back for a credit, she laughed and said it would be cheaper for her to pitch it in the dumpster so I said I would take it, she threw it in as a bonus to everything else I bought, I fixed the seam. It shows that just talking can sometimes get you a real bargan.

  50. I honestly wonder why someone would go do a dollar store to haggle. I do haggle over higher end purchases and otherwise I comparison shop for the steepest discount I can find. I really believe that money is for the enjoyment of the person who owned it and I really believe in the time-value of money. How much money did that person really save per unit of time by haggling at a dollar store? Could that time have been better spent? I bet so. To me being financially secure is about freedom. Freedom to create the environment I want and spend my time the way I choose. As I have gained a measure of wealth, however, I see the opposite in myself and some of the people around me who are also high net worth individuals. Literally losing the joy of shopping and buying necessary items to endless bargain hunting and feature comparisons on consumer websites. To those “addicted” to endless haggling I ask “at the end of the day, how was your time spent…haggling for do dads or spending time with your family and yourself in peace and joy? Isn’t that what wealth creation is really all about?

  51. kristine says:

    I will haggle over the price of a car, or other big ticket tiems. Yard sales- only if the lower price would make the difference in me buying it or not.

    But Trent, you overlooked one thing about dollar stores. Most of these items are made on the backs of 3rd world child labor, slave wages, and prison labor (often political dissidents are rounded up and arrested if prison factories have trouble meeting quotas). Haggling, and trying to get a lower price on that type of item, when you live in the land of the plenty, just seems obscene.

    As an advertiser, I was privvy to conversations of business owners talking about their “scouts” in northern China, looking for the poorest of the poor, so they could pay even fewer pennies a day for labor, and increase the profit margin. If you haggle on the cheap crap, you encourage that. And for what? A plastic yo-yo that will end up in toxic landfill in 2 months time.

    We are one big family, and you have to carry your values in your wallet with you.

  52. Stephanie says:

    Trent–I am surprised that you would even consider haggling about prices because you wrote a whole post about how the person ahead of you at Target kinda wasted their time by haggling to get the sale price on a raincheck that they had. You mentioned that doing something with your kids was worth more then trying to save a few bucks at the register and giving up precious moments of your time. It doesn’t sound like this person saved a whole lot of money by haggling, but but it does seem like it took a lot of time to do…..

  53. Lenore says:

    “If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all?”

    OMG, Trent, what kind of mood were you in to write that??? I guess you were trying to make readers think about wants versus needs, but it came off sounding pompous and judgmental. Lots of people are haggling for ESSENTIALS these days, even those who never would have thought about it before losing a job or struggling with inflation. Discreet, polite bargaining is one of many tools for stretching our salaries, and merchants may welcome it if inventory isn’t moving.

    “Why is that person in the dollar store at all?”

    Again: Arrogance alert! Most frugalistas include dollar stores in our shopping strategy because they carry useful items that would cost $2-$20 at “discount” stores. It’s hard to spend over $50 there for a cartload that would total $75-$100 at Wal-Mart or Target. I wouldn’t buy razors, pill organizers, nightlights, picture frames, calculators, toothbrushes or cooking utensils anywhere else. Perhaps the author’s “plastic doodads” for her children consisted of art supplies, puzzles or other imaginative toys. Sure it’s important to spend TIME with our families, but sometimes we need STUFF to meet goals or entertain each other.

  54. Trent says:

    Lenore: obviously, you had answers for those questions. You were buying staples that you needed. Someone buying “plastic doodads” isn’t in that situation.

    The point’s pretty simple: if you’re about to haggle for something, ask yourself why you’re buying that item. If you don’t have a good reason, why are you about to haggle?

  55. CathyG says:

    I must have a stamp on my head that says “will pay full price”. Here’s my haggling experience:
    1. At a garage sale, with a friend who had just successfully haggled lower prices on several items, worth several dollars. I picked up a small toy marked 50 cents and offered a quarter. They said no, that’s really worth 50 cents and we can’t go lower.
    2. In India, where every price is negotiable. I was looking for a specific scarf for my daughter. We had shopped for a few hours and not found anything that would work. I found it, it was marked about 12 dollars, which I thought was a reasonable price. The Indian girls with me insisted that was not low enough and they spent several minutes in animated discussion – no deal. I bought the scarf for 12 dollars and my daughter was thrilled with it.
    3. Again in India – we were walking around and it was hot. I was starting to get sunburned and I needed a hat. There was a streat vendor with baseball caps for the equivalent of a dollar. My friends insisted on trying to get 2 hats for that dollar. The vendor said no. Lots of discussion on both sides, but in the end we walked away without a hat – You have to be willing to walk away, right? So I am supposed to get sunburned and be miserable, all to save 50 cents??

    So, who’s the better haggler – someone who pays full price and gets exactly what they want, or someone who refuses to pay and suffers for the lack of the item???

  56. tammy says:

    The only time I haggle is during the one or two times a year I go to the “MALL”. Sometimes new items are ripped or torn – hem is coming out, etc. THEN if I truly want the item (usually as a gift) I WILL HAGGLE.
    Empires have probably been built on haggling….

    WOnderful post!

  57. Kathon says:

    I asking a stranger for a discount should be different than asking a friend or family member. If you are a stranger and I want your repeat business, I will consider selling at a discount.
    If I am your friend or family member, and you are a business OWNER, I would never ask you to sell at a “family discount.” If I am considering buying something from my friend or family, I assume the seller is pricing it fairly (or else I would go elsewhere from the get-go) and I WANT him or her to make a fair profit. If he wants to offer a discount, that is up to him but I’m not asking for it.
    So, I haggle with strangers and never with family.

  58. Kate says:

    The world doesn’t need any more plastic! I’m not much of a haggler, but I appreciate your point about the cheap plastic toys being unnecessary. Children would rather have a great experience (making ice cream or playing a game with you), instead of a dollar toy that will break instantly and end up in a landfill.

  59. SavingDiva says:

    I wish I was able to haggle…I just usually buy my items and leave. I have negotiated a lower internet bill over the phone, but that’s a lot different than face-to-face interactions.

  60. Brandon says:

    Trent. Listen to yourself. You do sound like a pompous and judgemental person. How do you know that she did not put the 10 second rule into play? She talked about reflecting on how much the kids were going to enjoy the gift. She came to a different conclusion than you might have about the purchase (which by the way, you have no idea what a plastic doodad is, so judging you would not buy it is hasty at best).

    Sure, she does not NEED these items to make the kids happy, and you could even argue that she should not have bought them considering the fact that she does not have a full-time job (you did not mention that in your post btw, so basing your criticism on that would be seen as unfair by any who did not click through to the salon article), but it is pompous to say that just because you would not have bought the items, she would not have if she had paused a second.

    Furthermore, either way, it is completely irrelevant to the rest of the piece. Save your preaching on the 10 second rule for another self-contained article. That way I can remember to skip it.

    That is not to say that the 10 second rule is a bad idea, but it is just so overly discussed and cliché in the pfblogosphere. I personally skip almost all posts on such clichés. A few examples: basic budgeting, why index funds are better than managed funds, how XXX works (where XXX is something basic like IRA, 401k, CDs, etc.), the debt snowball, and the 10 second rule.

  61. Brandon says:

    @Kate, are you sure you are not just pushing your agenda on the kid? I am not convinced that 100% of the time that this is the case.

  62. I always, always ask if they can give a discount.

    Haggling is not really ingrained in me, but I do know when I can and cannot haggle.

  63. Alternatively. If they don’t give me a discount, or they say it’s only for “repeat customers”, they’ve lost a customer because I COULD have been a repeat customer but now I just know it’s not worth it

  64. graytham says:

    Yeah, I’m another reader who enjoyed the article until you wondered why she was buying the doodads in the first place. Not everyone WANTS to make homemade ice cream. Most people don’t even own an ice-cream maker. It’s nice to share fun experiences with kids, but you just can’t do that 24/7. The kids get sick of the adults and the adults get sick of the kids. Sometimes you’ve got to give them some toys and let them do their own thing. Cut the lady some slack; she was stocking up on items to entertain her guests and was doing it as frugally as possible. She might have employed the 10-second rule and still decided to buy the doodads. Nothing wrong with that.

  65. Kyle says:

    I can never imagine myself feeling comfortable with haggling, it’s just not in my nature. I guess I’m very thankful I live in a country where it’s not common practice.

  66. Stephanie says:

    I agree with Lenore…sometimes you do come off as pompous and judgmental about people who want to spend money on things. You get all down on this lady for buying “doodads” at the dollar store or other people for buying expensive electronics–it’s like someone can never win–buying anything is bad! we should all spend all our time with our kids–that’s a nice idea but also impractical. Sometimes kids need time by themselves just like adults do. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you always make it seem bad. I wonder why…

  67. Shelly says:

    I’ve done some haggling. I think the key is not to push too hard, but just see if it’s an option. Those who are pushy just get annoying.

    Examples of good opportunities I’ve taken:
    - Calling my credit card company to see if they could lower my interest rate.

    - Asking an OnStar rep if I could have some sort of credit for a system error. They gave me 20 free calling minutes and extended the deadline on my remaining minutes for another year, and all I had to do was ask.

    - If a subscription is too expensive to continue (like OnStar or satellite radio), asking if there’s anything they can offer to prevent you from having to cancel service.

    - If you know you can find the same item cheaper elsewhere, or if the store doesn’t have the particular item you want in-stock but has something slightly more expensive, asking if they can offer a deal so you don’t have to shop somewhere else. I know for a fact without having to try haggling that Home Depot can offer deals in the right circumstances if it’ll prevent you from leaving and going to Lowes.

    If it takes too much time or involves getting to the point of being annoying to get your way, I don’t think it’s worth it. But if it’s quick, relatively painless and can save you some money, it’s worth a shot!

  68. K says:

    What’s really the worst that can happen if you ask for a lower price and can’t get it? You get told “no”. But I’ll add my voice to those who are saying you need to be able to pay full price if you really want it, or you need to be able to say “oh well, I’ll do without” and walk out.

    Regarding the more professional work negotiations, most people will be willing to deal to get something done. Keep in mind that there are other currencies besides cash — you can trade favors, information, contacts, side work, lunches, equipment and pretty much anything else you might be able to dream up to make a deal happen. Of course, the deal may not actually work out of you can’t agree, but being flexible and accommodating can help you build a better reputation as a problem solver than just saying no. The story above about getting the photographer to do some work is a prime example of how negotiation led to a better result for both parties.

  69. Bradley says:

    “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. If you’re not willing to stick your neck out a little, you probably won’t get rewarded. Clearly the idea is to be prudent about when and when not to ask for discounts in terms of context, but this immediately brought to mind a story.

    I was out to lunch with my aunt and uncle at The Cheesecake Factory at a mall in San Diego. We’d been having friendly back and forth with our server throughout the meal, so when she politely asked at the end of the meal “Is there anything else I can do for you?”, my uncle half jokingly said, “Well, you could comp the meal”. She didn’t even hesitate and responded with “Let me check with the manager”.

    A few moments later she returned with news, apps would be comped and desserts on the house! Hey, not bad, right? Again, this required a little bit of guts on my uncle’s part, but also enough knowledge to read a situation and take a chance. Now, if I could just work this in to my practices.

  70. Jim says:

    Trent said: “So, let me get this straight. A number of you think it’s a BAD idea to use the ten second rule and ask yourself whether you really need the item in the first place?”

    No. I don’t think anyone said that. I have no problem with a 10 second rule.

    But the 10 second rule is independent of haggling.
    10 second rule isn’t going to help you decide to haggle or not. 10 second rule is going to help you decide if you want to buy the item at all.

    Sure people should use a 10 second rule. And then after 10 seconds they can proceed to haggle if they feel like it. Or whip out coupons. Or comparison shop. Or use whatever other money saving frugal tactic they might want to use.

    Consider it this way: The original point was : “If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all?”

    Now what if you replace the ‘haggle’ with ‘use a coupon’. Does this make sense?: If you feel the need to use a coupon for the item, why are you buying it at all?

    Haggling and using coupons are both money saving tactics that consume time which some people like and others don’t. Neither should really be part of the decision if you need an item or not.

    Use the 10 second rule to decide if you need it first. Then if you do need it then feel free to use whatever methods you want to save money such as haggling, coupons, buying used, etc.

  71. partgypsy says:

    My Mom grew up in Chicago and is a natural haggler. Even though she did it in a nice way especially when I was a teenager I was always mortified by this behavior. Now that I’m older I wish I could do it. I remember one time admonishing her and she said something to the effect of “what’s the worst thing that can happen? They can always say ‘no’”.

  72. Stacie says:

    While plastic doodads end up in the trash at my house too, I can see why the woman bought them — extended family coming to town for a celebration.

    It’s easier to have plastic doodads that no one has sentimental value for and don’t care if they are broken or last after day two or three. The point of the purchase wasn’t to foster her own children off on junk, but to entertain a mass of children.

    Making cookies or other quality time is not realistic in her situation with lots of extended family in a short time.

  73. Dusie says:

    One sort of “haggling” I do, is to ALWAYS ask about the price of an item if it’s different than what you thought it was. I was at the mall buying bras the other day, and there was a sign that said $17. This was for a sale that had ended, but when they rant up at a higher price, I simply asked “Are they not $17?”, fully intending to accept the price if I was in the wrong, and with no intention of pushing the point any further than that. Well! I was given the $17 because that’s what the sign said, even if the fine print said otherwise. Saved $11!

  74. Marie says:

    I generally wouldn’t haggle at a dollar store. However, there is one in town which came into business only a few years ago. They have more than enough items to fill the shop, have fewer customers than the dollar store that stood there before (or so it seems), and have jacked up their prices to the point of greed. So, haggling there might be a great idea.
    —–
    One thing I will do at clothing stores is to haggle on the price if there is something fixable in the garment, e.g., a tiny stain I think I can get out, a button that needs sewing or is missing, etc. It’s gotten $1 off and sometimes even 10%. Along similar lines, I worked out a deal once at an office supply store for opened printer paper. All these haggles were done at chain stores.

  75. Donna says:

    At a car dealer, try this: I know you need to make commission on the car. We know that you pay X for the car from your supplier. What do you say we offer you N more than X, and that way, we both get what we want out of this deal?

  76. Tate says:

    I like your thoughts – WHY BUY A BUNCH OF CRAP anyway?!! A large ticket item is where buyers will benefit most from haggling. I recently bought my first “big” TV. After much research, I found the least-expensive quality product with a well-known name and managed to get 50$ knocked off since I was buying their warranty. I felt good because I “got a deal” … even if it basically just evened out after I paid tax.

    I’ve always been pretty shy but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more willing to say the following 2 things:

    1) Are your prices negotiable ?
    or
    2) Is that the best price you can give me on that?

    Psychologically, this puts the other person in the perceived driver’s seat. But assuming they are honest, it is a simple way to open the door.

  77. Nik says:

    Um Trent… They were favors for a party (she mentioned do-dads as part of a celebration.) The lady was letting the kids pick them out. They were really just trifles to add flavor to a festive occasion.
    Your comments were incredibly arrogant if not ignorant, frankly I expected better from you based on past articles. I guess that was my folly.
    Ponder this: You’re spending money on a party (something that frugal people should NEVER do, right?) If buying a bunch of crap you don’t need for fun is stupid, what is so horrible about trying to be stupid as thoughtfully as possible? Is this an “in for a penny, in for a pound” sort of thing? Should she have gone to F.A.O Schwartz for her do-dads?
    I guess if I want to add color to a living room, I had better be able to afford to buy something out of Martha Stewart Living or be willing to brown bag it for a month. Sheesh. What happened to this site?

  78. Tracy says:

    There are two issues here: 1. Haggling, 2. Buying things you don’t need.

    It seems a lot of people have their panties in a bunch over Trent pointing out that the woman in the story is buying things she doesn’t need.

    This site is about being frugal – and frugal people don’t buy things they don’t need. Letting the kids pick out crap at the dollar store isn’t teaching them to be frugal either. It’s perpetuating our consumerist culture even if it only cost $5-10.

    Anyhow, I get it – but maybe this should have been two posts, or maybe Trent should have used a different example.

  79. Steve says:

    I am surprised at what you find to be “pure gold” comments. Half of the comments on the original article are personal attacks, and the other half are “in my country/state/city haggling is a way of life and I/my mother/my friend/etc is really good at it.” And the same is playing out here, except it’s 75% are “what’s wrong with buying plastic doodads?!”

  80. GlennH says:

    I got a great deal at Home Depot shopping for some potting soil. While I was looking over the selection, I noticed a worker loading up one of their flatbed carts with bags of product. I struck up a conversation and found out that these were opened bags. Customers open the bag to see what’s inside, and walk away. The opened bags then don’t sell, and have to be discarded or returned for credit. So I asked the worker, somewhat in jest, how much for the whole cart? He got the manager and the price was $25 for the whole lot, they were VERY happy just to be rid of it. After I paid and was loading up my minivan in the parking lot, they came out with out ANOTHER huge cartload of opened garden soil bags, and gave that to me as well. I got a couple hundred dollars of product, over 50 bags, all for $25. It pays to ask. Years later we, and my extended family, are still using the bags of soil and gardening products.

    A great example of haggling was set by the comedian, Bob Hope. At his death, he had real estate valued at over $200 million. He had two comments to make regarding price: any price offered him for his property was “Too little.” Any price for him to buy was “Too much.”

  81. gail says:

    You don’t have to be an extrovert to haggle effectively–introverts can do this too! Attitude matter more. The most important things are to be respectful of the merchant, patient, and persistant…and be ready to walk away. Ask “Is this the best you can do?” or just ask “will you take (10-20% less than the asking price)?. That puts the ball in the seller’s court…and sometimes a buyer doesn’t have to say much more. Silence can be as effective a bargaining tool as haggling!

  82. Guy in SA says:

    Even at chain stores you can get discounts. Simply ask the cashier if she has any coupons or free stuff today! I have gotten flashlights from the Gap and buy one get one free coupons on a regular basis.

    At the mall, i ask for the mall employee discount. Usually they ask me if I work at the mall and I honestly reply that I don’t. So far they always give me the discount.

    I think you can do well as long as you don’t be a jerk about it and back down when there is little or no hope.

  83. PrettyGirl35 says:

    IMO haggling at the Dollar Store is not being frugal! The word for that is “cheapskate”! “shaking my head in disgust”…

  84. AG says:

    I saved $2000 straight up on my new car and also got rebate on one of my utility bills. It’s really worth it :) Just be confident and do your homework considering the market situation of product you are interested in.

  85. Brandon says:

    By the way, on topic, I did a little bit of haggling at Lowe’s recently though I wonder if I could have gotten a better deal if I pushed harded. They had an open box refurbished front loading washer for $450 (normally $698 at least). They also had the stands on sale for $98 (I cannot believe that the stands are typically over $200. It is literally a drawer!).

    Anyway, they also had an open box dryer (just a floor model) for $698 which was the standard price for that dryer except it also came with the deal and the stands. I had seen a cheaper dryer (same model) opened box at another retailer and mentioned this. I also pointed out there was a bit of a dent on the top of the dryer floor model. In the end, they knocked 10% off the dryer and an extra $30 off the washer to get me to buy both for a total of $1048, much less than the $1400 retail price for new ones.

    They still kind of got me a little bit though because I paid $170 total for a 4 year extended warranty on both items. I probably would not have done it, but I knew the washer no longer had a manufacturer’s warranty since it was repaired and, analyzing the risk, getting the protection on both was cheaper than paying for a single repair on either item probably would have cost.

  86. Kathleen says:

    I recently got married, and I discovered the kind ask. I saved a lot in a lot of areas by just saying something like, “I have gotten quotes from other companies that were much lower, but you have the best reputation and have exactly what I want. Is there any flexibility in your price?” I probably ended up saving $2000+ on the entire wedding by doing this.

  87. M says:

    For those who say they can’t haggle, consider it a quiet conversation between 2 people, one wants to sell their product, you want to buy it. It must be win/win. Don’t whine, beg, say I don’t have the money, just talk, you can point out scratches, marks or dents which may make it hard to sell to someone else, if they can’t come down on the price see if they can add something to make it worth your while, free delivery, free take away of the old item. A friend went to a furnature store and they won’t budge on the price of a sofa even though it was the last one, she made a comment about 2 pictures on clearance she really liked and got them almost for free if she took the sofa. Turn over the decorations in a furnature store and most of the time you will find a price tag, everything is for sale.

  88. Georgia says:

    I always say I’m asking, not haggling. I have had several yes’s and 1 no, which turned out to my advantage.

    Twice, in Walgreen’s, I got deep discounts. I bought containers each year for presents at work (50-100). One year I got the felt Christmas stockings. They were 1.99 each. I waited until they went on sale for .99. Then I asked a passing manager how much he would charge me if I took the whole amount (about 100). He told me I could have them all at 3 for .99. Great deal. Did it another time on another Christmas buy.

    I went to Lowe’s to buy a covering for a very small window in my studio apt. They didn’t have what I wanted, but showed me to a stack of 1/2″ thick insulation board that was about 4×6′. The top board had a large scratch across the top of it. I asked the clerk if I could just have him cut it in half and only pay for the undamaged half. He said fine and cut it. Then he told me that they couldn’t have sold the damaged piece as a whole, so I could have it for nothing. Whew!!

    Went into a Gerbe’s grocery and saw a Christmas village house with lights on sale. Asked for a better price. Was told no by a manager. Went back a week or two later (after Christmas) and it was on sale for much lower than I had offered to pay. I bought 3 of them, one for me and 2 for gifts. So I still came out ahead.

    I guess I don’t believe in haggling. I ask if they can do better, and if they do so, I buy it. I let them set my bargain.

  89. John says:

    At the end of the day, time is money. The time it took her to bargain down those few cents wouldn’t be worth it to me. Haggle on a big purchase? Absolutely. But if we’re talking dollars and cents, why bother?

  90. reulte says:

    Just a silly point … which is important to me. All introverts are not shy. I’m an introvert. I can go days without conversing with close friends and work collegues. People and their activities just do not interest me. But I am not shy. I can be and have been a bit rude when someone tries to push a conversation on me or ‘try to bring me out of my shell’.

    Interestingly, I disagree with all of your points.
    (1) A person’s desire and ability to haggle are situational. If the circumstances were right (or wrong), the shyest person in the world could haggle.
    (2) Introverts are not directly penalized. As mentioned above, being an introvert does not make a person shy. As a general rule, we just don’t care to socialize with other people. It doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
    (3) Businesses usually take into consideration a variety of factors in pricing but haggling is towards the bottom of that list.
    (4) Business that don’t expect haggling can be open to it if approached intelligently – i.e. asking the correct person at an appropriate time with courtesy.
    (5) You never know if asking for a discount or haggling will work until you actually try it.

    The seller knows the price s/he can sell at; it is up to you to know the price at which you can or want to purchase it. These prices don’t need to be the same and haggling is merely a discussion to arrive at an agreeable compromise. Politeness and courtesy is essential, as it is in all social interactions.

    Trent (#48) How do you know she didn’t apply the 10-second rule? How do you know her family/friends aren’t going to get $100 of enjoyment out of the $20 purchase? A couple of dollars of toy soldiers and marbles brought hours of enjoyment to my father, brother, son and nephew as they set up advancing lines and knocked them over. The point is whether you were writing about haggling or writing about unnecessary purchases. I think you lost your focus 2/3′s way through the article.

  91. LC says:

    reulte- I totally agree. Introversion simply means that you process thoughts internally and are refreshed by being alone, rather than processing thoughts by talking about them and being energized by crowds. It has nothing to do with shyness.

  92. Terese says:

    Reading through the comments, it’s amazing to me how many people are being completely incivil to Trent. You’re reading his free finance blog and if you have a problem with his tone, you could write him a private email, or say what you have to say tactfully. Calling him pompous or accusing him of not entertaining you enough is inappropriate. Think of yourselves as guests here, and then imagine how you would speak to a host.

    I think of haggling as just one of many tools for getting the best price on something I am willing to buy anyway, or for upgrading a planned purchase for free. For example, when I got married, we bartered and negotiated because whatever we didn’t spend, we kept, and because we wanted our wedding to be beautiful. We spent less than $10k on a wedding for 125 people, and our honeymoon. Our wedding looked like a $50,000 wedding, easily. I had people calling me for weeks to tell me it was the best food they had eaten in ages, at a wedding or anywhere else. We had a beautiful day and came in under budget, largely due to bartering and negotiating.

    Because my family lives in a very affluential area, if we had spent $10k on full price venues, food, etc. we would have been able to invite about 50 people or would have had to go super casual. Instead we had our food cooked by the former head chef of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago (family friend), had a famous DJ (hubby built him a website); a $700 cake + $2k videographer + $1k in rentals + $800 in flowers for about $1200 because of using trade scrip. I bought my corset and shoes new on eBay, borrowed votive holders from a cousin who had just married, used my mom’s veil, had a friend make the veil clip from craft materials, made my own (gorgeous) invitations. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it; not only was our day beautiful, but I built up many of my frugal and organizational skills.

  93. stef says:

    I’m with Terese: you can choose to read this blog or not, but this is Trent’s space on the web, and people should be respectful accordingly, whether you agree with him or not.

    Ahem.

    Something that I notice people haven’t discussed haggling about: rent prices. I’ve successfully negotiated (or haggled, if you will) rent prices with landlords in the past. I’m not sure if it would work with the big apartment complexes, as I don’t usually choose to rent there, but it has certainly worked with landlords who own multi-family homes or smaller apartment buildings.

    A few years ago, I knew that I could only afford to pay about $375 in rent (I live in a city with a low cost of living), and I found a really great apartment that was for $395 that had been sitting open for 3 months. The landlord saved money by letting me rent it for $20 less, fitting my budget much more nicely, than what she would have if she would have let it stay unrented for another month (which would probably have ended up being longer).

  94. Great skills! It never hurts to ask!

  95. Bonni says:

    I had never haggled much until I bought my first new car and for some reason felt very sure of myself that day. The dealer didn’t want to give me much on my trade in, which was not worth a ton but I knew they would clean it up and sell it for twice what I wanted. I so stood firm and almost walked. The dealer kept looking at my boyfriend like, jeez can’t you control her. Finally he came around. My next real haggling experience came in India, where they really expect you to haggle. The key is to name your price and walk away – trust me if they will call you back! There are some fixed price stores there so be aware of that.

  96. Johanna says:

    @Terese, stef: Actually, since Trent makes money off this site, we’re not so much guests in his home as we are customers in his place of business. That changes the picture somewhat. A certain level of civility is still called for, but criticism of the articles is absolutely appropriate.

  97. Xtal says:

    I agree with Trent about the “plastic doodads.” They are killing the environment, not to mention wasting a resource that will one day be considered very valuable.

  98. deRuiter says:

    “If you feel the need to haggle for the item, why are you buying it at all?” Oh Trent, I don’t agree, you need a house or car, (buy, lease or rent) and you negotiated a better deal. I hope you didn’t pay asking price for your new house or new car. In big box stores if you’re buying appliances, carpets, large ticket stuff, sheetrock, kitchen cabinets, ask for the department manager, tell him / her you’re considering buying X and can they do any better? You’ll get an immediate offer of 10% off and most likely you can counter with 15% or 20% discount and get that. REMEMBER, THE SELLER CAN ALWAYS SAY “NO.” But mostly they will give you a better price. The economy’s terrible, you are offering to do business, if the person wants your money they will negotiate. Successful business get more trade by negotiating if people offer to negotiate. Let me tell you, you can negotiate price at Tiffany’s if you’re buying an expensive item, you can negotiate with new or used car dealers, heavy equipment dealers, the farm animal feed store, yard sales, office supply stores, furniture stores, printers, grocery stores, any kind of business. THE WORST THEY CAN SAY IS “NO” AND THEN YOU ARE PREPARED TO WALK. If the person wants your business, they will haggle and lower the price. Always find out who is empowered to make discounts and deal with them, don’t hold up the line at the checkout haggling, go directly to the person with the power. Most Americans are too shy to hondle (haggle), so they are taken to the cleaners when doing money for goods exchanges. Don’t let that be you! At the end of the day of doing business, every extra dollar which stays in your pocket while you obtain the goods and services you require, is actually worth more than a buck because you’d have to earn $1.50 to put a new dollar in your pocket.

  99. Skirnir Hamilton says:

    You know, personally, I am not comfortable haggling. I feel if I haggle that I am telling the person that they are charging too much. By telling them that, I am telling them they are greedy and trying to rob me. I have haggled a little at a rummage sale, because of how much money I had in my pocket and I knew if I went home I would not come back and buy the item. But to this day, I wonder what that person thought of me. So to those who do haggle, do it respectfully and not just because. It is one thing to ask for a discount because the item is damaged, but another to ask for one… because one, the item is overpriced, or because you feel like it? I don’t mind haggling because you don’t have the money as much though. I know my twin who works at a chain drug store hates it when people want to haggle. It can only be done by a manager and it just strikes her as rude. And to be honest, it does me too. I guess I will never become a haggler, as I am just not comfortable doing it. If I am not willing to buy the item at the marked price, I just won’t buy it.

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