The Art of Haggling


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Most of us have tried our hand at haggling in a market at least once in our life, but very few know that the price of goods can be negotiated in many places other than in these open-air bazaars.

I admit that I still shy away sometimes from saving opportunities, mainly because I worry about offending people. But Father Miser is a master haggler who puts to shame even the best negotiators.

A few weeks ago we bought a new bed. As we were walking into the store, Father Miser turned to me and said: “I am not walking out of here with a bed today unless it is an absolutely great deal.” I sighed, accepting the probability that we would be leaving the store that afternoon without a bed. After an hour of hard bargaining with the salesman, during which balloons were blown up for the kids and coffee was brewed for the adults, we had purchased a mattress. We were both very excited. The salesman, however, was just happy to see us go. The poor guy sweat it out the entire time and told us that we were one of the toughest sells he had ever had.

Years ago, in Spain, Father Miser decided to negotiate a deal to buy two clocks for the advertized price of one. After a lengthy debate, the shop keeper declared: “Look, I realize you are cheap, but I am cheap too.” A priceless moment. Until then I had slinked away to the back of the store while Father Miser shamelessly hammered this guy for a deal. But once that was said, the tension eased, both men laughed and met in the middle. We did walk out of there with two clocks that afternoon.

Believe it or not, Father Miser even bargained down my engagement ring years ago – and then bragged about it in front of me! Unbeknownst to many consumers, it is possible to negotiate the price of jewellery, even in established boutiques and stores. The easiest deal to haggle is the tax. Ask to have the tax knocked off that ring, those earrings or that necklace. Most merchants are hoping for lifelong customers and still make a profit once the tax has been deducted.

The key factors in winning a negotiation are:

  1. Confidence: Don’t be afraid to assert yourself. Ask the questions. Demand what is fair and equitable. It never hurt to ask, right?!
  2. Knowledge: Know the product and its comparables. Educate yourself before you walk into a store. Don’t rely on the biased salesperson to educate you on the product.┬áThe internet is a great resource for product reviews, consumer reports, discussion forums, etc.
  3. Non-attachment: Most importantly, separate emotion from the negotiation and be prepared to walk away empty-handed.

Now, just think about the world of savings that has opened up to you. Of course, be reasonable, and please be polite! Nobody concedes to a deal with an ass.

I want to know: what have you successfully haggled for in the past?


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    7 Responses to The Art of Haggling

    1. Paul says:

      Never be afraid of hurting feelings either. Experienced salespeople know how to tug at emotional strings. Haggling is an integral aspect of the exchange of goods and services in several cultures where peddlers will act offended and upset – it’s all part of the act! Even in western cultures – if feelings truly are hurt, the salesperson will tell you where to go. Just try it; go for it and throw in a lower than low bid! You’ll be surprised how well it will work out. The ticket price is only a suggestion.

    2. Cassie says:

      A couple of years ago I was in the market for a new diamond for a ring. I had a set budget for my purchase, but also had my heart set on a particular size and quality of stone. I saw a stone that fit my size and quality criteria in a jewellery store window, however the ticket price was twice that of my budget. I decided to go in and take a look anyway, and 20 minutes later had managed to negotiate a price for the stone that matched my budget. Not content with that, I then went across the road to another jeweller and got him to match the discounted price with a better quality stone!

      One thing I have learned through my obsession with sparkly objects is that the price of diamonds is ALWAYS negotiable – if the salesperson says it’s not, go to a different jeweller!

      • Mother says:

        Thanks for sharing Cassie. Any specifics on how you managed to haggle that diamond down? Because that is one trick I would definitely love to learn!!!

    3. Johnny Debt says:

      I always ask for a discount!

      If I am buying something big I will also ask if there is anything free that they can add to make the deal sweeter.

      Then pay with a cashback credit card and get and even better deal!!

      There are also discounts for pensioners, so if you look old then ask if there is a discount for that too.

    4. Franck says:

      I always haggle on big ticket items. When recently buying a new washer and dryer, I went back and forth between two stores, getting each to go lower than the last. Finally, when the price was fairly low, one of the stores said he couldn’t go lower and offered he could knock off a few hundred more if I called him after the delivery and told him one of the appliances was damaged. And he did!

    5. Pingback: Top 10 Mother Miser Posts in 2011 |

    6. Cassie says:

      When it comes to diamonds, doing your research is crucial! Diamonds are traded in US dollars, so stones that are bought when the US dollar is weak against your own currency should be cheaper. It is also important to know about the 4C’s (colour, clarity, cut and carrat), so you understand the properties of the different stones you are being shown and know what trade-offs you are willing to make (eg. I think that a better colour, which is noticable to the naked eye, is worth sacrificing a couple of clarity points when you are dealing with inclusions that are only visible under a microscope). Finally, look at online diamond traders and see what they are selling similar quality stones for. Online traders don’t have the overheads that “real-life” stores have so will usually offer cheaper prices… but they don’t offer the same experience as dealing with a real-life jeweller and don’t usually have any capacity for haggling. However, the price of similar “online” stones can give you a good basis for haggling with a real-life jeweller as you can see what their initial mark-up is, and also know when they are giving you a good deal and you should stop haggling!

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