How to Haggle Like Your Old Man

by A Manly Guest Contributor on May 11, 2011 · 77 comments

in Money & Career


Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology.

“It’s learning how to negotiate to keep both sides happy – whether it’s for a multi-million dollar contract or just which show to watch on TV, that determines the quality and enjoyment of our lives.” – Leigh Steinberg

My old man was a master haggler; he could strike a deal with darn near anyone for darn near anything. To say I learned a lot about making deals while growing up would be an understatement. From buying a TV at the department store to negotiating over a used car in the local classifieds, my dad always ended up with a great deal, and he usually took me along to witness it first hand.

Today, haggling is one of my favorite hobbies, and it has nothing to do with being cheap or trying to “win.” I simply enjoy the exchange between two sharp men that turns a mediocre deal into a great one for both parties.

Depending on where you are in the world, negotiation is either a part of everyday life or an uncomfortable practice that’s consciously avoided whenever possible.

But here’s a truth that many of us, especially those of us living in the Western World, don’t always consider: whether or not you realize it, every interaction you have with another person is a negotiation. From picking a romantic date with your wife to finding an agreeable price for some tchotchke gift with the local thingamajig salesman, we’re navigating a world of back and forth negotiation.

If you accept and embrace that, you can become much better at it, getting what you want from your life and feeling more fulfilled. If you reject it, your other choice is to take what’s given you and hope that it matches what you want. I learned from Dad long ago that the first option comes with better odds.

To become a better negotiator and, subsequently, create a better life for you and your family, the first hurdle to get over is breaking down all the myths we’ve come to believe about haggling. Things like:

  • Haggling is too argumentative. Only if you’re doing it wrong! Effective haggling doesn’t look or feel anything like an argument, and there’s little or no friction involved. In fact, done just right, it feels like an everyday conversation that you’d have with a friend. Good haggling actually builds respect between two people rather than diminishes it.
  • Haggling is for poor people and cheapskates. Ask any wealthy person if they got where they are by taking every deal that came their way at face value. Of course they didn’t! They knew exactly what they wanted and decided how much they were willing to give up to get it. Billionaire CEOs haggle with each other every day over multi-million dollar deals. You only look like a cheapskate when you become petty, not when you work hard to get a great deal on something that’s important to you.
  • Haggling is inappropriate. Yes, arguing over the price of a Coke at a 7-11 is probably inappropriate and it definitely makes you look like a cheapskate, but sincerely asking for consideration when you’re pursuing something valuable to you is never inappropriate and no one thinks less of you for doing it.
  • Haggling isn’t worth the time or savings. A good negotiation definitely takes time to complete, but it’s almost always worth the outcome. Some of my most successful haggles have resulted in as much as 50% savings on big-ticket items. I don’t usually even bother to negotiate unless I think I can save $100/hour or more for the work.
  • I don’t have the aggressive personality it takes to haggle. Good haggling is simply an exchange between two people trying to find a win/win deal. You do not need to be aggressive to do it effectively. In fact, if you’re the domineering type, that’ll often work against you more than it will work for you.

Find Many Paths to Success

“If you come to a negotiation table saying you have the final truth, that you know nothing but the truth and that is final, you will get nothing.” – Harri Holkeri

No matter whom you’re crafting a deal with, one of the most fatal negotiation mistakes I’ve learned to avoid the hard way is to get yourself wrapped up in just one possible outcome. If you don’t get it, there’s nowhere else to go. Why limit yourself to such a narrow definition of success?

A great negotiation should be fluid and evolve as you and your partner (notice how I said partner, not adversary) get to know each other’s goals. Setting your sights on only one scenario ruins any chance that your haggle will develop a natural flow that fits both parties.

This is sort of like creating your imaginary perfect girlfriend long before you ever meet someone and comparing any woman you meet to this illusion. One of them is fun to think about but always ends in frustration. The other is the key to happiness, but doesn’t fit the exact mold you’ve created in your mind. You’ll never find the perfect match, woman or otherwise, if you limit yourself to just one set of circumstances.

Always look for multiple outcomes.

“It is a bad bargain, where both are losers.” – Ancient proverb

I was just a kid in 1994 when the World Series was canceled because the players and owners couldn’t play together nicely.

Owners wanted to institute salary caps to spare themselves from ridiculous bidding wars and players wanted contracts that weren’t subject to renegotiation every season. For months, neither side would consider the other’s argument and the result was hundreds of canceled games and, as I recall, some really pissed off little leaguers.

When the two sides finally came together, they did so begrudgingly and the deal they reached suffered tremendously because of it. The owners ended up losing hundreds of millions of dollars and the players saw an average salary decrease of 5%. A lose/lose deal if I ever saw one.

When you come to the table with as many different options for success as possible, good deals come faster and easier.

Never Speak First

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But, let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy

Just a few days ago, I was hanging out with a friend when he remembered the garage sale drill press in the basement I’d bought a few years ago and never used. We started talking about it and all the great projects I should have known at the time I would never use it on (I spent a few years trying to convince myself I was into woodworking to no avail), when he mentioned that he had just the project he needed it for and offered to buy it.

I was excited at the prospect of getting paid to get rid of something that reminded me of a failed hobby, so I immediately blurted out, “Hey, if you’ve got $20, it’s all yours.” I don’t even remember how much I paid for it, but Paul must have thought it was a pretty good offer because he practically had the money out of his wallet before I could finish the sentence.

Now, between two pals, this is no problem. I was getting rid of a bad memory and Paul was getting a great deal, but it’s a good example of a big negotiation faux pas—never say the first number.

Never say the first number.

If possible, always defer to the other party when finding the starting number because it gives you a lot of information to work with in determining the best strategy going forward. It’s like having the home team advantage at a baseball game (this’ll be my last baseball reference, I promise). If the first number isn’t close to what you’re looking for, you can immediately decide to either not waste anymore time negotiating or come up with a strategy that draws the deal away from the dollar amount and towards something else valuable to the other party.

This trick I learned from my old man earned me $10,000 a year during my first salary negotiation. Going into it, I’d undervalued myself, but by insisting I couldn’t make the first offer, I ended up negotiating a number much higher than I’d originally expected.

In my example with Paul, I probably left a fair bit of money on the table by making the first move. It was obvious he was ready to pay more if I’d asked for it. No sweat for a friend, but certainly a disappointment otherwise.

It Ain’t All About Money

“Flattery is the infantry of negotiation.” – Lord Chandos

Use the words haggling, bargaining, or negotiating in a conversation, and just about everyone will assume you’re talking about money. For a great haggler this certainly doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, the more you draw your negotiation away from numbers, the more likely, it seems, you’ll end up with one that’s closer to what you want.

Draw the negotiation away from money and you'll get closer and closer to the dollar figure you want.

Numbers are very linear, so we’re hardwired to pick one and stick to it as much as possible. But numbers don’t stand alone; they’re usually influenced by some type of emotional attachment you have to whatever you’re bargaining over. A number itself is irrelevant. What matters is knowing why someone picked the one they did and then finding ways to meet that person’s needs in ways that make the number less important, giving it more room to budge.

Was that a little hard to follow? Let me give an example from my own life of what I’m taking about.

I have a lovely girlfriend. She owns a bakery in Portland and always brings home delicious leftovers. Since she has a passion for food and spends most of her days preparing it for other people, she likes to go out and be waited on. A lot. In the past, this was a friction point between us because I hated spending so much money dining.

For the longest time, I thought the only way to satisfy her was to go out for lots of expensive meals when really all she wanted was someone to pay attention to her (ahem…that’d be me) and make her feel like she was being treated to something special. Once I realized that, the regular $50 and $100 dinners weren’t important any more. Price meant nothing to her; the experience is what she cared about. I could cook her a meal at home and she’d love it. If we wanted to go out, I could pack a picnic and head to a park for lunch and she’d be over the moon.

It took me awhile to realize this (What can I say? You won’t see me writing a guest article about romance any time soon), but once I did, finding the perfect alternative to a wallet-busting dinner out has been easy.

Price is rarely the final deciding factor in a negotiation. It gets a lot of attention because it’s the easiest metric to focus on, but if you take the time to find the intangibles that your counterpart really values, your haggling job gets a whole lot easier.

If Someone Loses, You Did it Wrong

“Any business arrangement that is not profitable to the other person will, in the end, prove unprofitable to you. The bargain that yields mutual satisfaction is the only one that is apt to be repeated.” – Henry R. Luce

I used to manage projects for a large construction firm. Late one afternoon, I was strolling through one of my projects across town, checking out the progress for the day and making sure we were still on schedule. The doorframes were all supposed to be installed, so I was paying particularly close attention to them. Sure enough, they were all there—just what I expected from the top-rate installer we’d hired.

I was about to leave when I got the strange feeling that something just wasn’t quite right. I wandered around for 10 minutes and then I realized it—every single doorframe was the wrong color. Every one of them! $100,000 worth of custom metalwork—totally wrong.

In lots of situations like this, here’s how the conversation would go between the project manager and the doorframe supplier (expletives removed for common decency):

PM: All your frames are the wrong color. You need to take them down, get new ones, and reinstall them.

Door Guy: Sure thing, boss. That’ll be $100,000. How would you like to pay?

PM: Umm, no. You $*%&$# this up. You’re going to fix it at no cost, and we’ll bill you for any delays to the project.

Door Guy: But that’s going to cost us a fortune, and we’ll never finish in time! This could bankrupt us!

PM: Not my problem. I want the right frames, and you can pay the owner and all the other trades for the time they lose thanks to your #$&% up. See you tomorrow.

I was mad as hell, and I could have said just that to the supplier, and it’s what they’d have had to do. In the end, the project would have been just right, but literally everyone involved would have been upset about it, and I’d probably still be dealing with papers from the court case that would have ensued afterwards.

Luckily, I learned a valuable lesson from my old man about being a hard ass dealmaker:

Don’t try to be the victor. Avoid zero-sum games where someone else has to lose in order for you to win. If you negotiate like that, you’ll probably win a few, but you’ll lose just as many and kill a lot of good relationships along the way. Instead, find a way for everyone to win.

Avoid zero-sum games. Try to find a way for everyone to win.

So, what did we end up doing about all those doorframes?

We stopped the project for a day, sat down with the door supplier and the owner, and worked out a deal that allowed them to repaint the frames rather than toss them out, gave a reasonable discount to the owner, and saved the project schedule so that we all looked good.

Today, when you walk into that office building, the color of the doorframes isn’t exactly right, but there are only a few people who know it, and none of them care. Three months after that fiasco, we had another multi-million dollar contract with the same client. They liked how we handled their project. And guess who supplied the doors?

Less is More—Know When to Shut Up

“We don’t point a pistol at our own forehead. That is not the way to conduct negotiations.” – Benjamin Netanyahu

My old man is the strong, silent type. I learned early on that Dad doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, it’s probably important. This quality came in handy when it was time to do business because one of the most powerful ways to negotiate is to simply say nothing.

Whether you’re making an offer or receiving one, getting your point across and keeping quiet is one of the strongest ways to sway a bargain in your favor. Why? Because we hate awkward silence and will do anything to avoid it if we can, like negotiate against ourselves because we’re afraid we’re losing the deal.

Know when to shut up, and never negotiate against yourself.

Just got the salesman to quote you a price on that new thingamajig? Try acknowledging it by saying nothing but, “Hmmm,” and furrowing your brow like you’re contemplating it. Then just sit quietly until they feel compelled to speak again.

There are really only two likely responses you’ll get to that reaction:

  1. They’ll repeat themselves and prompt you again to tell them what you think.
  2. They’ll fumble over themselves a little bit before sweetening the deal.

This tactic works brilliantly. I know because I’m a sucker for it. If I’m bargaining for something and my offer is met by silence, I’m always afraid I’ve caused some sort of offense and rush to fix it by adjusting the offer.

This sometimes works on me even when I know it’s being used as a tactic; it’s that powerful. That’s why it’s so important to remember not to negotiate against yourself. Never change your offer until it’s been met by a counteroffer. If you’re sitting in awkward silence, don’t just concede because you want to feel comfortable. Instead, ask if they understood your offer and restate it again just in case. If you’re being met by nothing but stalling and you’re willing to negotiate more, you can actually invite a counteroffer—literally ask them to counter you.

It’s okay to invite competition because that’s always better than negotiating against yourself. If you’re going to give up some ground, make them ask for it rather than just handing it over.

***

Whether you’re trying to save some scratch on a new refrigerator or you just want to find an agreeable way to get your parents to watch your kids for the night, remember that every exchange with another human being is—in some way, shape, or form—a negotiation, a sort of dance from separate corners of a room to an agreeable spot in the middle.

I learned a lot from my old man about the art of the haggle, but there was one important thing I had to learn on my own:

In life, you rarely get anything you don’t ask for. If you want something, you’d better do your part to get it. If you ask nicely, and you ask fairly, most people will go a long way to meet you in the middle.

Happy haggling.

________________________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tervooren writes for an audience of intrepid risk takers at Advanced Riskology. Download his free negotiation worksheet for AoM readers or follow him on Twitter: @tylertervooren.

{ 77 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Hamed May 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm

There is lots of great advice in here, but the single best nugget is knowing when to shut up. It is incredibly powerful to know when to say nothing, whether you’re the customer or the salesman!

2 Maurice Reeves May 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

All good advice. Sometimes a good piece of haggling is also to buy at the right time. We got a new large-screen HD TV from Circuit City a month before they officially went out business because we’d heard enough rumors to that effect, and we drove them hard on price until we got a deep discount.

We bought our van at the end of the sales month soon before the next year’s models were coming out.

It pays to pay attention. If you company’s just landed several big deals and you’ve been doing well and getting recognition, that’s the time to start asking for a raise. Holidays are coming up and stores need to make room for new merchandise? That’s when you go in to haggle.

I love to haggle.

Great post! Can’t wait to read more lessons.

3 Maurice Reeves May 11, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Oh, and the other thing, as an addition to knowing when to shut up is knowing when to walk away (cue “The Gambler” here). Sometimes you just won’t get the deal you want and you stop.

4 Romgi May 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm

I completely agree! My wife always thinks I’m crazy for negotiating and bargaining on things. I think most people don’t realize 1) how much fun it can be and 2) how much stuff you can negotiate about. I don’t think it ever hurts to ask “how fixed is this price?” The only thing I would add to the list would be “don’t be afraid to walk away.” I don’t know how many times I have made a counter offer that was rejected, only to have the person call me back when I began to walk away. Furthermore, negotiating adds to the satisfaction of the purchase. Not only did you get the item or service you wanted, but you worked hard to get it at the price you wanted as well.

5 CoffeeZombie May 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm

On the point of never giving the first number, I’ve actually heard contradicting advice: when beginning a salary negotiation, know what kind of salary you want, and start with something a bit higher than that, so as you’re negotiated down, you’ll hopefully arrive at the salary you actually wanted in the first place.

Of course, this is assuming you’re dealing with an employer who is hoping to get you on the cheap (from your perspective, at least). Unless you know this is the case, I guess you’re probably better off letting them make the offer; if it’s higher than what you wanted, you can take it, if it’s lower, then you can make your higher counteroffer and negotiate from there.

And, of course, if you’re talking about a position where the average pay in the area is $80k and you’re employer starts with a $40k offer, perhaps that tells you a lot about the company (and that you may want to pass on the job). ;-)

6 Todd May 11, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Spot on, Tyler.

My parents owned fireworks tents when I was a child and I remember my dad haggling with hundreds of people over prices. It’s still fun to think about all of the tecniques that worked for those men and my dad pretending to give away merchandise to make customers happy. He was a hell of a salesman!

7 Lee Nelson May 11, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I recently bought a refrigerator from a big box store. It was marked down to $1500 from $2200. I used the “shut up and listen” technique. I literally didn’t say a word until I felt like the sales guy was begging me to take it. I had $1200 in my pocket, cash.

So, the guy says in desperation, my manager has told us to be aggressive with these. I basically told him, I have $800 to spend on it, would you deliver it for free if I paid $800? The answer was, no the delivery would be extra, taking it to $900, inclusive of tax. DEAL! That’s an old trick – you say “If you were to do this, I would pay this.” Once they say, they can’t do that, they’ve already given you the price. So worth it.

8 JR May 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Excellent, well written article that goes great with a story I read on Yahoo finance earlier this morning. With hard work, patience, imagination, and yes, a little luck, you can really stretch your money.

9 Erica Douglass May 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm

“…the exchange between two sharp men”

Good grief…OR WOMEN!

Yes, I know this is “Art of Manliness”…but if you’ve never met or haggled with a pro female negotiator, you’re missing out.

I estimate haggling has saved me over $500,000. Yep, I haggled over everything when I ran a hosting company…to the point where I got our upstream providers to give me prices so low I had to sign NDAs. And of course I haggled when I sold my dedicated server hosting company, too.

I hang my head in shame at people who take the first offer on big deals. I love haggling. It’s so fun. And usually, everyone wins.

-Erica

10 J. G. Wollmann May 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I remember my bargaining for the interest rate on my (then) brand new Chevy Cobalt. I was just nineteen, and, with my grandmother, was expecting a very low interest rate. The salesmen tried very hard to hit us with a high rate (about 18%) for four years, and I simply told him back and forth at every offer made: “My grandmother is signing, I am a co-signer, and with her perfect credit score, we should be given a much better deal”.

After two hours with that thought in mind, I was sent to the head honcho of sales management and was told that he wasn’t being right, and that I could in fact, get a 3.99% interest rate. Good thing, too. A year later, and I’m $3000 from paying it off. :-)

11 Greg May 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I love haggling. I’ve learned a lot by watching my father in law and I really enjoy every opportunity I have to engage in a good, civil haggling match. Terrific article.

12 Curt May 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

The full quote is:

“I simply enjoy the exchange between two sharp men that turns a mediocre deal into a great one for both parties.”

I think the key word is “enjoy.” Women sure do haggle and they’re good at it, but in my experience, haggling with a woman isn’t enjoyable. It’s kind of…awkward. I think because men still have that feeling that they don’t want to come off as aggressive or offensive to a lady. Or if she’s cute we’re wooed by her charms.

13 Tyler Tervooren May 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

@Hamed – I’m a sucker for silence. I always want to say something to get the conversation going again, so I’ve really had to learn that one the hard way.

@Maurice Reeves – That’s a great piece of advice. Knowing *when* to shop for something can be just as important as knowing how to negotiate for it. Timing can be a very big factor.

@Romgi – Yes! The walkaway can certainly be a very effective tactic as well. And you don’t have to be rude about it. You can simply say “Thanks, but no thanks.”

@CoffeeZombie – Good point. You definitely want to have an idea of what you’re worth, but you can have that knowledge and still not make the first offer. If the other offer is low, you can counter with whatever you want. It’s just a good way to see if the other side is even in the ball-park of what you’re looking for beforehand.

@Todd – Sounds like that was a hell of a time!

@Lee Nelson – That’s a really great tip for haggling over something like a fridge or car or something similar. I actually had a guy use that exact technique on me this morning (I’m trying to sell a car), and it caught me a little off guard. Then I realized it was a pretty good move on his part.

@Erica Douglass – Sorry, Erica! I know you’re an excellent haggler and I have met my match more than a few times with the opposite sex. I was just trying to buddy up with the guys here. :)

@J. G. Wollmann – Yep. Sometimes you just have to stick to your guns if you know what you want and can get. Good job on the car negotiation.

@Curt – You should haggle with Erica. She’s tough as nails!

14 Claude May 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Haggling can be fun. I like to practice at garage sales, when there’s not big money on the line. Good way to hone your skills.

The silent treatment works well, but i have a hard time doing it. I usually break the silence first. But that’s why i practice.

15 Erica Douglass May 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

“Women sure do haggle and they’re good at it, but in my experience, haggling with a woman isn’t enjoyable. It’s kind of…awkward.”

See, I always find these comments interesting.

If you haggle with one man, and that person isn’t enjoyable to haggle with, you think, “Oh, that guy isn’t fun to haggle with.”

But haggle with a woman and don’t find it an enjoyable experience? Suddenly, it’s “Haggling with a *woman* isn’t enjoyable.”

Please don’t stereotype in this way. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t fun to haggle with, and plenty who are. Both women and men! Go, haggle, and enjoy yourself.

-Erica

16 Claude May 11, 2011 at 4:22 pm

My mother did a fine bit of haggling by accident when she was very ill. She found the car she wanted and didnt want to spend alot of time in the dealership because she was sick. So she made a counter offer. As the salesman explained “we just cant do that” she thought she may throw up from her virus, so she gave an imediate “thank you” and trotted away trying to get out of there, he followed, talking quickly. She went home, threw up and went to bed.

The salesman called the next day and they agreed to her terms. Beautiful.

17 Matt Kimberley May 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I enjoyed this, thanks!

But, like the CoffeeZombie, take issue with “never speak first”.

“Never speak first, unless you’re the seller” is better. You know what your price is, you know what your walk-away price is, and you go in (much) high(er) … that way, you never geting less than you want

18 Scott H. May 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm

My favorite haggling-by-proxy experience was watching my mother.

She was a widow in her early 60s and looking to buy a new RV. She had visited several times and let her interest be known. When it came time to negotiate, she brought along her two adult sons so that the salesman might think she was a frail old woman who needed big strong men to handle things for her.

When the time came, we waited outside and she went into the office alone. Soon the owner had to be called in because the salesman was just out of his league. She’d done her research and knew exactly what everything was worth on the open market.

My favorite quote: “Okay, I have a number in my head. You tell me what the lowest price you can offer is, and if it’s at or below my number, we have a deal. If not, I’m going to go ahead and head home.” The room got very, very quiet.

She paid $5,000 less than she expected to.

Afterward, she and the owner shared a good-natured laugh about the negotiation, and everybody went home happy.

19 Jason May 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Knowing when to shut up & when to walk away are 2 great pieces of advice, but from someone who grew up hating to haggle, the best advice (the one it took me almost 30 yrs to learn) is the last one. . . if you don’t ask, the answer is DEFINITELY: NO. I’ve seen so many coworkers get all kinds of things I would’ve never had the “stones” to even ask for.

I always try to remember, what might be a big deal to me ($ or time or thingamajigs), may not even be a blip on the radar for someone else.

20 Lee May 11, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Good article. I learned many of the concepts in a mediation class I took.
What the article doesn’t mention is that negotiation only works if both parties want something the other has. It really doesn’t work in retail situations where the seller has no real incentive to barter and for the most part, doesn’t have the ability to give you a discount. I’ve heard that some department stores will give you 20% off if you ask the salesperson nicely, but I can’t see it working past that.
That said, negotiating works best when you can offer something other than money. Throw in what the other person really wants and you can get a much better dollar price.

21 Tim May 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

If anyone is really interested in this, they should look up the Coase Theorem. It’s a theory in property law/economics that says if transaction costs are low/nonexistent (as they normally would be in a haggling situation), then the most efficient distribution of property rights will always be reached.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coase_theorem

22 J Beitia May 12, 2011 at 7:18 am

Funny thing is I never realized that every time I’m overseas, I do these things. Just not usually when I’m back stateside.

I’ve haggled for sculptures in Senegal to the point of having the merchant hush me down and ask me to say he actually sold it to me for more – we’re talking a 90% discount here.

23 Ian Tuck May 12, 2011 at 9:10 am

Great article. However, just in the last couple of weeks I’ve read research that shows that in a negotiation where two people come to the table with a number, the result is more often closer to the person who says their number first. Not that I disagree with the premise, just that there’s non-anecdotal evidence that it may not be true.

24 Jordan May 12, 2011 at 9:29 am

A great example of never offering the first price is on shows like “Pawn Stars.” The pawn shop owners always ask, “What do you want for it?” first, never stating what they are willing to buy it for first.

Great article, and you continue to impress. Thanks for writing about something that so many men like myself know nothing about.

25 FrozenTundra May 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm

The greatest single instance of negotiation that I’ve personally seen was at a bank. The bank was interested in purchasing a new, and expensive piece of software. They had done all the analysis and identified the 2 top vendors, both with products that were excellent. A meeting was called with both vendors, features and price points were discussed openly, then the CEO walks in. He says, “Good job guys, you both have excellent products, but we are willing to pay the wining bidder by wire transfer right now. Give me your best offer in 30 minutes, along with your account information and I’ll have the money wired by mid afternoon.” and he left the room. I truly belive that both sales teams needed a change of clothing after that. In the end the bank became a banner client for the winner, and the software was delivered at an 80% discount off of the ‘list’ price. The haggling was very simple, very friendly and everyone came away happy. It was a lot of fun to see.

26 Sidney May 12, 2011 at 1:19 pm

“I don’t usually even bother to negotiate unless I think I can save $100/hour or more for the work.” Oh, how my spouse and his mother would wiggle and jiggle over forty cents, or so.

…skulking away…

I admire the spirit of your article. Win-win!

27 Mat May 12, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Great Article; however, How do you initiate? To me, that is the biggest mystery.

I enjoy my fair share of haggling. My truck was purchased at a great deal. Our furniture was purchased at a great time too. But refrigerators? TVs? How to start?

28 Tyler Tervooren May 13, 2011 at 12:40 am

@Mat – I assume you ask because those things typically seem like objects that aren’t regularly haggled over? For me, just reminding myself that everything is potentially negotiable is a good start and working up the courage to make an offer is the next step.

There really doesn’t have to be any sort of complex arrangement or beating around the bush. You simply decide what you think a good offer would be and make it, unapologetic. You can ask “How firm is the price?” but I don’t really like that question because the answer will almost always be “pretty firm,” even if it really isn’t. Best to just pick your starting point and make an offer.

29 JN May 13, 2011 at 1:35 am

Too bad so many stores are unreceptive, even downright defensive when it comes to haggling. It’s like you go there often, notice that something that you’d like isn’t selling and offer to buy many of whatever it is for a discounted price. They act weirded you would try to bargain and end up with something they can’t sell just sitting there collecting dust.

30 Iron Jack Cash May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

Reason so many stores are resistant to haggling is that the store employees are a) told explicitly not to haggle and b) have no clue at what the walk away price is for the store. Employees typically don’t know the cost structures the store faces. Negotiating with the high school kids at the mall? No go. I can’t count the number of people that would try and haggle with me when I was a HS kid working at the mall. We were told no go there. I used to love the people who wouldn’t talk price first (ignoring the fact that we put a price on the item, essentially offering a price first). My goal was to waste as much time as I could, since my time was going to be wasted anyway. Think my record was 40 minutes.

So the key that everyone typically ignores in a case like this is WHEN to negotiate. And understand the circumstances where no amount of haggling is going to work. Dealing with the owner of a store/item? Yes, go for it. Dealing with a minimum wage kid? Not happening, kid will get fired if he tries. Big ticket item like a car or appliance? Go for it. Already finished your meal and there were no problems? No negotiating price for you. (yes, I’ve run into this).

Also even when the person can haggle, the more you lose your cool the more the price stays the same.

Every time I see an article like this, I feel bad for the mall employees that are sure to get besieged by ill-informed negotiators with very poor negotiating skills. Be polite and understand that sometimes that dog won’t hunt.

31 James May 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

I lived in Saudi Arabia for a year. At first I could not stand haggling for everything.

It did however give me the ability at observe some experts. One of the guys I worked with who had lived there a while, seemed able to practically steal from every vendor. Yet he would always be welcomed back. To me this was amazing.

32 Rob May 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

One of the great things about getting older is that awkwardness doesn’t bother me one bit. I can sit there for 20 minutes, or heck…and hour in silence if I need to.

33 Timmay May 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

How would this work with big retail stores like Best buy / Radio Shack and such? I can’t imagine having an “in” to even begin a negotiation. Any stories?

34 DoubleD May 13, 2011 at 5:07 pm

GREAT article. And let me just add the only thing more enjoyable than a good negotiation is a good BARTER! Who needs money? Look at the situation in this country right now. The reason we have economic problems is because so many people, when they had money, went and exchanged it for goods. Now most of us find ourselves with more goods than money and lamenting that these goods no longer hold the same dollar value on the open market. HOWEVER… to the person looking for that exact good, maybe it does. This is why bartering, to me, is even more fun than negotiation. The best negotiator in the world is never going to get someone to give them $1000 for something worth a dollar. But they may be able to trade someone something that is effectively worthless to THEM (like the author’s saw), for something that is highly valuable to them but useless to the person trading it away. In this case you MAY ACTUALLY GET something worth $1000 TO YOU for something worth nothing to you. Meanwhile the person you barter with is getting the same deal. This simultaneous perception of net gain simply CANNOT happen when money is involved. But is the essence of bartering. In fact negotiating is fun precisely because it is closest possible approximation to this that can be done with money and without involving theft or fraud.

One other point not fully covered is that you will often come up against those who haven’t learned the lessons of this article. Many people DO feel that a negotiation is about getting the best of the other person. Car salesmen top this list, along with other low-grade salesmen-types, because they will stare you dead in the face and lie. Do not confuse this for “haggling” or “negotiation”. Lying is lying and it has no place in honest negotiations. So if this article missed one major point, its that sometimes a good friendly haggle, like the many described here, will not be possible.

Know when to walk away, as many astute posters have pointed out.

Otherwise, great article! Anyone got anything to trade…?

35 Milosz May 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Alright, well i’m on the market for a used car.
I’m going to be going to take a look at a car and the person wants XXXX for the car.
I would like to pay that price less a few hundred dollars. what would be the best approach here, I like if i say ‘so whats the best deal we can strike here?’ and they say XXXX flat out. whats the best strategy in a situation like this?

36 Joe May 14, 2011 at 1:11 am

@Jordan—-Yes, I didn’t fail to notice that those pawnbrokers on the show (and, for that matter, any others I’ve come across) force the customer to speak first, thereby causing the customer to violate “Never Speak First”, if under duress.

Forgive me if I missed this in the article, but let us assume one is in that situation where you are asked first. Are there any good ways of swinging the question back that have been known to at least get you close to your preferred result?

37 Parker May 14, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I love to haggle/negotiate. I also have to admit I do it more overseas than I do it back in the US. (I do a lot of travel to southeast Asia). Haggling is such a part of the culture there, and it makes all the everyday exchanges much more fun, more of a friendly game. The key is to never get upset. If you are unable to come to a deal on something, both parties just laugh and say thanks and part as friends. It really is OK if a negotiation doesn’t work out.

Another key thing I learned is store owners are much more willing to bargain if it is not in front of other customers (who might be willing to pay full price.) I will usually hang around and browse until no one else is in the store, or at least within earshot, before I start negotiating. The owners really seem to appreciate this.

38 Chad Tyson May 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for the article! I’m due soon for an employee review and will put to practice what I’ve learned. By the by, his girlfriend’s bakery has delicious goodies.

39 Evans May 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Silence is Golden!

I was driving dad’s truck (white F350 blah blah blah). I saw a white F150 sitting in a dealers lot. It looked like a miniture of dad’s truck right down to the same running boards and moon visor! Kinda cute! I was in the market for a truck but wanted an F250 of larger… but the little truck was so cute and looked like the little brother to dad’s truck that I pulled in to have a closer look, mainly for kicks and giggles… I was not gonna purchase.

The sales person came out. (bummer I thought) the price in the window was $6,800. He said he could sell for 6500. I told him that I’m not buying an F150 but if he has a 250 I’ll take a look since I’m here anyway, and that I had simply stopped because this 150 looked so much like the little brother to the one I was driving (waving over towards dads truck) that I found it hilarious.

I did one lap around the truck, the salesmen about begging me to counteroffer, and got ready to leave. He dropped to 6,000. I laughed a bit and said,” sounds good, but I’m looking for an F250.” He wondered what he needed to drop to take sell it. I told him if he can turn it into a 250 I’ll be interested… and went to leave. He dropped to 5,000. I was thinking…”whoa… I may end up with a 150 here soon…” so I stopped, went back and did another lap around the truck and decided “nope, to much, besides I want a 250″. I said,” sounds reasonable but I want a 250″. He dropped to 4500…. then 4000… and I hadn’t even given him any counter-offer or anything! I laughed and said ,”hey!!!! that’s a great price, I don’t really want a 150! it’s not enough truck… but if you keep this up you’re gonna talk me into postponing that 250!” He said,”3800″. I thought for a good half minute, said,” fire it up, I want to hear it.” It sounded good and drove good. I told him,”I don’t know (honestly wasn’t sure) if I have my checkbook along. If I don’t, deals off. If I do, and you can throw in the tax/title/tags for that, you sold it. I’ll see if I have my checkbook.” I walked over to the truck, yup, I had it stuck in the glove box from the day before. I walked over and said,”guess you’re in luck!” I left with the truck.

40 Jeremiah May 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

My father is a great salesman. He’s had his own car business, and he currently runs an RV lot. He knows how to sale things, and he knows exactly what to do when he wants to negotiate a deal himself.

He has that personality that, say, if a pizza shop says “We have a large pizza with unlimited toppings for $5, carryout only” my father will call the shop, and say “how about you just charge me the delivery fee? How about if I am going to buy 5 pizzas, will you do it then?” Then he will keep at it until he gets exactly what he wants. The thing is, the company wants your business, and typically if they make you happy, they know you will return for more business.

41 1linerjokes May 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

One area it definitely pays to haggle is when buying web domain names because the initial asking prices are always hugely inflated.

42 Tyler Tervooren May 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm

@1linerjokes—Web domains are a great example! I haven’t personally negotiated for any, but I have friends with fantastic stories about buying domains with $10,000 price tags for less than $500 after a few rounds of emails.

43 Jason May 14, 2011 at 11:14 pm

So here is my story of my first real haggling adventure using a strategy. I read this article on Friday and on Saturday I went to Sam’s Club. I saw a TV I wanted on the “returns” shelf. My current once is 10 years old and making a hell of a noise. It was marketed down from $1198 retail to $970.

I went to get a clerk and a man a few years my senior – about 50-55 came over. I asked why it was returned and we made some small talk about the TV. I asked about the warranty and was told 90 days only. No option to extend since it was a return. So here was my hook. I frowned and remained silent. After about 30 seconds I said “So it is a gamble for me to buy this TV?”. He said “Yes”. After another 30 seconds I said, “Hmmm, well that sounds like a lot of money, would you be willing to take $600?. He said “No, that is really too low.” Another 30 seconds. “Well, if I give you $700 cash can I take it right now.” He said “No.” Another 30 seconds. He said “Well, let me go check” and he took the tag from the TV and was gone about 3 mins.

He came back and said he called the manager at home and the manager said no, that it was below their cost. I said well if you are planning to lower it 10% in another 5 days we are not that far apart. $700 vs $873. So I said, “Well I noticed this other TV down here that is much smaller and it is listed at $338 so how about if I give you $1000 for both TVs?” (A TV for my basement workshop seemed pretty cool idea). So the clerk called the manager at home again right there and the manager said “No, we really can’t go lower because it is corporate policy on how the prices get set on returns”. Well, that was that.

The clerk and I continued to chat for a bit. When I said “I’ll be back in 5 days with the same offer when the price drops”, he stuck out his hand to shake mine and said “I’ll look forward to seeing you.” I didn’t get the TV but it was one of the best times I have ever had in my life. Like and “E” ticket ride at Disney. I WILL go back in 5 days. The TV at my house seems to make a little less noise tonight.

44 DaveyNC May 14, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I rarely budge off of my first number, whether I go first or not. I take the view that my first offer is my best offer and that were I to change it, it is like admitting I lied in the first place. When people see that you are holding your ground, they believe you. Something that will help with this is to come up with a price like $142.78 instead of $143. Throwing those few pennies in there gives the impression that you have whittled your price down to the nub.

45 Kyle May 15, 2011 at 4:34 am

A big thing people do not realize is that even a store that will not move on the ticket for the item will does not mean you can not negotiate at other parts of the store. In the jewelery chain I work for the merchandise has no bargaining to be had for but, repairs especially custom work that is being parted in from vedors can absolutely be haggled for When the stores is making it for you there literally wax kilming fabricating there is MUCH less room for negotiation. Even for regular repairs many sales people do not charge correctly meaning for all work involved I have great repair sales because i properly charge for the work being done and then if need be I can discount. I have been doing it for 4 years and for someone my age 21 that is some considerable time. When questioned why my quote was higher than previously I can wax with painful detail over what will actually be performed the level of difficulty and why it is more beneficial to be done in one manner than another

46 pelletman May 15, 2011 at 11:30 am

I buy and sell for a living and this is an excellent article. I would add don’t be afraid to make a low offer I routinely offer half of what people are asking, it gets them down to where they will go pretty quickly. I also encourage offers from my customers, cause once they are offering they are becoming emotionally invested in owning the item. I generally don’t beat people up for every last penny though, I think if they are making a reasonable offer than I can live with, I take it even it it is their first offer. I tell them I think it is a fair offer but I don’t want to hurt their feelings by accepting the first one, and I could go up a little if they want to make them feel better. I remember buying my fist house, the asking price was 95K, I offered 85 and they took it, I was angry because I felt they would have taken less if they jumped on my fist offer like that. My mom and dad were antique dealers, I grew up in the flea markets of America, and negotiation was a way of life.

47 Chuck Long May 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm

@Iron Jack Cash May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am

Good advice all around. I own a small costume shop in Michigan, and ALL negotiating goes through me. Ask one of my employees for a deal, and they will send you to me, but ONLY if it’s something worth dealing over — generally something that has been in the store for too long; something that is slightly damaged; vintage or used items; or a very high ticket item. You want me to haggle over the brand new costume that just arrived last week? Not happening. You want a break on a $2.00 fake dog poop? Nope. But if you really want that $350 Venetian mask, and are serious about it, I’ll listen.

And getting angry with me during a negotiation is the surest way to end a negotiation with me. I’ve never understood this gambit. I suppose it’s similar to the “making a scene” tactic some people use while trying to return an item that a store has explicitly stated are not returnable, hoping that the store representative will cave to avoid an uncomfortable scene in front of other customers. My experience in THOSE situations is that standing firm on explicit store policy in the face of a loud, angry customer will gain you more respect from the other customers than will caving to the loud mouth, and I think the same is true with angry hagglers. Getting angry just makes you look like a unreasonable jerk, and I’d rather sit on an item for another year than satisfy an unreasonable jerk.

48 David LeMeur May 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm

The whole haggling thing is rude to me. I have been open two years, as we were pouring the foundation I realized the economy was headed even deeper into the pooper and I had no way out of this project (save some remaining capitol). The business has been limping along. I haven’t taken a paycheck out of the place, rethought some of the expenses and operating costs and so on. I gave up the house and live in my office to give the business every opportunity for success and my prices are the most competitive in the area (I check this every week). It burns my ass when I am doing everything I can to nurse this along someone in a Range Rover or Jaguar tries to haggle me beyond the quantity discounting. I may or may not do the haggle b*$$sh(^, but I make no decision right in front of the customer. I check them out on line, if they have a vacation home(s) on Facebook or they have a four car garage – no haggle.

49 Strategic Capital Corporation May 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

feel free to check out http://www.strategiccapital.com for some information on Structured Settlement Payments.

50 Daniel C. May 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm

When it comes to making a deal, my mother always told me ” Cash is King”.

51 Nicolas | Man With Zen May 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I haggled like this in Antwerp to buy a diamond ring for my girlfriend.

I was paying cash and Daniel above me suggested and I got quite a big, big discount. Much better than buying online and without VAT.

52 Jimulacrum May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Excellent article. I only began to appreciate the art of haggling pretty recently, when comfortable full-time employment fell out from under me, leaving me in the ruthless land of Freelance.

I’d always pulled little tricks at jewelry stores, as I’d been instructed by an ex. Usually I’d express interest in something, let them nudge the price down a couple times in response to a quiet “Hmph” or deliberate facial tic, and then offer an even lower price for a cash-in-hand purchase right that moment. Jewelers always seemed the most willing businesses to haggle with. Now I do it all the time, pretty much anytime I perceive that someone is aiming high and willing to aim a little lower.

Let me add another tip: for in-person, on-the-spot haggling (e.g., for purchasing a vehicle or other big-ticket item), bring a friend who has no involvement with the deal. Obviously, you don’t want someone who is outwardly emotional about things (“Wow! That SUV would be a great deal at any price!”), or who will feed information to the other party by word or deed (“Are you sure this should be your first car?”). You want someone who can be there to have little side conversations with you.

When the other party makes an offer you’re not sure about, you quietly consult with the friend, giving you more control over the “silence” concept detailed in the article. This also allows you to selectively express feelings about the deal that you might not want to say directly to the other party. If the friend is up for it, he or she can also help you bluff if it would be useful; that “better offer at the other place” is a lot more convincing when it comes casually in a conversation with someone else than if you blurt it at the salesman as a reason he should make a better offer.

Haggling has made or saved me thousands of dollars in just a couple years. Thanks for the extra tips!

53 Irenaeus G. Saintonge May 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm

In your guys’ experience, does the silence tactic work when the other (selling) party is in a position of power?

54 BackwardsBoy May 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm

A great post, many thanks.

The best piece of advice I ever received was from a former roommate with an MBA who told me to always be prepared to walk away from any deal at any time.

55 Tyler W Bardwell May 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

I am not a great salesman… not a great negotiator… but one tactic that I will say has never failed me is the silence or short answer tactic. Its really the only trick I know and it really is a charmer.

Just yesterday a SoftWater Salesman came to our house to sell my family on a water treatment system. After the pitch and the details, the price came out (which actually DID render me speachless, holy EXPENSIVE)… At first I asked the salesman why their system was worth so much more then the ones I could by from Home Depot, after more pitching and more price altering, I had nothing left to say.

The salesmen was left with this to say to me “well what price would make you purchase this today”…

AN AMAZING response, and one I was not willing to answer. This was wonderful on their behalf. Not only was I being baited into a counter offer, but I was also being baiting into making a purchase on the spot! BRILLIANT.

I threw up the white flag and said that it was beyond my budget at the time and I would not be interested for quite some time. But the exchange was fun.

56 Jason May 19, 2011 at 11:42 am

@Tyler

I sold those SoftWater systems for a short bit, & the thing that impressed me the most was their script (that was to be followed explicitly by-the-book) has an answer for EVERY POSSIBLE no, or I’m not sure. It’s quite amazing, pretty much the only way to end the conversation w/o a sale is, “GET THE F&#K OUTTA MY HOUSE!”

It was definitely fun to go back & forth w/ the people that enjoyed the haggle.

57 Connor May 20, 2011 at 3:50 am

I recommend watching “Pawn Stars” from the history network. Yes, I know reality shows aren’t worth much a damn. But it makes for an interesting look at the finer art of negotiating.

58 Nice Guy Eddie May 20, 2011 at 7:51 am

Be prepared to walk away is excellent advice. A great corollary is always have an alternative. If you are looking to buy a Honda Civic but also have a Toyota Corolla in mind you will feel much less pressure when haggling. You may even do some preliminary haggling on the Corolla so get an idea of where the Civic negotiations should go. Studies have showed that deals done with a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) have a much higher success rate.

59 CoffeeZombie May 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Tyler and Jason’s comments reminded me of a “haggling” experience that leads to a tip particularly for those selling something: sometimes, no really does mean no.

I once met with a salesman for a certain company that (in this case) was selling gutter guards (they do other home-related stuff as well).

I made it clear at the outset that I wasn’t buying anything right now, I just wanted a quote, I was planning on getting other quotes, and I would decided after I’d had time to consider my budget and the various options. He said okay, took a look at the gutters and all, and we stood on the front porch to talk.

He gave me a price. I thought it was a bit high, but started to thank him and let him know that I’d keep them in consideration when he starts going on with “but if you purchase right now, we can do…”. I reminded him I wasn’t interested in buying right now. He suggested a financing deal, to which I responded that I do not finance anything unless it’s necessary.

Then he started in the whole shtick of, “Okay, let me call my manager and see if we can do better.” While waiting for the manager to pick up, he continued working the angle of building rapport (we’d talked about church before and so on). He eventually decided he couldn’t reach that manager, so he called someone else. Then began a back-and-forth of offering better financing deals; I met each, as politely as I could, with the reminder that 1) I wasn’t buying right then, and 2) I don’t finance.

Finally, my patience wore out, and at the last offer he made, I, as politely as I could, told him he was wasting his time, I would take the original quote, and he was welcome to leave.

I might have just chalked this up to one bad salesman, but, checking online, I found this was apparently this company’s modus operandi. So, while I eventually decided that gutter guards wouldn’t be worth the cost (from anyone), this company has also lost any chance at my business on any other home-improvement project.

60 Marcus Byrd May 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Definitly a lost art! My grandpa was a car salesman. He also did some body work on the side. I enjoyed listening to him haggle. I say it is a lost art because I can’t conversate anything like him. He loved to tell about the deals he had made, and I loved to hear them.

61 Edward May 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Maintaining walk-away power is crucial; especially in big-ticket items like cars, furniture, etc.

About 5 years ago I was in the market for a used car and spent a lot of time at local dealerships meeting the salesmen and getting prices.

One in particular stood out – I saw the car I liked, but I maintained my walk-away power and indifference to his pitches (Car features, pricing, warranties, etc).

At the end, I thanked the salesman, gave him my phone number and left – next door the local restaurant where I sat for 30 minutes until he called. “I can take $500 off the price.” I thanked him and hung up. This happened three more times until he had shaved off over $2,000 from the original price.

62 Thomas Van Ness May 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

Negoiting is definately an art. It is a combination of basic understanding and a lot of practice. Some people simply can not be quiet for silence to be a tactical tool in negotiating, so it must be replaced with another tactic that allows the other party to think about what was said and respond. Some of my sales guys have a pen and paper, and start writing whatever they want to say, as they wait for the other party to respond. Not that they ever show that sheet of paper to any one, they just throw it away when they are done, and yes, it is a bit wierd, but very effective at slowing downt that tendency to avoid the “uncomfortable silence” by blurting out something that handicaps their ability to negotiate

63 gambit293 May 24, 2011 at 1:31 am

Maybe this is kind of obvious, but knowledge is key. If you don’t know the value of the items being bargained, then what’s the point? This often means research research research. Nowadays, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be aware of invoice price and current specials when you walk into a car dealership. Frequently, there are factory incentives in place, but the dealer has discretion in how much of the saving to pass on to you. Plus, you should scout out online forums to get an idea what kind of deals other people are getting and to get a feel for how prices are currently trending.

The other day, a service man trimming trees for my neighbor popped by and offered to do my trees for 50% off since he was in the neighborhood. Wow, great deal, right? I decided that I might as well get a quote from him at least. He offered me a price that made my eyes bug out. He countered with “well, how much you looking to spend?” and I vaguely responded “a few hundred.” He knocked down the price considerably, and I said I’d call him if I made up my mind. He noted “Well, don’t tell your neighbor the price I’m offering because he’s paying $1,500 for what I’m doing in his yard.”

After the trimmer left, I checked with my neighbor. He paid $1,000 to the serviceman. I guess that guy figures neighbors don’t talk to each other these days?

The point is, always be aware when you’re walking into a situation unarmed. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting a schnoozlelipznut for $200, which is 60% off the list price, if you know nothing about schnoozlelipznuts or what they’re worth.

64 Chris May 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Interesting article!
I actually learned a bit, might try that silence thing!

65 Justin May 26, 2011 at 8:28 am

Great post mate!
I go through seasons of being good at haggling and getting what I want for a great price without conflict or argument. Then other times rubbish at it; bending over to the price and coming away frustrated and disappointed.

I have learned it is better to walk away from a deal if I am not getting what I had in mind as that way I feel like I wont regret it after. It is entirely my fault no getting the intended price as I was doing it wrong and possibly not in the right frame of mind to be negotiating.
It is certainly a learning process and one that can be practiced but this post has and will help immensely and I am very much looking forward to buying something to haggle over. All I need now is money!!

Cheers

66 JABrown May 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I am in Kathmandu, Nepal right now and I really wanted to get a Kukuri for myself, my brother and friends. There is a big strike going on here so many shops are closed and I’m only here one day.
I found the ONLY Kukuri shop around and the man was a master salesman. Knowledgeable of his products, always comparing quality and craftsmanship… but the price was more that I would have paid back home. I made him an offer that was actually more than they were worth and he STILL refused to take it… in the end I walked away. I think he expects me back. But immediately after I made that high offer I realized it was still way too much. I’m sad that the situation won’t allow me to get any kukuri but at least I didn’t waste a ton of money I don’t have.

67 Meredith May 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

For smaller items, try and see if you can get something else you want for free. My mom and I were in a hat shop, and I couldn’t decide between two hats. We talked back and forth, trying to figure out which one I couldn’t live without, and the shop owner eventually threw in one of them for free. We were all happy.

68 Eduardo November 29, 2012 at 6:52 am

Hi,

I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I am getting married in June next year and searched the net for a few articles on haggling as I knew I was going to be doing a lot of it. I came across this one and it has helped a lot.

My recent success was our jeweller. He does not own a shop and came to our house for us to see the styles etc. We are getting custom made rings. Anyway his overheads are really low so unfortunately despite my best efforts he was not able to budge on the price, but then he mentioned that he would plate my wife to be’s engagement ring for free when we ordered the rings. I then asked him how much this normally costs which he told me. I then said since he could not give us a discount could he offer us 1 free plaing in the future, which he agreed on.

It just shows haggling is not all about getting money off, a lot of people can’t budge on price, so why not see what extra’s they can throw in instead!

69 Steven April 17, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Great article! I especially love the part about making sure the deal is mutually beneficial; It’s truly great advice.

You might be able to hammer a salesman into practically giving a car away, price-wise, but he’s never going to want to deal with you again. A fair deal that represents the salesman receiving what the item and his time is worth, without gouging the buyer, is much more conducive to a future business relationship.

Imagine a haggling scenario where you and the salesman reach a mutually beneficial price (neither one forcing the other to “lose”). Next time you’re in the market for a vehicle, you go to him, and he knows you’re not only looking out for yourself…you’re able to get similar deals with much less effort.

For example, when I bought my first car, I was desperate. The truck I had been driving had totally died on me, and was going to cost upwards of $3000 to repair. Instead of throwing more money into the trash on the ancient truck, I decided $3k would be better spent as a down payment on a car. I was off from work this particular day, but I had to work the next day, and I couldn’t find a ride, so it was crucial that I find a vehicle in one day. I managed to find a ride to the dealership, but my friend had to leave for work immediately, so I was stranded: I either had to buy a car or walk home in the cold. The salesperson picked up on this, and combined with my inexperience at haggling, I got an awful price on my car, with a mediocre interest rate.

The salesman was surely excited that he suckered me into such a ‘deal,’ but now that I’m more informed, I will never give him my business again.

70 Chris June 26, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a better deal by not talking. Most times it’s not necessarily that I am doing it on purpose; I just tend to take my time and think things out when negotiating. When I was buying my truck, The guy made his counter to my offer (which was itself a counter to the sticker price). I sat there for a bit, staring at the offer sheet and thinking about it, when he suddenly knocked another $750 off. Thing was, I would have accepted his last offer if he had given me another minute to think about it.

71 BigFish July 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Sometimes it’s hard to haggle a price without feeling like a jerk, and the possibility of offending the other party by undervaluing their product can be scary.

In those situations I like to fall back on smiling cheekily, saying “Can’t blame a guy for trying” and taking the last price they offered. It makes me feel like less of a jerk, plus knowing I have a plan if I go too far gives me the confidence to push it.

72 Drew Y July 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I’m a college student that likes saving money (who doesn’t?, and no one taught me to haggle. Obviously you can’t do this at say Wal-Mart with set prices, so where can I practice/ use this technique at?

73 Jesse July 12, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Great article. The “Less is more” section really drove home what has a happened to me previously.

I went in to a wireless carrier who was offering a “free” phone, the same device I have been wanting but waiting on the price to come down. I decide to look into it. I get through the bait and switch that the “free” is a rebate, but it still was a pretty good deal. So I went through with it and was getting two, one for my wife also.

We start on paperwork as another customer in the store starts getting irrate over the bait and switch. He’s not happy and begins let the salesman and everyone else know it.

As I complete the paperwork for the service upgrade, the salesman starts offering me their real selling point: accesssories. Now, I have already been pricing this phone previously and had looked into accessories and service fees and already had in mind what I was looking to pay.

The salesman, Xavier (seriously), starts pointing out the accessories and I say “Sure, what are you selling them for?”. “Oh, they are $$ but with your service upgrade today I can offer you 30% off, let’s see what you like and I can get the price for you.” Ok; so I pick out a couple of otterboxes and we get back to the desk.

Irrate man is getting louder now, “All I know is my wife says free phone, but you’re telling me $$ now, $$ service fee, and now you want me to buy covers too?” His wife begins to pitch in to help the salesman.

Xavier gives me the price for the cases, I say “Eh, thanks, but I’ll just get the phones right now.” “But sir, I’ll feel real bad if you walk out of here and your phone gets broken because there was no case.” “That’s ok, thanks though.” I tell him.

He starts setting up the new phones as I wait patiently and catch some more of the side show. Irrate man has conceded and is now at a desk with two phones and cases; his wife leaves for him to finish up the paperwork.

Xavier then asks me to come behind the desk and look at his screen. He has the itemized total, with the cases added on. I’m sure I probably furrowed my eyes at the sight because I know I told him I wasn’t interested.

He then starts taking the prices and working them down. It actually surprises me a little and I chuckle. Xavier gets the price to where the cases are buy 1 get 1 free. He says, “Sir, I’d feel really bad if you walked out of here without something to protect your new buy.” I say, “Give me that with screen protectors too and you got it.” Xavier says “Great!”.

I have just bought two phones with complete rebates and an otterbox, and I have gotten another otterbox and screen protectors for free.

We complete the transaction, I pay, and he packages everything up. Xavier says “If you know anyone who needs a phone, tell them to come see me!”, I say I will, thank him for his help and we shake hands.

As I go to leave I can feel Irrate man’s stare, I glance over to him and meet his squint. He has a face of suspicion, with what seems equal parts of confusion and contempt. It’s almost as if he is thinking “Did I just see what I think I did? Did that salesman just give HIM a deal?”

I pass irrate man a meek smile and a nod, then step out feeling accomplished. I had just spent more than I intended to going in, but saved on the entire upgrade overall.

74 Craig July 14, 2013 at 4:32 am

Good article! Great comments as well! As a seller, leave yourself a little room to haggle. I had a Gold Wing to sell. I was asking $3500 which was very fair given mileage, condition, etc. I had a number of people try to buy it for less, but no dice, I wanted $3500 for the bike. I didn’t sell it that summer and stored it for the winter. Next spring I place an ad in the paper asking $4000. A fellow who’d been looking comes by and checks it out. He says, “What’ll you take for it?” I say, “I’m asking $4000 but I’d gladly take $5000″. We ended up settling for $3500.

75 Austin October 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm

There’s a really good haggling tip that’s actually scientifically proven to work (i know, sounds dubious)

When you name a price, give out a very specific number. The wooden sculpture is $30? I’d buy it for $21.50. How much should my salary be? How about $67,400.

It gives the impression that you have done your research, even if the number is somewhat arbitrary, and your ‘partner’ will feel pressured to acquiesce to your price.

76 Larry January 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm

I learned the fine art of haggling from my dad, who was a real estate speculator/developer. Not only have I saved (and made) a decent amount of money with it, I enjoy it. It’s just good, clean fun.

Recently, at a gun show, a seller had a rifle on his table that I wanted. The price tag was $350. He had a few other lookers there at other items. I put three $100 bills in my left hand, held the rifle up in my right and said, “There’s $300 in this hand, and the rifle here. Take the one you want”. He took the bills and said “Done”. Quickest haggle of my life.

Also, as others have said, never underestimate the power of silence. Direct salesmen use the silent close. Tell the customer what you want and shut up. Just be prepared to wait it out. I asked for a check once when I was selling and sat for 42 minutes until the customer reached for his checkbook. Not a word was spoken in that time.

Have fun haggling.

77 charley April 9, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Getting the most for your money is good sense. But as a small business owner, I’ve seen people make a fool of themselves trying to get something for nothing. Never forget that small business must make a profit so they can be open next time you need them. Unfortunately, Joe customer believes any sale is ALL profit. Thats why the majority of people will never work for themselves or own a business because they dont understand economics, only to satisfy their own greed ! low price is not always a great VALUE ! sorta like what your worth to your boss man tommorow.

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