Bartering. Negotiation. A compromise. A showdown. A handshake. A deal.
At some point in our lives, we’ve all been there. Whether it’s over fridge magnets in a shady bazaar in tourist-ridden Turkey, or over the phone with an twenty-something salesman trying to force faster broadband down your throat. Haggling is human nature, and if you want to get better at it, you need to brush up on your reading.
In modern times, we’ve developed a polite social aversion to haggling. We see the price of a product and we purchase without a further thought. We assume that life is non-negotiable, and the money that we pay for the goods we use is a fair trade.
Well, I’m sorry to bring reality crashing down, but I think that’s all a load of twaddle. And in this article, I’ll tell you why.
- The Art Of The Deal
- The Golden Rule Of Haggling
- What’s The Best Way To Haggle?
- When Is The Best Time To Haggle?
- 11 Haggling Strategies That You Can Use Today
- Conclusion: Haggle Your Heart Out
The Art Of The Deal
The simple fact is that most of our lives are a series of never-ending deals. Give up something of yours, receive something else in return. Pay £15, receive a meal. Exchange 40 hours of your week, take home a salary. Trade four hours of a Sunday afternoon, enjoy an excruciatingly boring trip to see the in-laws. So the list goes on.
Viewed through this lens, it is clear that every day of our lives is characterised by a series of interconnected transactions. Some of them are monetary, others are intangible.
What we receive from each deal is based on the strength of our position and our ability to extract value. If you improve your haggling capabilities, you maximise the potential reward that you are entitled to receive.
Once this simple fact is accepted, the question becomes: how do we improve our bargaining power? How can we make sure that we are negotiating the best deal? When is the time to be charming, or aggressive, or stay silent?
Well, fear not. In this article, we revive the lost art of haggling, in all its former glory.
The Golden Rule Of Haggling
The golden rule of haggling is this:
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Seriously. The worst thing that can happen if you try to negotiate a lower price is that the other person says “no”. And so what if they do? You won’t have lost anything. You’ll simply be in the same position as when you started.
In fact, I’m actually of the opinion that someone saying “no” to your attempt to haggle is actually a reward in itself. It builds your resilience and teaches you which tactics work and which don’t. They say that the best way to learn is to fail, and fail quickly. So a botched attempt to barter is really just a way of improving your ability to negotiate.
Bruce Lee once said that he does not fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks, but rather the man who has practiced the same kick 10,000 times. And the same goes for haggling. The more practice you put in, the better you’ll become. And yes, I did just reference Bruce Lee in a money-saving article.
What’s The Best Way To Haggle?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to haggling. The correct tactic will depend on your knowledge of the topic, the availability of substitute products, the willingness of the other person to compromise and a whole host of other factors.
However, in most cases, you’ll do far better with charm and a cheesy grin than you will with an aggressive or combative demeanour. Someone once said to me that confidence and a smile will take you further than a university degree, and as I get older, the more I’m inclined to agree.
Having some audacity about you, a twinkle in your eye and a cheeky smile on your face will often put you on the front foot when it comes to haggling. Drum up a gentle patter, add in a bit of humour and maybe even be a touch flirtatious.
Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. You want to cajole the other person into giving you a better offer, not bludgeon them into bleak submission. Haggling should be fun and you shouldn’t go around pressuring or coercing people for the sake of a few pennies.
Done correctly, a successful haggle should leave both parties feeling like they’ve had a positive interaction.
When Is The Best Time To Haggle?
There is a time and a place to try and haggle down the price of something. Clearly, I’m not suggesting that you march into your nearest charity shop and start beating down the lady behind the till on the price of a Donnie Darko DVD.
However, I do recommend that you cast aside your established notions of when it’s appropriate to negotiate. In many cultures, haggling is an accepted norm and buying something at its advertised price would be considered madness.
What’s the position in the UK? Well, legally, when you go into a shop or browse products on a website, you’re generally not bound to buy a product or service until money exchanges hands. This is because a contract isn’t formally struck until you’ve paid your money and you receive the product or service in return.
This means that until the deal is agreed, you’re legally permitted (generally-speaking) to barter to your heart’s content. And this goes for anything. Even established brands will give you a discount if you know what you’re doing.
11 Haggling Strategies That You Can Use Today
So you want to start haggling, but you’ve no idea where to start. No problem.
Below, I’ve listed the easiest and most effective techniques that you can use to start haggling today. Some you can use almost anywhere, and some require a little more thought. But all of them can either save you money or bag you some freebies. And that’s what we’re all about.
1. Something To Sweeten The Deal
An easy yet effective method for beginners is to simply ask stores or customer service assistants to sweeten the deal by throwing something in for free. Quite often, staff aren’t allowed to give discounts to random customers, but they may be able to throw in something that you wouldn’t have been given otherwise.
For example, if you’re purchasing a new TV, ask if they can throw in a HDMI cable or a Netflix gift card. If you’re purchasing a pair of Oxford brogues, ask if they can include some shoe polish or leather protector.
Alternatively, if you’re buying something with a number of add-ons, like a laptop with a keyboard and mouse, ask if they can give you a carrying case or some antivirus software too.
It may sound sickeningly simple, but you would be really surprised at how often this tactic works, particularly if you speak to a salesperson or customer services assistant on the shop floor.
Many companies actually have a revolving set of stock that staff can give out for free or at a heavy discount in order to entice sales. This is usually at stores that sell higher ticket items rather than your average supermarket, but it can never hurt to ask. And you might end up bagging yourself something quite valuable in the process.
2. Target The Discount
If a shop is already advertising certain stock as discounted, this is the perfect opportunity to make additional savings. The rules on the price of the product have been broken, and you can exploit this to push the cost down even further.
The salesperson will find it much easier to give an additional discount on the stock because the product is already viewed as reduced. Behavioural scientists refer to this as “psychological cost” (google it, it’s real).
Because the salesperson has already accepted the fact that they won’t get full price for the product, the psychological cost of lowering it even further is reduced. Therefore, they will be more inclined to give you even more of a discount.
Does it seem a little immoral to exploit a person’s psychological makeup just to save some money? Well companies have been using the exact same psychological tricks on you for years, to make you buy more, use more and consume more. So let’s just call this our way of getting even.
3. Aim For The Senior, Avoid The Boss
If you’re haggling in person in a shop or store, the best person to haggle with is not the boss or the owner.
The reason for this is that most of the time the boss or owner is simply too busy to care about your demands for lower prices. They’re already juggling a million and one other things and your attempt to haggle will very likely just annoy them, which is not how we want to start our negotiation.
Instead, aim for the senior or assistant manager. These people have more power than junior members of staff and often have more experience, so they understand the importance of securing a sale.
They’re also the people who are more likely to have to meet targets, like volumes of sales or turnover rates, which can incentivise them to strike a deal. And they’re usually better at pleasing customers (hence their promotion to a senior position in the first place), so statistically you’re improving your odds right from the start.
4. “Never Beaten On Price”
You’ll have seen those adverts from companies that promise they are “never beaten on price” or offer a “price match guarantee” if you can find the same product for cheaper elsewhere.
What these statements really are is a massive invitation to haggle. It’s like the companies are whacking a whopping great sticker on their face which says “NEGOTIATE WITH US”.
The best part is, you don’t even have to find a cheaper product elsewhere most of the time. All you need is the knowledge that someone in that shop has the power to reduce the price of their products, if you can convince them to do so.
So don’t just accept the price that is being offered to you in shops like this. These places are goldmines because the senior managers can lower the price at the drop of a hat. Target the end of a sale or when stock is being rotated between different seasons for the best results.
5. Defects Equal Discounts
If you don’t care about the aesthetic of a product, or if a scratch or dent really won’t make any difference, then look around for products which are slightly damaged.
This works particularly well with things like clothes if they have a creased collar or a missing button. Even brand new books with dog-eared pages or display furniture can be heavily reduced.
The trick is to shop around and ask for a discount if you do find something slightly worn or scratched. Just make sure it’s marked on the receipt that you bought it damaged, in case you want to return it later.
6. Buy In Bulk
Stocking up for a party or buying all your Christmas presents at once? Shops will often give you a discount for bulk-buying, particularly if you’re buying lots of the same item.
You can even team up with friends or family members to create a “bulk-buying group” to negotiate the price down further. Because you’re buying more of the product, the shops can afford to reduce their profit margins a little. And that can add up to big savings for you (and your mates).
7. Haggle When It’s Quiet
Avoid haggling if the shop is bursting full of customers. There’s very little incentive for a business to offer you a discount if sales are already booming. Plus, salespeople will already be rushed off their feet and will have little patience with your attempts to barter. They’d rather speak to a customer who will pay full whack.
Instead, try your haggling at quieter times, when there are fewer people willing to buy. Mid-week mornings are often the best time of day, when most people are at work or school. Sales are harder to come by during these hours and you’ll find it much easier to strike up a conversation with a customer services assistant who isn’t rushed off their feet.
8. Use A Debit Card
Many businesses prefer debit card sales over credit card sales because the fees for debit cards are much cheaper. Telling a salesperson that you can pay now, via debit card, could just be the sweetener that you need to secure yourself a tasty deal.
You can also hint (but do not commit) that you might be interested in their financing options. Salespeople often want you to use finance to buy their products because they can earn extra commission for getting people to buy on finance.
If you hint that you might do this, the salesperson may be incentivised to offer you a better deal. Then at the last minute, you can tell them that you’d rather pay by debit card instead.
Just remember not to actually use the financing options, however tempting they may be. They are often a very expensive way of purchasing things. Plus, as a general rule of thumb, you should be able to afford the things you want to buy outright, rather than purchasing them on credit.
9. Never Settle Too Early
Salespeople love to tell you that they can’t drop the price or that they can only drop it so far. “I’m sorry Sir, it’s our policy to never reduce the price of our stock. Now come over here and look at this item, it’s 25% off in our limited time sale…”
Sometimes this is true, but if they say it early on in the conversation, then don’t be afraid to cheekily push a bit more. Often they say this as a standard response in the hope of shutting you up and getting you to pay full price.
Obviously, don’t push it too far and do try to read the room. You don’t want to embarrass a junior manager in front of his supervisor or badger the person behind the till. It’s not worth it. But do be aware that salespeople have certain tactics to get you to pay more money. After all, that’s what they’re employed to do in the first place.
10. Do Your Research
Before you run into your nearest supermarket to start haggling down the price of sliced bread, equip yourself with the knowledge you need by conducting some research.
Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the product you’re buying – how much it sells for elsewhere, whether there are any deals online, if its been discounted before – the better.
Aim to go into a negotiation armed to the teeth with information. The haggling will go much better for you and the salesperson will realise that they’re not dealing with the average schmuck. And this means more money saving for you.
11. Never Fill The Silence
As your bartering attempts come to a crescendo, a classic sales tactic used by salespeople is to make you an offer and stay silent.
As human beings, we have a tendency to fill silences to avoid the situation becoming awkward. The salesperson knows this and is hoping you simply say “sure, ok, deal” to avoid the uncomfortable atmosphere.
My advice to you? Stay silent. Let them fill the void with an even better offer. Feel awkward? Good. So do they. It’s a Mexican stand-off and the first to speak loses. So bite your tongue and simply wait.
And remember, you’re not being rude by doing this. Salespeople are trained to use these techniques to help them sell you more products. It’s nothing personal, and by using the same tactic, you’re simply playing them at their own game. So get used to feeling uncomfortable. It will save you money in the long run.
Conclusion: Haggle Your Heart Out
Haggling and negotiation is a part of human nature. Historians have discovered evidence of humans trading and bartering since the dawn of civilisation. This skill is ingrained within us, yet unfortunately for many, it remains repressed and dormant.
Use the strategies set out in this article to rekindle a little of the fire within you and learn to negotiate with life on your own terms. You can haggle virtually anywhere, and after a bit of practice, you’ll make some serious savings whilst having some fun with it.
Do you have a story which shows your haggling success? Leave me a comment below and show off your skills.