How To

The Art of Haggling

More than 50 percent of the time when I ask for a discount, I get it. My secret? I do my research, I use the right body language, and I have the guts to ask. Here are step by step tips to replicate my success.

First, you’ve got to understand why haggling works. It’s simple supply and demand. When the seller wants to close the deal more than you, you have an opportunity to haggle successfully. Note that I didn’t say it’s a done deal. You’ve still got to persuade the merchant to work with you. I once convinced a cupcake seller to give me a hot discount. Another time, I talked down my $1,214 iPhone bill.

When to Haggle

- Before you think about asking for a deal, you’ve got to determine if haggling is an option. Here’s what to look for:

- The merchandise is slightly damaged or missing a part.

- The merchandise is old, perhaps dusty.

- No one seems to be buying it.

- The price is high relative to what rivals are selling it for.

- A rival seller is offering a better deal.

- The seller has an abundance of the product.

- The product is about to go out of season (like a swimsuits in July) or expire.

Set the Stage for Success

If one or more of these factors is present, the seller may be open to negotiating. In theory, the more these factors come into play, the easier it will be to get your way. But you still have to play your cards right. Here’s how to set the stage for success.

- Be timely.

Improve your chances by shopping at a slow time, when the merchant or salesperson has time to talk to you.

- Be friendly.

No one wants to help a rude, pushy, or annoying shopper. Being a jerk might actually make a clerk work against you. The customer is always right? Not this time.

- Be discreet.

If other shoppers are within earshot, a sales person may be less inclined to work with you because they don’t want others to demand the same savings.

- Be complimentary.

Just because you want a discount doesn’t mean you don’t value the product and the seller. Say something positive about the store, the service, or the merchandise when you begin the conversation.

Opening Statement

Okay, so you’ve spotted an opportunity and laid the ground work. Now you’re ready to make your opening gesture – notice I said gesture and not demand. Haggling is a gentle art of persuasion. Say things like:

- “This item is damaged slightly. Would you be able to shave 20% off the price?”

- “I noticed this has not sold in 6 weeks. I can take it off your hands if you are able to sell it at a discount.”

- “Another store has a better price but I like to shop here. Can you work with me?”

- “I’d really like to buy this item but it’s a bit above my budget.”

- “I was at –name of rival store– and they have a deal for…Do you price match?” If at all possible, bring in the flyer, coupon, or ad sheet as proof.

Sealing the Deal

Not only have you asked for a discount in the appropriate way, giving the merchant the flexibility to save you a few bucks, but you have even more ammo.

- Offer to pay in cash.

- Buy in bulk (if appropriate).

- Mention you are a loyal customer (if you are).

- Thank them for their counter offer and consider it before you make a rebuttal.

- Ask for perks outside of a lower price, like an extended warranty, additional parts, or free delivery.

- Be willing to walk away from a deal if it doesn’t fit your budget, after thanking the merchant for his final offer. Come back later. Perhaps they will work with you then.

No matter how your haggling situation works out, leave yourself the option to politely decline the final offer so you don’t feel compelled to run away in a huff. Many times I’ve accepted the final offer, even if it was higher than I thought I would be able to negotiate. Haggling may not turn out the way you want, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Julia Scott founded the money-saving blog BargainBabe.com.