September 28 2010|05.13 PM UTC

David Tu

10 Simple Tips to Master the Art of Haggling and Savvy Shopping

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If you’re a news junkie like me, you may have read about a recent finding produced by America’s Research Group, which found that in the past holiday season, approximately 72% of customers haggled with a retailer, compared with 56% the year before.  Upon hearing this news, the consumer advocate in me was delighted and I proceeded to do a little dance in the head — or so I thought until fellow passengers on the bus started starring at me funny.

Public dancing aside, it was even more enjoyable to read that about 80% of those attempting to haggle were successful at getting a better deal, compared with about half of those who were successful a year earlier.  Despite difficult economic times, it was refreshing for us at BillShrink to see that more Americans are getting over the idea that the act of haggling  can be bad-form — after all, when done properly and gracefully, haggling is just another way for a savvy consumer to get a better deal.

If haggling isn’t your forte, have no fear, we have a few tips for you.

Ask but not demand. Attitude matters and being courteous and polite will never hurt.

It doesn’t take a master negotiate to know that your attitude and approach will matter greatly when you’re trying to make a deal.  You should always ask for a discount instead of demanding it. “Is there any flexibility in the price?” comes out much nicer than “I need you to give me a better deal.”  Besides keeping with common bargaining etiquette by only asking, you’re also leaving the door open for future discounts.

Try using phrases that are less aggressive if you have comfort issues.

The above question, “Is there any flexibility in the price?” is neutral enough. A simple inquiry on “Are there any discounts available?” followed by “Is there anything you can do for me with the pricing?” will also work well for those of us that’s more timid. Remember that you are simply asking for a better price than the listed price, you’re not asking the salesperson to give you their first-born.

Initial research can be helpful, especially if you know competitors pricing.

(source)

Want a better price on that widget? You’ll be in a better negotiating shape if you already know the general price a competitor’s willing to sell for – this way, when you see a true deal being discounted by another seller, you’ll be able to spot it miles away.

Know your price point and know when to walk away.

It’s incredibly important to set the price you’re willing to pay before you head out shopping.  Juggling the price will be dependent on the item in question, your lifestyle, your income, and your value system.  Obviously, if the widget in question is a couple of bucks, perhaps some soul-searching isn’t warranted.  Setting a price you’re willing to pay for also allows you to back away when you can’t find the right price.  Those of us that have frequent buyer’s remorse will probably be well aware of how important it is to be able to walk away from a “deal.”

For smaller chain retailers, consider cash as a bargain chip in lieu of paying with credit.

(source)

Cash sometimes is king.  Believe it or not, it can be a powerful visual aid when you’re out looking for a deal.  Beyond the willingness to buy, it also shows your ability to buy.  Many smaller retailers will gladly pass along the savings from avoiding a credit card transaction to you, and perhaps even a bit more in percentages in discount as they will have less risk to deal with such as credit card chargeback.

Be prepare to buy if the seller meets your price.

Imagine if you spent half an hour or more servicing a customer, trying to reach a common price point, only to have the customer walk away even after you’ve met their price point. Time well spent, indeed. Although haggling can be a battleground of sorts, at the other side of the fence are real people too. Haggling etiquette dictates that if a seller is willing to meet your price point, you should be willing to buy.

Not sure where you can exercise and practice these haggling tips?  Give these slightly uncommon places a try; you may just be surprise by the result:

Your cable and internet service providers.

Do a quick search and find out what your cable or internet service provider, along with their competitors charges their new customer. Example: your cable company may be having a 6 months, $30 promotion for new customers (regular price $45). Grab your latest bill, look for the customer service number and call up the cable company. Ask for a retention specialist (if available), and in your most neutral, friendly voice, tell the customer service representative: “I’ve been a long time customer for a couple of years now and I notice that you’re charging new customers only XX (or their competitors are charging XX amount) – is there anything you can do for me in terms of a discount?” Here’s another tip, if the first try at a discount doesn’t work, call back another time and try again. I’ve personally called up my cable broadband service every 6-8 months, asking for a discount in service charge. An easy $120 savings from a 10 minute call? Yes, please!

Your credit card company.

From interest rate to miscellaneous fees, haggling for a discount in interest rate or a waiver in fees is still possible in these credit-strapped times. Couple things will determine your success: your profitability as a customer to the company in question, your length of time with the company, your past transaction history (if you’re a frequent late bill payer, asking them to waive your late fee probably won’t work), and your overall creditworthiness. Again, being aware of competitor’s interest rate (or rates being offered to you in mailers) will help you in negotiating a reduction in interest rate. If you’re looking for a waiver in fees, being friendly, non-confrontational will go a long way. If this is your first time being subjected to the fee in question, you’ll have an even better chance in getting it removed.

The above tips are obviously not an end-all guide to haggling; they are more of a general approach for some of us Americans who simply have a different cultural outlook on bargaining and asking for a lower price.

Still on the fence about haggling? Not a problem, let’s try the other approach and use the many resources available online so you can find and get the best possible price on all things consumerism.

Four Easy Savvy Shopping Tips

A couple of considerations are needed before you decide to follow the shopping tips below.  First, is the effort even worth the price tag involved?  As much as we are for frugality and bargain hunting, there are moments where your time can be better spent on earning more money or simply living.  Secondly, as with haggling, you should consider your price point and value.  No matter the discount or special deal you’ve found, the savings is a moot point if the price tag is still well beyond your means.

Having said that, here are a few different approaches you can consider when you’re hunting for the best deal available online:

Use discount and coupon site.

Retailmenot and CouponCabin are well known coupon websites.  Simply type in the name of the store in question and you’ll find various current discount codes or printable coupons for non-online purchases.  Not sure what other discount and coupon sites are out there? Check out this list of top coupon websites for more goodies to bookmark.

Venture out into specialized message boards.

(source)

If you’re feeling adventurous, becoming a member in one of the many online deal-seeker message board communities will reap many benefits in future savings. Slickdeals.net and Fatwallet are both popular destination for bargain hunters. Looking for deals and advices on electronics and computer hardware? Anandtech’s message board can be a great start. Airlines and travel deals? Flyertalk is your answer.

Price comparison engines are your friends.

Price comparison engines can save you the trouble of scavenging through the web to find the cheapest widget. If you’re looking for computer hardware or electronics, Pricewatch.com will do the trick. For travel related purchases, Sidestep.com will search through major airline websites to find you the best fare. If you want even more of a personalized recommendation on cell phone plans or credit cards, don’t forget BillShrink for an objective suggestion. Good “old” Google shopping can also be a good starting place for a general price check.  Lastly, there’s also Bing’s cashback shopping.

When in doubt, buy from stores with favorable return policy and/or price match policy.

(source)

Costco’s return policy is almost legendary.  Despite recently tightening their return policy, you can still return most things at Costco without any major issues.  Other large retailers such as Nordstrom also have a price matching policy along with a 14-days sale adjustment policy.  If you’re purchasing online, many online retailers such as Buy.com will have a best price guarantee policy in effect (although some will have restrictions).  Always be aware of a store’s return policy when you purchase a large-ticket item, and the restocking fees in question for the particular product.

The above haggling and shopping tips will surely come off as common sense to many people.  This is true enough as savvy shopping and respectful haggling isn’t a mystical art that requires years of training.  When you establish your true price point for a product, research carefully the general market price, and know full well if you can afford the purchase – you’ll be well on your way to making consistent and sound purchasing decisions through this difficult economic time.  In the mean time, if you were able to secure better pricing due to haggling, don’t forget to do a little dance in your head in the spirit of savvy consumerism.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Chase September 28, 2009 at 8:01 pm

this is a fantastic article. I’ll definitely be putting a few of these tips into practice.

I loved your (common sense) point about there being real people on both sides of the haggle-war. Too True. (And too often forgotten)

If I can add any further advice, I would say:

From someone who was working in retail until recently, the best place to ask for that extra bargain is on the sales floor, where the sales person’s job is to build relationships and, well, make sales.

This is compared to waiting until you’re at the register with your credit card in hand, hoping they have a hidden coupon under the counter for you. The cashier’s job is just to push you through the line and out the door (with a big smile, of course).

Asking while on the floor, before your sale is a guarantee, will (often) go further than waiting til you’re at the register. Hopes this helps!

Now it’s time to tweet this.

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Johnny2Bad October 22, 2009 at 2:17 am

The tip about being prepared to buy if someone meets your price cannot be understated … a long time ago I was in retail. If I meet (or exceed) the price the customer wants, I’ve spent some effort finding out exactly how much I can afford to sell it for. I’ve also entered into an implied agreement with the customer … I expect something back, even if it’s only his agreement to see me the next time he’s looking for something I sell … a chance to make a sale, no obligation.

Here’s the downside … If I go along, and you don’t buy, two things happen. One, I’m not so inclined to give the next guy a discount. That doesn’t hurt you personally, but someone pays for your misstep.

Second, if I see you again … no bargains, sonny. Part of good business is knowing which customers you don’t want … they cost you money and effort. You’ve just tatoo’ed a big sign on your forehead and I’d rather not sell you anything. You’re just not worth the effort, when I can spend my time making more sales to others.

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LlyWht October 22, 2009 at 8:35 am

I work in retail,and far too often people are asking for me to “work some magic” in getting them a lower price. Or they lie to my face about a bogus price elsewhere. I know which customers are “haggle-pron” and try to get Everything for almost nothing. That I don’t like. I understand that money is tight(trust me, I feel it), but a boldfaced lie and getting angry won’t cut it.

For people who want to haggle prices, keep your cool. Is 10% off a low cost item really worth throwing a fit? Especially knowing if you may return to the same store for another item that’s a bit pricey, and getting shafted out of a better deal?

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Tiffany October 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I own a pawnshop and deal with hagglers daily. The most important thing is #1. If a customer walks up with an attitude demanding 1/2 price the answer is NO. If a customer politely asks if we have room to move or better yet makes a reasonable offer, we’ll at least talk about it.

Thanks for publishing

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Macgyver October 22, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I LOL’d at “haggle pron”

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