Haggling – An Art for the Ages

I’ll say it: I can’t haggle.

“Gee, Heather. Why not?”

Well, how nice of you to ask!  The problem is that I tend to be too much of a pushover when it comes to things that I’m not sure I deserve.

To me, haggling takes a lot of confidence.  I can’t waltz into a department store and say, “Hey, I see this sweater is $50, but I think it’s only worth $35.  Give it to me for $35” without flinching.  Of course the salesperson is going to say “no”, but it’s a haggler’s job to tell them why they should.  I can’t tell them why they should if I don’t have a reason for it myself and so if there is any type of resistance I am down for the count. 

Don’t get me wrong, when I believe I am being unfairly treated, I am the first to say “HELL to the NO”, but I can’t make myself believe that I am deserving a better price than retailers are asking for (unless, of course, the item is on sale — then I’m on it like I was on the jar full of gummy bears sitting next to me earlier this evening… which incidentally I ate about 75 gummy bears just before dinner tonight and now I have a MONSTER headache).  How do you people do it?  How do you say “HEY! Give me a deal! Now! …. PLEASE!”

I was reading an article titled In Tough Economic Times, Shoppers Take Haggling to New Heights in the Washington Post.  In it, the journalist learns about haggling and tries it out in various places to see what kind of a deal he can get.  By the end of the article, you find out he saved $730 dollars in a week.  What the hell?  I want to save $730 in a week…

He haggles in Macy’s.  He haggles at Best Buy.  He haggles for flowers.  He haggles with Verizon.  And did you know people haggle professionally?!  Whatever deal they get with you, they will split with you!  Well… holy effing crap. 

Apparently the key is to look for an edge.  Why should you get those DVDs for $5 less?  Because your ShopSavvy app says the store down the street is selling it $5 cheaper.  What?  You think those reindeer should be 75% off instead of 50%?  Yes, because they have little scratches on them that nobody will ever see but me.  Coffee is not free, so why are you asking for a free coffee right now?  Because I have been coming here once a week every week for the last 7 months.  That’s why.

It’s interesting to read about somebody that is learning how to haggle because his thoughts are a lot like mine if I were in that situation.  More or less, all I would think after successfully getting a bargain would be, “I can’t believe that worked”. 

Click the link above for a link to the article, or click the link below.  Either way, it’s a pretty good read if you’re looking to save some dolla dolla bills, ya’ll.

The price tag on the smooth pair of Cole Haan loafers at Macy’s said $148. I considered that a fair opening bid. Standing across from the salesman and the cash register, I said, “Can you knock off 25 percent?

The salesman said, “Can’t do it.” But I pressed on: “I’ll get them on the Internet or at one of your competitors, so let’s just do this here.”

Salesman: “Geez. You’re like the second person who has tried to do this today.”

We stared at the shoe box. I liked what was inside. The loafers fit well, but they would feel even more comfortable with a discount.

Macy’s blinked first. “Ten percent off,” the salesman said. “That’s the best I can do.” I sensed an advantage and counteroffered: “Let’s do 20 percent.” I then sensed annoyance and settled for the 10 percent.

My first attempt as a haggler saved me almost 15 bucks and placed me at the center of “the biggest sea change of consumer behavior since the end of the Second World War,” as Nancy Koehn, a Harvard Business School retail historian, calls it. In a country that has long shunned haggling outside of car dealerships and mattress stores, my behavior may have once appeared unseemly, even crass. That is, until the Great Recession. Firms are desperate for revenue, Americans are feeling broke, and the aisles from Best Buy to Macy’s and even your neighborhood Giant — as well as the 1-800 numbers at Comcast and Verizon — have become venues for let’s-make-a-deal.

A recent Consumer Reports study found that 66 percent of American consumers had haggled at least once in the preceding six months, with an 88 percent ka-ching rate on gadgets, clothes, furniture and steak. “People like this,” Koehn said. “They are not going to go back to giving their money away. Why would they?”

The recession merely popped the lid off a retailing shift that has been brewing for a decade. EBay gave millions of consumers dealmaking training wheels (top bid for a “Goonies” DVD: $3.50). The Internet offers instant pricing data (do a Google search on “Lucky jeans and deal and DC”). And don’t forget Priceline, which lets consumers name their price for flights, hotels and rental cars (thank you, William Shatner).

For consumers like me who have spent decades shopping at full retail, getting a deal on previously no-deal items is liberating and invigorating, as I found out during a recent week I spent haggling. At first, my wife and friends asked me if I was crazy, but when I reported saving $3 on steak at Giant and $50 a month on our Verizon bill, they asked only one thing: How?

Full Article –>

Read the full article on the Washington Post website.  In Tough Times, Shoppers Take Hagglers to New Heights written by Michael S. Rosenwald, Sunday, January 31, 2010

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5 Comments on “Haggling – An Art for the Ages”


  1. You can’t beat a better lesson in haggling than in Life of Brian – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3n3LL338aGA

  2. Rachel Says:

    The funny thing with Verizon is that they sort of like the whole haggling thing.

    My husband just recently started working at the kiosk at our mall, as 2 of his brothers are Verizon reps and talk often about how much they make and well, we could use some more income right now, so hubby thought he’d give it a try.

    What he said they do, is that they jack the prices up at the store so when the customer points out that “hey, the tv commercial said this price” or “well online it said it costs this much” they can knock it down to that price and make the customer feel like they’re getting a deal. Throwing in an accessory to guarentee the sale doesn’t help either. Working at Verizon like that, it’s all commission pay. For example, hubby’s first week, he worked roughly 60hours and only sold about $50 in accessories, so for all those hours he worked, he only made $5.

    Now with the phone lines, that all depends on what type of line it is, etc. Getting activations is where the money is at, so if you can make the customer think they’re getting a deal by knockin’ the price down to the online price and throwing in an accessory, they’re more likely to go for that.

    He actually got his first activation the other day, as a guy was interested in upgrading to a Droid, however his wife’s phone wasn’t due for one yet and they were thinking they’d upgrade at the same time to get the same deal. Well, in addition to a free case for his droid, hubby also told the guy they would give his wife the same deal, if a better one wasn’t available when hers was up, so long as they came back to them. And it worked =)

    • Heather Says:

      Haha I fixed the first line for you 🙂

      Hmm.. I had no idea about this! More incentive for me to get a little better at haggling…

      I took a “rhetorical persuasion” class in college, and I find this stuff really interesting. There are so many ways company and people can pull you into things. Thanks for sharing this!


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