How to haggle: 11 negotiating tips to save you money

Woman shopping at a clothing store

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Paying the sticker price for a product or service may be paying too much. Still, more than one-third of Americans refused to bargain for better deals on products and services.

But people who don’t haggle are leaving money on the table.

In 2013, a nationally-representative survey of 2,000 Americans by Consumer Reports found that just 48 percent of shoppers tried bargaining for a better deal on everyday goods and services during the past three years, down from 61 percent in 2007. And most of those who bothered to negotiate received a discount at least once during that period.

“Don’t expect your doctor, bank, or local appliance store to cut you a break simply because you have a nice face and smile. It takes moxie and self-confidence,” says Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports. “Having the guts to ask for a discount can result in hundreds of dollars in savings.”

Survey: 9 of 10 Americans who haggled saved money

When it comes to haggling, nothing is off-limits. But those who don’t take the risk, lose.

In the survey, 35 percent of respondents said they won’t bargain, period. Men are more likely to haggle than women — 20 percent of women said that it makes them uncomfortable — but both genders were equally successful when they tried.

Younger consumers, those 18 to 29, tend to enjoy the practice more than those over 60, who were particularly turned off by it.

Shoppers achieved the highest success haggling over the price of collectibles or antiques, furniture, and appliances according to the survey. Schmoozing with a salesperson was the favorite tactic for haggling over collectibles and antiques, where those who negotiated saved $100 on average.

Those who haggled over furniture and questioned a health-related charge saved an average of $300; those who bargained on washers, dryers, refrigerators and the like saved an average of $200. CR also found that those who were successful at challenging the cost of a cell-phone plan averaged savings of $80.

While it may be a little harder to strike a deal, their 2009 poll found hagglers were almost as successful getting discounts on electronics (71%), furniture (71%), credit-card fees (62%) and medical bills (58%).

“Now is not the time to be shy. It may feel awkward to ask the salesperson for a discount, but it’s more important than ever to make the most of your money. Our poll shows there is a very good chance they won’t say no,” said Greg Daugherty, Consumer Reports executive editor.

How to haggle: 11 haggling tips

Savvy negotiators know that politeness, friendliness, and a smile are harder to resist than tough talk. Perfecting your approach can boost your haggling success rate, so Consumer Reports compiled the following tips to get to yes:

1) Be patient and be nice. Demanding a discount rarely works. Savvy negotiators know that a smile is more difficult to resist than tough talk.

2) Give sellers a reason to negotiate. Loyal customers should remind their merchant or service provider of their repeated business. Offering discounts on products or services is small price to pay to keep customers coming back.

3) Know before you go. Research prices and store policies. Bring web printouts, flyers, and newspaper ads with you. Mention if a local competitor is selling the item for less. The store might be willing to match your best quote. If you can’t get a price discount, ask for free shipping, delivery, or installation.

4) Decide on a fair price. Research the cost of any product before buying. Print out or take screenshots of website pages or written quotes from competitors. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents told the salesperson they’d check competitors’ prices. Call the store to confirm that it will match a lower price. Ask about a refund of the difference if there’s a price drop within a reasonable period of time. If a discount on the item is out of the question, ask for free shipping, delivery or installation.

5) Learn to read the ticket. Price of inventory tags often contain date stamps that tell how long an item has been in the store, though you might need to ask a salesperson to help you locate and decipher the code. Retailers are often more willing to cut the price on merchandise that has been on the sales floor for a long time.

6) Find flaws. Retailers are likely to offer discounts on products with cosmetic blemishes or slight defects such as clothing with snags, smudges or stains, and appliances or electronics with dings or scratches. It’s generally easier to negotiate such deals with independent stores than with chains and for private-label products than for big brands because sellers can’t return flawed products to their makers for credit.

7) Ask open-ended questions. Retailers are more likely to turn down a customer who asks questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of asking for a specific dollar amount or percentage off an item, ask what they are willing to offer as a discount.

8) Time your haggle. Late in the month, when salespeople are trying to meet their quotas, can be a good time to bargain for big ticket items. Evening or early hours are usually less busy, so clerks have time to talk.

9) Seek a discount for cash. Offering to pay with paper instead of plastic eliminates transaction fees sellers are required to pay to credit-card companies. (Such fees are about 2 percent for larger retailers and as much as 8 percent for small ones.)

10) Avoid an audience. Haggle out of earshot of other customers, because sales clerks don’t want everyone else in the store asking for a deal, too. Keep in mind that at chain stores, salespeople often don’t have the power to offer a discount. Try asking a manager or supervisor instead.

11) Be willing to walk away. It’s expensive for stores to attract new customers, so they’re often willing to work hard to retain their existing ones — but consumers who don’t think they’re getting a good deal should go elsewhere and try to negotiate a better bargain. The most persuasive weapon you have in your haggling arsenal is your ability to walk away and spend your money someplace else.

The full report on haggling was published in the August 2013 issue of Consumer Reports.

Lilyvolt Editors

Lilyvolt Editors

This site is for you, Gen X. It’s taken us all a long time to get here, so let’s make the most of what we’ve got. That’s why we say Lilyvolt is for Gen Most Xcellent. (We’re betting Keanu would approve.)

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