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Haggling for Fun and Savings

Haggling is near the top of the list of skills that no adult should be without. To the uninitiated, it may feel uncomfortable or rude. Indeed, applied improperly or in the wrong situations, it very well may be. But for those in the know, haggling isn’t just a way to save money and reach a fair price: for these lucky few, haggling can be a great deal of fun!

What is Haggling?

Haggling is the art of negotiating a favorable price or deal. It differs from negotiation in that it is usually a very informal process. Haggling involves body language, facial expressions and, occasionally, even storytelling. Sometimes, a haggling session may result in bonus items rather than price a adjustment. Never buy a new suit without trying to get a tie thrown in for free!

When Should You Haggle?

In the right setting, haggling is not only okay, it is expected! Here are some examples to help you feel out when to haggle and when not to.

Situations good for haggling:

  • Antique malls
  • Art galleries (if items haven’t sold for years)
  • When buying an off-the-rack suit
  • Whenever you’re dealing with someone trained in the art of selling

Bad times to haggle:

  • Black Friday sales
  • Anywhere with standardized pricing for common items, such as a grocery store or department store
  • Any time a price has already been verbally or contractually agreed upon
  • A professional’s hourly rate
  • When eating at a restaurant

How To Haggle

Haggling is best initiated by asking, directly or indirectly, how flexible a marked price is. This will be followed by the salesperson either offering a discount or asking you what you’re willing to pay. Common practice is to go back-and-forth a few times, so you should always start 20-30% below sticker price. If you think the piece has been sitting on the shelf for a long time and the salesperson is desperate to move it, you could try going as low as 40 to 50%. Anything lower than that is unrealistic, and you’ll risk insulting your haggling partner.

Advanced Haggling

As any economist will tell you, prices are determined by supply and demand. If it’s clear that you can’t walk away from a deal, you won’t have any bargaining power to push down the price. When you see an item you like, inspect it to make sure it’s the genuine article. Once you’ve determined its authenticity and that you’d like to purchase it, set it back down and walk away (unless you absolutely must have it, no matter the price). After perusing the rest of the shop, return for the item and approach the salesperson to make an offer.

Sometimes an item may not be marked, or you may be inclined to purchase something that doesn’t seem like it’s for sale. Doing so is often possible, but requires delicacy and tact. For example, maybe a piece of décor at a local restaurant has caught your eye. Open up by asking if the owner would be willing to part with it for a certain price. If you don’t like the price quoted, but have something in mind within 20-30%, don’t name your price immediately. Be polite by saying something like, “Oh I thought it might be just a little less expensive.” If your counterparty is willing to entertain a lower offer, they’ll then invite you to name a price and from there you can haggle as usual. Otherwise, the negotiation is over.

You should haggle a little whenever it’s appropriate. As long as you don’t push too hard, you’ll always leave your transactions feeling satisfied that you reached a good deal.