The dictionary describes haggle as, “To bargain, as over the price of something.” That’s why I like the word better than bargain or negotiate. Haggle means you are trying to get a lower price.
You can try to haggle on anything and everything. If you don’t try, you obviously will not get a lower price. It is usually not worth haggling in a large chain store with typical check-outs, although it is worth keeping an eye on the scanner prices and holding them to any commitments on miss-scanned items. After paying a heavy penalty, the Albertson’s/Lucky’s grocery chain in California was court-ordered to give any miss-scanned item to the customer for free. Walgreens and Longs Drugs have also been ordered to implement similar policies.
A key element to successful haggling is to know the maximum price you are willing to pay in advance. It also helps if you do not fall in love with the item before you try to haggle. You need to approach with the attitude that you will walk away if you cannot get the price you want. And attitude is key. If you don’t project the fact that you are willing to walk away, the seller will sense that they might get a higher price.
If you approach with a low-ball price, you have to be careful that the price is not insulting. An insulting price would be quite a bit less than what the item is really worth. If you insult the seller, he may say, “No deal,” and then refuse to negotiate further.
But if you offer something close to what the item is worth, but less than the asking price, you may get the item, or you may get a counter offer. A technique that works well if you do not want to increase your price is silence. Just wait and mull over the counter-offer. The seller will realize that he is about to lose a sale and may back off from his counter offer.
If you are willing to counter, then your counter obviously depends on how badly you want the item. If you know you can get it cheaper elsewhere, then you may just repeat your original offer and prepare to walk away. Another technique if you’ve hit an impasse is to ask to talk to a manager, or seek a manager out if the salesperson is uncooperative. Managers typically have more incentive to push inventory.
Places where it is definitely worth haggling are places where you are going to spend a lot of money. I always haggle when checking in to motel/hotel rooms. I may not get a reduction in price, but I almost always get upgraded service. If I haven’t booked a discounted stay ahead of time, I ask for the business or discounted rate. They may play a game of looking to see if my company is on file. I just hand them my business card and say I would like a discount. I often get it.
Other places where you should haggle are electronics stores, or any store for that matter where you are buying something that requires you to talk to a sales person. This includes furniture stores and large appliance stores.
And, of course, you must haggle at auto dealerships. We got our current truck after my wife and I were on our way our the door after saying thanks for the show. I had repeated our price three times and they had done the back and forth between the sales person and manager. The showroom manager motioned to me not to leave as my wife actually had one foot out the door. We were polite and congenial throughout, and we got the price we had originally set.
I do not actually enjoy haggling, but it is a fact that you can save big money if you master the art.