How to Become a Winning Haggler

May 14, 2014Reading Time: 4 min

Bargaining or haggling is a carefully crafted art that requires rhetorical tactics and confidence. Often people postulate the act as a faux pas and quietly settle for the numbers on the price tags. If you happen to think that way, reprogram your brain. Haggling is a precursor for a successful deal and an opportunity to sharpen your persuasion skills. You can walk out of the store as a hundredaire or thousandaire depending on how successfully you talk your way to sales.

A haggler needs to be fully equipped when going to the negotiation field. Aside from wallet, there are two crucial weapons a contemporary buyer should have: cash and a smartphone. When talking to the salesperson, allude to current online deals for that similar item. Mention how you’ve visited other stores and found the same product for a lower price. Have the phone in hand and tell them how you just saw the deal or spoke to another store’s representative who offered a cheaper option. Showing that physical device as evidence can empower your argument. After acquiring the discount you wanted, tailor for an extra by offering cash. Ever thought how Chinese restaurants charge below the average meal price? The answer is in that white sign with red print saying “CASH ONLY.” Nobody wants to pay for credit card transaction fees. Tell whoever is charging you that you’ll pay in cash if they can cut the deal further.

Perhaps there are certain places where being a haggler is the equivalent of being bald in a hair salon. It is fruitless to try negotiating in retail stores such as Costco and Walmart. Know the appropriate places and times to aim for monetary sales. For instance, furniture prices at individual stores or malls tend to be unreasonably expensive. Those who ask for a lower price usually end up paying about three hundred dollars less. Whenever there is a garage sale, vendors are always open to adjust the costs with the buyers. (Bonus: to purchase at an even lower value, come at the end of the day when your neighbor is desperate to get rid of everything.)

In flea markets or stores without price tags, there is a crucial commandment that should not be broken: do not ever say the number first. Unless you are a prodigy who can calculate the precise costs of all the materials of the product, you will run the risk of blurting an overestimated value. Politely ask what the vendor is willing to sell it for and then say a price below the actual one you’re willing to pay. That way, both of you will debate and settle around the number you had in mind. And if the owner is still reluctant to reduce it, use the “walk away” technique. He or she might finalize it to your favor. Don’t get upset if that’s not the case—there are plenty other stores to explore.

It’s not only math and rhetoric that comes into play; body language will serve as a gauge for the counterpart to approximate how badly you need the merchandise. Be overconfident and show moderate indifference, do not show any eagerness. It will make you vulnerable to pay for the full price. Also be friendly. There is no need to display a Clint Eastwood-stoicism either. Compliment the seller with generosity and you’ll gain extra leverage by becoming the nice customer who deserves a sale. This is crucial in clothing stores where employees can give extra discounts. However, avoid engaging in a lively raconteur as an attempt to be friendly. This is not therapy, this is business.

There is a sentence that you should use wisely and avoid abusing. It’s the “I don’t have change” syntax. Sometimes we bring it down to the number we want, but the shopkeeper sticks messy cents to it. There’s a general rule for this: if it’s below $0.65 use the sentence. If it’s higher, use it or pay for it depending on the circumstances.

On a final note, if you happen to be in a foreign store where you can speak the language decently, do it. It will reboot your chances to obtain a better offer. Generally, store owners love to interact with clients who can speak their native tongue and give free services. For instance, I got exempted for a $25 bike repair just because I cordially spoke in Spanish to the Mexican owner. Make them see you as not just another buyer, but as an individual whom they can communicate comfortably. 

Keep these pointers in mind next time you shop. Don’t be afraid to haggle—it is the rhetorical cure for your wallet’s financial hemorrhage.