Barter, bargain, haggle

By Stew


As our economy continues to sputter along, wise people will do everything possible to reduce debt and hold down costs. If you happen to be someone who is or lives in a household that is subject to very little debt, you have an opportunity to take advantage of some of the bargains that are out there. This is a great time to be in the market for a car, a house, clothes, food or almost anything else.

And there are some new ways to make sure that you get the best possible price. For instance, I have discovered that there seems to be more interest in bargaining or “haggling” than there has been in recent years. In our culture, the art of haggling has almost never been used over the past 40 to 50 years. Haggling is about to make a big comeback. I once heard a marketing campaign for a car dealership that was advertising the “no dicker sticker”. They seemed to think that people were not buying cars because of the hassle that came with settling on a price, so they advertised that “the price you see is the price you pay”. Every time I saw the commercial, I said to myself that “everyone knows to never pay sticker price for a car. Furthermore, I like to bargain, especially when it comes to a car. If I pay sticker price, I am probably overpaying significantly for that car.” I never went to that car dealership – first, because I almost never buy cars from a big dealership and second, if I did go to a dealership, I most certainly want to argue about the price.

I first learned to bargain while going to garage sales with my mother when I was a kid. She never paid the stated price and many times she practically stole the items that she was purchasing. We went to rummage sales all the time and I grew up thinking that people always bartered at rummages. So when I set up my own yard sale, I overpriced everything and did not sell all that much. I was anticipating that people would offer me less than the price on the tape. Almost no one did and I ended up having to carry all that stuff back inside. People were walking away simply because they did not have the guts to ask for a lower price.

I recently picked up a great toy for my children at a rummage sale around the corner from our house. I eventually purchased the item for 25% of the asking price – of course I initially asked for 35% less, the seller bargained and we eventually settled on a price. I walked away thinking that I got a deal and the seller got rid of an item that was probably in the way and made a little cash on the side.

Rummage sales aren’t the only place to ask for a lower price. I do it all the time at the company I work. We buy a number of items in bulk and I always ask for a discount based on volume or even extra business. I’ll say something like, “if you give us item A for $——-, then we will also purchase item B from you”. I always try to get add-ons or bulk prices, etc. Once we go a steak-egg-hashbrowns-toast-oj-coffee breakfast for $3.80 per person.

I recently acquired a new mobile phone for a bargain price. The thing about wireless phones is that the company makes almost no money off of the phone. They want you in a plan – that’s where the money is. Of course, I could have chosen from several models that were free “with plan”, but I kind of need a smartphone for my day job as well as blogging. Texting, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail,  and more are all applications that I use on a regular basis – on my phone. The phone that I decided that I needed was from the Blackberry family and the sticker price for someone in my situation was $185. I hemmed and hawed around for a few minutes and the salesperson offered it to me for $75. I hemmed and hawed a bit more and then left the store ostensibly to go ask my wife if she approved of this purchase. When I returned with Mrs. Stew an hour later, we hemmed and hawed some more and after about 15 minutes, the salesperson offered it to me for $40. I took the phone home.

I have started to used haggling in more and more places that I frequent. Here are some strategies that make bargaining more effective:

  • Make your first offer ludicrously low.
  • Be willing to walk away . . . and do it!
  • Be honest about your intent to purchase. Do not go through this exercise if you are not legitimately planning to buy.
  • Make them say a number first – especially with cars. The first person to say a number, will be the one to get the short end of the bargain. I have made this mistake more than once.
  • Don’t let them know that you really, really want it.
  • Have no shame – not in an abusive way, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst they can do is say no.
  • Be a frequent customer.
  • Be as informed as possible about prices for equivalent items at other vendors.

I recently sent this email to one of my vendors:

Thanks for the price quote, Chris.You always come in lower . . . but one of these days, I’m going to get you.

I will let you know when we are ready to order.

This is a vendor who I have worked with for several years and who always gives me the best price, but I want him to know that I am always looking for a better price. So far, my business has gone to him, but one of these days . . .

Photo by silverfox09

7 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Barter, bargain, haggle”

  1. jamie Says:

    I am bartering with to save during the recession. It’s an amazing site, where you can swap almost everything.

  2. Roshawn @ Watson Inc Says:

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly. I have been getting some phenomenal deals just by asking. You really can negotiate almost anything. For example, my then gf was purchasing a car last year, and I got them to go down on the price about 20% below kbb for a dealership, even though we were purchasing from a dealer.

  3. Steve Zelwin Says:

    I totally agree with the article. I have been doing that in the stores and recently in the past few months, I have been doing the same with my online dealings. I have been exchanging my services for other work and items in a place called favorpals What I liked about them was the online way of talking to people and negotiating, and doing the negotiation with multiple people to get the best deal.

    Hey man times are tough and we all have to work hard for what we want.

  4. Tonya Says:

    I must add one more thing to your list of tips: be POLITE. We just held a garage sale this past Saturday and despite being willing to bargain with a number of people, we flatly turned down two different requests due to their rudeness in going about it. I would rather give an item away free to some one really nice that sell it at a discount to some one rude.

  5. Deb Says:

    We love bargaining! It helps if you’ve got time to look around, and don’t need to buy the item immediately. Then you can really score!

    Just today, we finally scored a propane tank for our house so we can finally get the furnace and gas range/oven hooked up. We’ve been looking for a year, and in the interim, have made do with a woodstove and portable electric cookers & toaster oven. The 120 gallon tank even comes with all the necessary equipment for installation, and it’s over half full of propane! Because we agreed to load it, haul it, and brought cash to seal the deal, we got it for a serious bargain, and they got it out of their way & made a bit of money. Everyone goes home happy!

    The other day at Target, I found a very nice Melita coffee maker (my old one finally died) – the floor model was the last one availabe and the box was gone. The sales associate and I discussed how that might be iffy for me, and they knocked it down to just $7 from the sale price of $24! It works great.

    Other recent fab bargains include a cute little lemon yellow 79 Toyota truck for nearly half of the asking price, a second hand tractor that came with mower deck, trailor, and rototiller, power tools – all for the price of what the mower deck would cost alone, new in box Kitchenaid stand mixer (for just $150!) and just about everything else you can imagine.

    Retail is not in our vocabulary, nor is full price. We now own a rental home outright, have no debt outside of the primary resident mortgage that one income covers, and are saving 25% for retirement.

    All they can do is say “no”. But if your offer is reasonable and you’re nice, and have the money ready to go, it’s much more likely they’ll say “you’ve got yourself a deal!”

  6. Zengirl Says:

    Bartering and haggling is so common in asian country, here is US we just did not do it, till now. better now on this down economy.