If You're Not Haggling, You're Wasting Money

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American Pickers on HISTORY® at the Rose Bowl Flea Market
Casey Rodgers/Invision for History/AP
My anniversary is coming up soon. And I've stalked my wife on Pinterest looking for gift ideas. Pinterest is the perfect place to find gift ideas for us clueless guys.

And I've found the perfect gift. The problem is that it's expensive. Even eBay (EBAY) is pricey for the designer sunglasses that she wants.

Then a brilliant idea hit me: I should ask the seller on eBay for a discount. The online retailing giant opened a proverbial can of worms when it started allowing sellers to add the "or best offer" option to auction listings. Even though this listing didn't allow for haggling from its "buy it now" option, I thought I would try anyway.

So I emailed the seller, asking if the listing price on eBay was the best it could offer. I had nothing to lose. The worst thing it could tell me was no. And the seller had already beaten the best price I could find elsewhere by more than 10 percent.

I was pleasantly surprised when the retailer lowered the price by an additional 15 percent and threw in free shipping. This made me wonder how many other opportunities for discounts I was missing. All it takes is a little creativity and negotiation skills. Here are a few ideas.

Retail Stores Are Tough to Negotiate with for Customers

My friends gave me a crash course in bartering when I traveled to Mexico in college: If a store has air conditioning, the retailer freezes its prices as well.

It's hard to negotiate with retail stores. They have a lot of overhead and often price their wares in order to earn a specific profit margin. But it isn't impossible to negotiate. One of the best ways that you can open the conversation is to simply ask, "Is that the best price you can do?" This is a very powerful question. Retailers may surprise you by offering you a discount simply by asking for it.

Call About Cable, Phone and Internet Service

Cable and satellite TV providers are notorious for offering deep discounts and freebies when you initially sign up. But the price typically skyrockets after the introduction period expires. You can save a bundle on a your package by calling and requesting a discount.

"A quick call to your cable, home phone or Internet provider may uncover a new promotion that will save you big bucks," says Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert with Kinoli. "Some may provide a discount for going paperless or setting up automatic payments. So ask what's available or threaten to switch providers."

Walking away has been a popular negotiating tactic that consumers have honed while buying cars, but you can use this tactic with a lot of online and brick and mortar retailers as well.

Craigslist Is a Breeding Ground for Discounts

I'm not sure if anyone pays the full listing price for items on Craigslist. Be sure to offer less than the asking price and be prepared to haggle.

I recently bought a road bicycle for a steep discount, saving hundreds of dollars, by bringing cash and simply asking if the seller was open to a lower price. Another great technique is to pay attention to how long an item has been on Craigslist or eBay. This could indicate that a seller is more inclined to negotiate to move an item that has been lingering.

Use Negotiating Tactics Seen on TV

Television shows like "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers" have shown great tips to increase your negotiating prowess.

The first person to recommend a price for an item is at a disadvantage. One of the best techniques is to make the other person start. Of course, this doesn't apply to an item that has a price tag on it.

Make sure that you aim low and leave wiggle room to meet in the middle. Have you noticed how the two parties on these shows eventually gravitate to the middle? There is a fine line between throwing out an insultingly low price and one that is too high, which will leave money on the table that should have been in your pocket.

Don't forget that there are a lot of other costs that comprise a retailer's selling price. Many people on "Pawn Stars" are insulted when they are offered half of the retail value because they forget that the shop has to resale the item as well as pay its employees' salaries and shop overhead.

Retailers may offer you discounts and surprise you simply by asking for them. Are you leaving money on the table by not asking for a better price? You may be surprised when you start practicing your negotiating skills.

Do you routinely ask for a discount? Do you try and score a discount even at brick and mortar stores? What are some of your favorite techniques to get the negotiations going?

Hank Coleman is the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers' tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.


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12 Comments

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robbie.smith48

You can't negotiate on everything but it would be nice if you could. You can definitely get savings on a lot of stuff if you are smart about it though. As a family man, I appreciate any deals because 2 sons and a daughter gets very expensive. First of all you don't need to be an extreme couponer to save a lot of money on food. You can look for deals in 5 minutes in coupon books, and buy stuff on sale in the store. This saves HUNDREDS a month.
Also because I have a family, I need life insurance. I hate to admit it but I used to spend $300 a month on a policy my "advisor" sold me. After some research, I realized that I can just find the same policy myself for $25 a month. Mine is from LifeAnt. It sucks to spend money on it but I know my family would be screwed if I didn't have it. Basically food, insurance, whatever, someone is always trying to screw you and there is always a better deal. Some stuff you just cant avoid.

April 19 2014 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kay

I asked my internet provider (AOL) if they gave senior discounts and had my monthly fee cut by more than half. My next call will be to my satellite provider, especially since they just raised my costs again, and funny thing is that I only watch maybe five of their channels. If I could get more than two channels on regular TV I would cancel my satelitte but thanks to our "wonderful Government" and the forced HD TV I can't get more.

April 17 2014 at 9:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Kay's comment
jl7503

IF one seller just refuses to cut prices, another one may very well offer you a deep discount. GREED is the ruling mantra of our society now at all levels. Simply walk and buy somewhere else. Enough lost sales and well. we can just wait for the Going Out of Business signs.

April 17 2014 at 6:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
elpasoworld

Ebay sales commission (for just running a WEB SITE ) is 12%
plus Paypal fees of 4-5%, so about 17% or so, just round it up to 20% and
that's WHY many prices are higher at ebay !

Ebay is not a company that MAKES anything or ships anything.
It is JUST A WEBSITE, unlike AMAZON which actually has stuff in THEIR OWN buildings and ships it.
Ebay is JUST A WEB SITE and collects about 20% of the sale with listing fees and selling fees.
Unless you have a really BIG profit margin, 70% or so. . . . forget about selling on ebay.
Unless you just want to GET RID of stuff, no matter what the cost.
( Thats what ebay is hoping ! :-)

April 17 2014 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
elpasoworld

If I ever get HAGGLED down, I will never do business with that person again.
Yeah, sure, try that at a restaurant and see how much spit will be in your food.
The PRICE is set for a reason and if the seller is not thinking correctly, they might take an offer................
and then put you (or the buyer) on the DO NOT SELL LIST.
Yes, there ia DO NOT SELL LIST at ebay.
( Customers to avoid )

April 17 2014 at 4:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
billmire4

I am the owner of a small business and I am tired of people encouraging people to haggle over prices. It is the new "In thing" to do. The problem with it is... I have my prices as low as I can possible go and stay in business. When people come in and haggle over prices and I say NO, they get angry and think I am being unfair. They expect me to come down in price. They get mad and walk out because they didn't get a deal. Why does everyone think they deserve a deal...don't I deserve to make a living and feed my family? This haggling thing is getting out of hand. 3 out of 4 people do it and it gets really old. It is bad enough we have to deal with big box store prices and now people think they can haggle over everything.

April 17 2014 at 3:43 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Old Curmudgeon

A plumber came over and flipped open a price book and it clearly stated the cost of labor for what he was doing was $400.00. This was a nationally recognized, BBB plumbing firm. I haggled, said I was a senior (true, born before velcro) and got his price down to $300.00 and they did a magnificent job.

April 17 2014 at 9:04 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
metalangel1

I was pleasantly surprised when the retailer lowered the price by an additional 15 percent and threw in free shipping. This made me wonder how many other opportunities for discounts I was missing. All it takes is a little creativity and negotiation skills. Here are a few ideas.

Well, I don't like it when people start asking me to lower the price. If they have any attitudes I just block them. It can work against you. I'd be very careful cause if you act like you're pissed off, a seller might think you're not worth working with and block you. I hate it when buyers try to ask me to give the items away for a ridiculously low price. I have bills to pay as well. How would the writer like it if AOL, or whoever pays his check, starts telling him that they want to give him a paycheck cut of about 15 percent? That's exactly what you're doing to an eBay seller when you do that, and honestly, that offends me. I can see if the seller has a ridiculously high price, but when you tell us that you found the lowest price possible on eBay and then you asked the seller to lower the price sounds way off. By the way, how do you know you got the "real deal"? When you tell us stories of how you found the lowest price for a designer item on eBAy and then you asked him for a lower price and they did makes me wonder if you got an authentic piece.

And I usually sell hundreds of the same item for the same price. When I have to lower the price for one buyer, then that means I have to give everyone else a price adjustment and I just can't do that.

I still have to wonder if the person who wrote this got an authentic piece after reading what he wrote. How do you know it's authentic?

April 17 2014 at 7:47 AM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to metalangel1's comment
len5

When someone asks,all you have to say is "no".No one will come to your house in the dead of night to drag you outside and beat you up for saying "no".

April 17 2014 at 8:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply