The Art of the Haggle

By: Lydia Scott

Both in my job and in my home life, haggling happens. At work, I help customers looking for used pieces, and I used to work with vendors as the buyer. At home, my husband and I run an eBay business. Nothing fancy, but it helps out when we need it to. Truth be told, dollarmy honey does most of the real work and I just take care of the financial red tape. In both situations, we come across the need to negotiate for something. Usually it’s prices for goods, but sometimes it’s services.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned when it comes to trying to negotiate to get what you want. These may not apply to all situations, but so far they have applied to smaller negotiations like eBay sales, small furniture sales, yard sales, thrift store shopping, and even vendor negotiation. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to the provider of goods or services as a “seller.”

1. Don’t low ball.

Insulting the seller by starting off with a low ball offer is a bad idea. Why? Because it insults the seller and shows a lack of concern for their need to make a profit. Basically, giving you what you want is purely a matter of whether the provider actually wants to, or not. It’s your job to make them want to help you out by selling their goods for less than the asking price. See #4, below. As the seller, we’ve had potential customers offer half (or less) of the asking price, and when we come back with a price that’s only a few dollars less than the original price, they stick with the low ball. That’s when the negotiations stop, and if they try to continue with the low ball, our offered price will actually increase. You wanna save some money, and we need to make some. Be fair or move along. Offering $100 on a $200 item is not a fair start in most instances. You’ll have more success by starting at a price that’s 10% to 30% lower than the asking price than you will starting at 50% lower. You want room to negotiate, but that does not equal half price.

2. Listen.

When the provider says “that’s the lowest I’ll go” the first time, feel free to come back with an offer below that number once more, but still higher than your last offer. But if he repeats that X dollars is the lowest he can take, either match it or walk away because you’re wasting time and increasing the chance that the seller won’t accept any offer from you later on no matter how much he wants to sell. Which bring us to….

3. Timing.

Pay attention to when the goods were put up for sale, and don’t be one of the first few responders unless you’re willing to pay close to the original price. Wait until your seller starts to get nervous. Once some time has passed and they still haven’t gotten the interest they hoped for, they are more willing to say goodbye to a higher amount of their profit than risk not selling their goods at all. Yes, that means you may lose out on your item, but really, if you weren’t willing to pay the asking price to make sure you got the item, was it that important to you? If your answer is “no,” then give it some time, and try haggling or try haggling again if you’d already been to the seller once before. (See how not insulting him with a low ball can work in your favor now?)

4. Make them like you.

This goes back to number 1. If you approach the seller with a smile (or if online, a friendly, caring, respectful attitude), and you keep the banter friendly and light-hearted, you’re more likely to make the seller actually like you, and then want to say “yes” to your offer. You draw more flies with honey than with vinegar, so be real, and be real friendly.

At the end of the day, both the buyer and the seller have the same goal: to make a profit. The seller needs to rid himself of goods for a price that helps him pay his bills. The buyer needs to obtain goods for a price that helps him keep his bills paid. See? Same goal. With a smile and a reasonable expectation, you can both go home happy and with some change in your pocket!

What about you? What techniques have you helped you save some cash when haggling for something you needed (or wanted)?

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