Try Your Hand at Haggling

Finance, Home & Family
on April 6, 2008

When it comes to haggling over the price of goods and services, many of us just dont have the nerve to do it. If youre reluctant to ask for discounts, consider this: A national survey by Consumer Reports found that more than 90 percent of shoppers who bargained got a better price. If you want to try your hand at haggling, here are some occasions when youre virtually guaranteed a discount just for asking:

When buying the floor model. Retailers often offer discounts on floor models. This is standard practice for appliances and electronics. We fell in love with a particular refrigerator floor model at a local store, says Suzanne Riojas of Fort Worth, Texas. We waited a few weeks, noticed it was still for sale, then talked to the sales manager. We offered to take it that day if he would match our price. He did and we got that $2,700 refrigerator for $1,000. A floor model might have a few dents and scratches, so carefully inspect it and confirm that youll get the full warranty.

When the item or its packaging has been damaged. Retailers know that shoppers expect new products to be in perfect condition, so they are likely to accept a lower price for an item with a slight flaw or damaged package.

When buying in quantity. Its a fact of retail life that when you buy more than one of something, you often get a discount. If asked, I always give a discount when the person is buying multiple copies or has friends that want to buy as well, says Jesse Mecham, owner of software company YouNeedaBudget.com. They get a great product at a discount and I generate multiple sales. Its a win for all of us.

During a slow sales period. When sales are slow, certain businesses are likely to give you an off season discount if you ask for it. You might get a good deal at an auto dealership in December or from a roofer in February, for example.

When theres a sale on the same item in another store. Price-matching guarantees are commonplace, but even stores that dont advertise them might match another stores price if you show the salesperson a competitors advertisement with the item listed. Thats how Sandi Johnson, of Bloomfield, Iowa (pop. 2,601), got a discount on a vacuum cleaner. I asked if the store would match the price of a well-known national retailer Id seen in their circular. The store manager said they would if I could show him the flyer. It happened to be in my car, so I ran out and grabbed it, saving $55 for a two-minute trip, she says.

At the end of a shopping season. An end-of-season clearance sale is a good time to ask for an additional discount. At the end of a season, well sometimes offer a customer a discount on an item if it is the last of its type in stock, says Dale Phelps, of Village Bike Shop in Grand Rapids, Mich. It helps us move the inventory and gives the customer a price break as well.
Most of these ideas benefit both you and the seller. So if you find a situation like the ones mentioned above, decide on a fair price, ask politely, and you might get the discount just for asking.

John Nardini is a writer in Kentwood, Mich.