Thursday, August 13, 2009


Haggling. Dickering. Just two words I've heard to describe bargaining with a seller to lower the price on a product you'd like to buy. I grew up in a household where my parents like to shop at rummage sales and antique sales, and watching them haggle down a price was the norm to me. I thought you never paid what the sticker says for an item. Unless you went to a department or grocery store. Those places? You pay what's on the tag.

Lately, in articles I read about the economy a lot of experts suggest that haggling is back in style. And that, in fact, you can haggle for a better price in major stores.

We do it at the car dealer. Why not do it at Target?

We probably do it without realizing it. I was in the grocery store the other day and saw the sign for 10 organic avocados for $10. Great price! Only they were all out. I asked the produce guy and he gestured to the non-organic avocados which were priced at $1.99 each. I had my heart set on organic, because well, they're organic, and they usually have smaller pits which gives you more pulp. I suggested maybe he could give me the non-organic ones at the organic price, seeing as how the sign was up but no product offered. He agreed. I left with five (who needs 10 avocados?) for half the price.

[sidebar: People, do you know your produce numbers? Those little stickers on the produce that are impossible to peel off and have four or five numbers on them? If the number starts with a 3 or 4 that means it was grown the usual way, likely with chemicals. If it starts with a number 8, that means the produce was genetically modified (re: possibilty that pig DNA is in there somewhere. Seriously. Pigs!) If it starts with a number 9, that means it's organic.]

End of sidebar, but pay attention to those numbers!

Back to haggling. We all feel so pleased when we manage to dicker down the price a bit. We're walking away with something that we paid less for. What a prize. Good for us! Shouldn't all stores allow haggling? Probably it would get out of hand if you grabbed a pack of diapers off the shelf and said "$5.99, no less" when they are priced at $12. But if the package is torn, you'd darn well better ask for money off.

That is the key to haggling. Start with the sales clerk, but if you don't feel you're getting what you'd like from them, then politely ask if the manager could help you. Oftentimes the employees just don't have the power to give you a better price, but a manager will. And don't be rude. Chat up the employee and smile and be friendly. And if you do get a good deal, thank them, using their name.

When I worked at Borders the employees knew they were allowed to give 10% if a customer asked for it because a book was dented or bent, or damaged in some way. We rarely did this, because the customers just don't ask. I always do. And if it's really damaged, ask for the manager. They can offer a bigger discount.

So yesterday I went to WalMart to buy celebratory chocolate for finishing a book, and...I walked out of the store with a TV. The kids have been trying to get us to move into the 21st century and buy a flat screen, but me and the hubby are kind of attached to our tube TV that takes 20 minutes to warm up, and won't play through a half hour sitcom without fuzzing out half a dozen times. So I strolled down the TV aisle, my son at my side to provide the tech support I'd need, and stopped before a TV that was a demo model. It had been marked down $77. Good price, the son said. But I wanted more off. My goal was $75 more off. I asked the clerk if he'd come down in price. He was friendly and immediately offered an additional $25 off. I pointed out a few scratches in the plastic. We went down another $25. I went for the kill and said if you knock off $75, I'll buy it right now. Deal! But the cool thing? They promised a remote and stand, but they couldn't find them. So I asked for another $25 off. Total off: $100, plus the original $77 markdown, and I saved $177. I made sure to stop by the customer service dept. on the way out and mention how helpful Paul in electronics was. Hey, he deserves any kudos he can get!

Who'd a thought you could haggle at WalMart? I feel empowered! I am Super Haggle Woman! I will never buy another product without first checking for the slightest damage and then requesting a bit off.

So what do you think? Have you ever haggled? Do you find stores are more open to haggling with the price lately? What was the last thing you haggled for? Are there some stores you feel just won't haggle? Tell me about your treasures!


Forgot to note:  Our own Deb Dixon is guesting at my Dusted blog today with her To Be Read pile!  Go check it out.  


ARCyndi/Dr. Cynthia Morgan said...

Great haggling on the TV!

My hubby is the KING of haggling. When we buy anything that price has ANY wiggle room, he goes for the kill. I, on the other hand, leave the room when he begins. It makes me so uncomfortable. I don't know why.

Kylie said...

Congrats, Michele! Haggling makes me squirm in embarrassment. I never stay in the room when dh is buying a car. I don't even like to bargain with the vendors on the beach. My idea of haggling is to go to the car salesman and say, "I've got this much money to spend and I want that vehicle. Can you sell it to me for that price or not? You've got ten minutes. I've got shopping to do." LOL. My husband about had a cow!

Upshot was, it took thirty minutes, but I got it for the price I quoted (which was significantly off marked price) but to this day dh thinks he could have haggled and got more off!

Terry Odell said...

I'm a wussy haggler. It makes me uncomfortable, but I will request a store give me a substitute at whatever price the original item was. Or if they only have the floor sample, I'll expect a discount.

Going to Africa, where it was expected that one haggle was tough. The bottom line prices were so low, often, once you converted to US $, that it seemed almost cruel to deprive these people of their only source of income. Yet I recall one woman who was so proud that she'd talked a woodcarver (who made beautiful animal carvings) down from $5 to $3. Those carvings would probably have sold for twice what he was asking anywhere else.

My mom and I were in Tijuana once, and she grumbled that she didn't like to bargain. We looked at some gold chains, and you should have heard her telling the guy what she thought he should be charging. I'd hate to see her if she LIKED to haggle.

lois greiman said...

No. 9 on the produce. Didn't know that. Thanks for the info, Hauf. I'll be calling you every time from the grocery store now so you can remind me. :)

I'm kind of a haggler by nature cuz I'm cheap. My daughter can't watch. Hotels will often give you deals. I think that has been my greatest success.

Helen Brenna said...

You kill me, Michele.

I used to be a good haggler and the dh gave me such a hard time, I quit. But it makes so much sense. If you're not going to buy something because of the price, the store loses. And the store isn't going to sell you something unless they're still making a profit. It's win win as far as I'm concerned.

BTW, thanks for the info on the produce #'s. I didn't know that!

Michele Hauf said...

It's interesting how many mention that the feel uncomfortable haggling or will walk away when a spouse does it. It's so empowering, ladies! Give it a go sometime. :-)

And Terry, I think I had heard about haggling in other countries. With such low prices I would feel the desire to pay more for good craftsmanship, but I wonder if that would be an insult? Hmm...

Cindy Gerard said...

Great TV deal, Michele. I love to haggle. Do it every chance I get and no matter what, I always get a better deal. What's not to love?

Genella deGrey said...

What a great post, Michele!!

Just last night we were at a car dealership doing this very thing. Didn't get a car this time, but if the car is still there in about a month, the guy will probably give it away with purchase of a large Slurpee. :D

Thanks for the produce info! I avoid genetically enhanced foods because they have HALF the nutrients and HALF the taste!


Kylie said...

I can attest that Gerard is a great haggler. She often finagles concierge rooms and special deals from the hotel clerks. That's the ONLY reason we travel together. She earns her keep!

Debra Dixon said...

My sister just "haggled" with an attorney over a retainer.

Her thought was, "I don't want to give these folks a blank check."

You'd have thought she stabbed them in the heart. They weren't open to adjustment until she got up to leave. Then they figure out she was serious about only spending XX dollars on the matter and only that if they felt they could accomplish what she needed done.

Debra Dixon said...

Hey, my TBR pile pic is cute! Even if I do say so myself. (g)

Aly said...

Congrats on the TV! Great deal!

I am in charge of taking my dh's best friend car shopping next month! Can't imagine why that would be ;)

My mother is one of the best hagglers I have ever seen and so I learned from the best! I don't always like doing it depending on the situation but I always do it on the really big ticket items!

Kathleen Eagle said...

y S-I-L used to be a car salesman. He's a good haggler. I do pretty well these days, especially when I know there's some margin built into the price and finding the "real" price is kind of a game. In my younger days I wouldn't think of it. Life is more fun when you don't worry so much about "how it looks."

I had no idea about the produce numbers, Michele. Thanks! Who puts those codes on there, and why isn't that common knowledge?

Michele Hauf said...

I have no idea who came up with the produce codes, but obviously it's an industry thing. As I was scanning the web for some info on origin, I did find one site that broke down the 3 and 4 a bit more. 4 is considered conventionally grown, and 3 is irradiated.

I try to buy 9s! But 4s will work too, so long as I blast them with the cleaning spray and wash them thoroughly before eating.

It's good to know the numbers, because sometimes store clerks aren't so vigilant and you might find a regular apple tossed in the the organic apples.