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Haggling over price unpopular but pays off, experts say

By Bill Gephardt | Posted - Jul 24th, 2013 @ 9:58am


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SALT LAKE CITY — When you shop, do you pay the price marked or do you like to negotiate?

There are so many gimmicky ways to save money that it's easy to lose sight of one of the easiest: asking for a better deal. But not everyone likes to do that.

Consumer Reports says haggling may not be the great American past time it once was. It asked 2,000 shoppers and found less than half tried negotiating. Plus, one-third just flat-out refuse to bargain.

Bill Suppon, a vendor at the Urban Flea Market in Salt Lake, is no fan of haggling.

"I have to force myself to haggle," he said.

He expects it at a flea market but not so much at a store.

"I really think people are trained into believing it's a fixed price and the seller has no control over it," he said.

Michael Sanders owns Now and Again Vintage, a second-hand store.

Tips for smart bargaining

  • Be polite
  • Assume everything is fair game
  • Don't be intimidated by a title, such as for a doctor or lawyer
  • Give sellers a reason to negotiate, for instance if you're a loyal customer
  • Ask open-ended questions
  • See whether the seller is anxious to sell
  • Decide on a fair price by researching the product
  • Be willing to walk away
  • Find flaws in the product and ask for a discount
Source: Consumer Reports

"At my store we have a sign posted. It says, ‘Our bodies may not be firm, but our prices most certainly are,' " he said.

He believes it's more honest to set fixed prices.

"I think a lot of shops that like to haggle like to mark things up already with that discount built in," he said.

Whether or not stores up their prices for bargaining, Consumer Reports found nearly nine out 10 hagglers almost always save money.

Mark Gamble has been in the second-hand business for years.

"Heck, I even haggle at Deseret Industries," he said.

He says Americans may be reluctant to haggle because they've lost the art.

"You ask, ‘How much is this?' Five bucks, you walk away. ‘I'll take four dollars, or three dollars for something.' You've got to throw it at me," he said.

Kristina Diekmann teaches negotiation tactics to MBA business students at the University of Utah. She finds many people are intimidated by the back-and-forth process.

"There is this perception that there are situations you can't negotiate, when you really can negotiate them," she said. "If you see negotiations as rare instances, rare situations that you do very limitedly, then you can understand why people are fearful of that. They may not have the confidence."

Diekmann argues negotiating is not rare. People do it several times a day, whether it's haggling with co-workers over a project, to our kids on TV time, or our spouse on where to go for dinner.

So how do you boost your confidence? Walk in prepared: Look into the real value of what it is you want. Also, find out what competitors are offering.

"Decide how much you're willing to pay for this and have that limit," Diekmann said. "If they're not going to come down, walk away."

Kristin Sokol is a veteran negotiator who saved thousands of dollars on her new Honda because she haggled.

"When you do your research, when you know what to expect to pay, you can go in with confidence," she said.


"There is this perception that there are situations you can't negotiate, when you really can negotiate them."

Whether it's a new car, a bike or even a pair a shoes, she'll always ask this question: "Is this your very best price? Is this the very best price you can offer me? Nine times out of 10 I can get a discount from that," she said.

At the Urban Flea Market, Stephen Johnson is not a big fan of haggling. He especially cringes at "low-ball" offers.

"They're very negative. It's not unusual for me to be very negative back to them when they do that," he said.

Sokol said, "If you go in and ask for half, that's insulting to the vendor. And you never want to be insulting."

Vendor Don Wigren says if people don't haggle with him, he'll force them to do so.

"If I say $20 or something and they walk away from it, I'll say, ‘Well, how much will you give me for it? 15?' I don't let them walk away without haggling," he said.

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