(March 24, 2007)
This is not my favorite topic to write about since I am not good at bargaining the lowest price. It is a very psychological process and I don’t feel comfortable doing it face to face.
Thanks to the internet I don’t have to. I can do most of my shopping online in the comfort of my home. Even with such things like new cars, while I still have to come to inspect the purchase in person, I don’t have to negotiate the car price at the dealership.
Prices on all big-ticket items are usually negotiable and price negotiating skills can be very helpful when there is no choice but to buy something in a brick and mortar store. This is why when I stumbled upon this Readers Digest article full of haggling tips I couldn’t resist not to comment on it. Here are the 5 skills outlined in it with my own comments and examples from my shopping experience.
Remember that prices on big-ticket items are negotiable
We often forget that if the price is above $100 it almost always means it is negotiable. I was negotiating prices for the washer and drier when we bought our house 4 years ago. I bargained last year when we had the storm door installed. And I never skip the chance to haggle when we buy a new mattress.
Not all of sales assistants have the power to cut the price and some can only do a very limited reduction. If you don’t seem to be having success with a particular sales person, don’t be afraid to ask for the manager.
Don’t be afraid of silence, it almost always works in your favor
People who are in the retail shopping business are usually pros in their niche and know exactly what the price should be. With rare exceptions (Black Friday door busters?), the price will be average and will have a built in margin to account for the case when you start bargaining and the seller has to give up some. My biggest problem is that when I see something I like for the price that I think is right, I get attached to it and feel afraid to lose it.
The art of getting the best price is to remain flexible. Don’t concentrate on one thing. Play uncertainty. Hesitate. Stay silent at the negotiation. The sales assistant may just snap off and offer you a better deal to secure you as a customer.
If your competitors can do it for less, you guys probably can too
Price matching is a very effective negotiating technique. This is why it is important to do your home work before you head for the store. Call a few places, get the quotes, and go to the place of your choice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the one with the lowest price. For example when I was buying our TV I got a quote from ABS and Sears. The price was lower at ABS but Sears was closer to my house and had better warranty terms so I drove over there and bought the TV for the price ABS offered.
Don’t start with the details — talk first about how you feel as a customer
This part of price negotiation is the most difficult for me as I am not good at showing my emotions in open. Nevertheless it worked for me a few times in the past. Once I bought a vacuum cleaner that I thought was on sale. When I came home I realized the price was higher than I thought I paid. I felt I was tricked.
It is hard to say what exactly happened, maybe the assistant’s broken English was partially the reason. Anyway, I called the store and explained the situation. I didn’t go into any details, I just poured my feelings about how upset I was. The sales person who sold me the vacuum cleaner wasn’t available to remedy the problem and I said I am returning it back. As I was already on my way to the store, a manager called and said they will credit the difference.
Request a compensation when a store breaks its contract
When the repairs you order are not done on time, when the construction materials you purchase are not delivered the next day as promised, you have every right to expect something in return. The fittest and slimmest businesses survive, this is the foundation of our capitalistic economy. Who else but you as a consumer can enforce this rule?
Unfortunately you can’t always expect a positive result. I am still puzzled how scam shops survive in our time of open source, collaboration, and social networking. This however happens here in there and I am sure you know what to do if you are not treated fairly. BBB, Yelp, and ResellerRatings are just a few places to go when in trouble.