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exploring the art of haggling for beginners

It's no secret that haggling can save you money on purchases, but not everyone knows how to do it. In this guide, we will teach you the basics of haggling so that you can get the price you want for the goods or services you purchase. Haggling is an art form, and with a little practice, you'll be able to negotiate like a pro!

What Is Haggling And Why Should You Do It

Haggling is an art form that everyone should have some level of experience in. It can really help you to secure good deals and save money that you would have otherwise spent, freeing up some of your monthly budget for savings, debt clearance, or other expenditures.

However, you must understand the ins and outs of haggling before getting involved with it. There’s all sorts of etiquette around haggling and you need to make sure that you understand what is acceptable and what isn’t before you dive into the deep end.

There are also a number of tricks you can keep up your sleeve to help your haggling venture be as successful as possible. Here are a few suggestions that can help you on this journey!

Situations Where Haggling Can Be An Effective Strategy

Unlike other parts of the world where everything is open for negotiation, most Americans depend on set prices, and therefore, haggling can be considered rude at worst or ineffective at best. Despite this, there are some key situations where knowing how to haggle can be an effective strategy that will save you money.

SituationTechniques & Language
Farmers Market Mention cosmetic flaws, ask "Can you do better on the price for these?"
Flea Markets Bundle items and ask for a total discount, "What's the best you can do if I buy multiple?"
Furniture Stores Inquire about discounts on floor models, "Is there any wiggle room on this price?"
Antique Shops Reference similar items at lower prices elsewhere, "I've seen this for less; could we meet that price?"
Car Dealerships Research and mention competitor pricing, "Other dealers are offering lower; can we match that?"
Appliance Stores Ask about last season's models or minor dings for discounts, "Are there any discounts on models with slight imperfections?"

These situations often have a bit more flexibility in pricing, and polite inquiry or pointing out flaws can open the door to negotiations.

The Basics Of Haggling - How To Get Started

There are, as with most situations in life, times when haggling is appropriate and times when it is not. You need to be mindful of when you can haggle and when you can’t. For example, if you’re buying from a chain store, a retail store, or other large business, chances are, you’re not going to be able to stand haggling with a store assistant for some items. The prices will be set and the staff you’re engaging with won’t actually have any authority over how much is being charged for the products that they’re selling.

However, if you’re attending a market, a small business or another location where you’re engaging directly with the owner of the business, haggling could potentially be an option. You can also easily haggle on online sales platforms where people are selling their own belongings, such as eBay, Depop, Etsy, Gumtree, Schpock and more. Haggling for cars is also common. 

One of the most popular forms of technological haggling are sites like Priceline and Hotwire. With both of these sites, merchants have decided what price they are willing to offer a room, flight, or car rental at and then it is up to the consumer to make a bid. While there is only a single round and you either "win the deal" or not, is absolutely addictive and a great opportunity to try haggling for the first time.

If you are looking to practice haggling, any one of these sources is a great place to start. Just remember going into the negotiation that your goal is to practice and not actually buy something. Or even better, use one of these situations - maybe not buying a new car! - to practice your skills by getting a better deal on produce or something like that.

Price Matching

An easy way to get away with a haggle is price matching. If you’ve searched online and found that a different company is offering the same product or service for a lower price, but want to buy from somewhere else - perhaps it’s a trusted brand you’ve used before, it’s closer for product pickup or something else along these lines - you can often present the information you’ve found and ask for a price match. Many businesses will price match in order to secure and maintain your customer over a competitor.

Do Your Research

Before haggling for anything, doing your research is essential. Looking around at the standard price for items over time and now can give you a good idea of their actual value and how much profit margin a business has on certain items they’re selling. The larger the profit margin, the more likely you’ll be able to successfully haggle with the business owner.

If there’s a tight profit margin, chances are, they’re not going to be able to budge much on the price. However, if you can tell they’re making a larger margin, they may lower the price for you in order to secure a sale. Thorough research can give you insight into whether your haggling is going to be a success or not.

Consider Shelf Life

Shelf life of products can greatly impact whether someone will be happy for you to haggle for them or not. For example, if someone is selling a piece of tech, they’re much less likely to give it to you for a reduced price than someone selling food or fresh produce. This is because food and fresh produce will have a shelf life and when it passes the shelf life, the seller will be unable to sell it at all.

If you want to buy some food that is approaching its shelf life, you may be able to haggle as the seller will want it off their hands. Shopping markets at close time can often secure you some good deals, as the seller won’t would rather sell at a reduced price than see the product go to waste and not make anything from it at all.

Consider Transport

If you’re at an exhibition or other form of show, you may be able to get better deals and have more success haggling by approaching sellers at the end of the show. Transport of products can cost a lot, so a seller will likely be happy for you to buy the product at a reduced cost than have to fork out the costs of transporting the products home or into storage themselves.

Be Prepared To Walk Away From The Deal

This is possibly the most important factor that novice hagglers aren't prepared for and even though I've been haggling with merchants and vendors for decades it still sometimes surprises me when you walk away and the other side is so afraid of losing you that they agree to a much better deal than where you left it.

In some cases, walking away from the discussion is simply a negotiation tactic but in others, it is a way to preserve your value. For instance, if you are selling a service for $100 / hour and the other party only wants to pay $20 ... they are going to expect you to continue to offer that rate on an ongoing basis, not "just this once".

If this is lower than you are comfortable with then it is better for you to walk away than to devalue yourself. This will often make your prospective client see you as being more valuable and they are willing to pay more than they had previously.

If not ... you don't want to work with them anyhow!

Always Be Polite!

You always need to be polite when haggling. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s a business or an individual’s right to choose how much they’re charging for the products they’re selling. They don’t ever have to give you a discount or accept haggling or the price you’re suggesting. This is a negotiation and you need to make sure that you’re being fair and respectful throughout.

Know When To Haggle And When Not To

In some cultures and in some industries, haggling is a thing you do with every transaction and the starting price is never expected to be the ending price. This gives both parties an opportunity to add value, discuss specific terms, and in some cases simply feel like they got a good deal.

Other times, for instance in most American retail stores or restaurants, haggling is not acceptable and would be considered very rude.

I've had some friends from other parts of the world try this at discount stores where they try to get a better price than is marked. Other times, shoppers try to point out a defect in a piece of clothing or a dented can and ask for a discount. This is generally considered rude and ineffectual. Even if it were something that the store clerk might want to do, the individual employee has no motivation to do that and they aren't empowered to make decisions like that anyhow.

On the other hand, in places like a farmers market or craft show when you are dealing directly with the merchant and often the manufacturer too, haggling is a great opportunity for them to move less desirable merchandise while you feel like you got more value than you would by simply accepting the listed price.

Know the Limits

It’s also important that you know when to accept defeat and walk away from a haggling situation. If you and a seller cannot come to an agreement on price, you simply need to accept that you can’t get the product for the low price you wanted and make a decision - whether to pay the price the seller is asking for or whether to walk away. This is an individual decision, but it’s important that you don’t keep pushing for a price that is never going to come. This can simply create tension or arguments.

Be Fair

Be fair with your haggling. Everyone loves a good bargain, but vendors you can haggle with are often independent and rely on the money from their sales to support their lifestyle. Consider whether you’d accept the price you’re asking for if you were in their shoes. Remember that people do need to make a living and you shouldn’t take advantage.

As you can see, haggling is a pretty complex subject matter and there’s a lot to understand about it and on topics surrounding it to ensure that you’re successful. At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. So don’t be nervous. Head straight in and give it a go!

Written by:
#MenWhoBlog MemberBlogging GuruThought Leader

James' passion for exploration and sense of duty to his community extends beyond himself. This means he is dedicated to providing a positive role model for other men and especially younger guys that need support so that they can thrive and be future positive contributors to society. This includes sharing wisdom, ideas, tips, and advice on subjects that all men should be familiar with, including: family travel, men's health, relationships, DIY advice for home and yard, car care, food, drinks, and technology. Additionally, he's a travel advisor and a leading men's travel influencer who has been featured in media ranging from New York Times to the Chicago Tribune, and LA Times. He's also been cited by LA Weekly "Top Travel Bloggers To Watch 2023" and featured by Muck Rack: "Top 10 Outdoor Journalists for 2022".

He and his wife Heather live in St Joseph, Michigan - across the lake from Chicago.