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How to Haggle a Good Bargain - The Subtle Art of Haggling

Updated on November 13, 2015
Docmo profile image

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

The Art of Haggling


The art of haggling is enjoying a resurgence. For too long it has been the mainstay of the exotic eastern markets, been confined to the dusty corridors of a local flea market or perhaps a garage sale, or in the higher echelons of buying a luxury car.


Now everyone is waking up to the possibilities of a bargain, the sheer pleasure of getting the price knocked down so you could make a saving on your hard earned money, all through haggling.


Haggling is an art, and it is not for the faint hearted. It is not for those who hate to be snubbed, who wilt at smirks and caustic comments. It is not for those who think it is cheap and not worthy of good class and breeding. It is not for those looking to make a quick and speedy purchase and for those who are so much in love with something that they hate to walk away. It is a hard art for the western mind with overactive cringe glands.


However if you are made of sterner stuff, if you appreciate that parting with your hard earned money shouldn’t come too easily, if you can learn the nuances of negotiation, if you understand the laws of transaction and the market forces, you should haggle.


Join the Haggling Revolution


In fact everyone should haggle. The economic downturn and the recession have made people appreciate the value of stuff. Manufacturing and retailing has hit the doldrums and everyone wants to sell and clear the stock while people want a good bargain and savings. Not just when you are on holiday and buying some dodgy nicnac to bring home but everywhere and anywhere. Join the haggling revolution.

What is a Haggle?


To haggle is to negotiate a better deal on the price of an object, to dispute fair value and to ultimately agree on the price and terms. It is a synonym of bargaining and is a close cousin to negotiation.


via Creative commons License
via Creative commons License | Source

How I learnt to Haggle


I learnt the subtle art of haggling when I grew up in India. My teacher was my mum, God rest her soul. She was a master haggler. She would haggle with everyone and everywhere and often I would stand behind her and cringe as an embarrassed kid. I thought it was crass and demeaning. But when she walked away with an extra 20% off, or with a free item that accompanied the main sale, the sense of triumph and well being she exuded was addictive.


I longed for a time when I’d have enough money that I would be able to buy my mom things at cost price, to feel rich enough to afford things at face value.


Looking back, I know her haggling wasn’t for fun or pride, but an absolute necessity in the tight economy of our household. Bringing up three children with a measly household income is not an easy job. When I grew up in India everything was negotiable. In fact you would never accept any price at the face value unless you are a naive westerner.


When I watched my mum I realised there were steps to haggling like a pro. There was never a cross word exchanged. There was mutual respect but a lot of drama and theatre. There were unsaid rules and lines were not crossed. There was an understanding between the seller and the buyer.

When I moved to UK I realised that Haggling wasn't in vogue. Most of my friendsfelt embarrassed even to question a price or ask for a discount. They felt it was something that 'foreigners' do. However, when they saw the deals I was getting and the money that was eventually being knocked off ( this includes my first house, My car, my TV, sound system, Holidays, Hotel deals etc) they started to get deeply interested in learning to haggle!


East vs West


There are differences to haggling in the East and the West. There was perhaps a time when haggling was an accepted method of commercial transaction in the west too. However, modernisation and mall culture have perhaps destroyed the concept.There is an illusion of 'fixed pricing' and 'discounting' that makes it perhaps difficult to haggle.

In the East it is not unheard for the seller to mark up the item several 100 times and the expectation is that the buyer would haggle down the price fiercely. It will be foolish to accept any object at the marked value .

With the advent of internet and with multitude of sales, the concept of discounts has spread to the west. We are now able to check the prices over the internet and compare various vendors. But the haggle remains an elusive behaviour to many of us as we are unaccustomed to the etiquette.

But it is time to bring the haggle to air-conditioned malls and stylish boutiques, to electronic stores and DIY retailers, to cars and crafts, to hotels and holidays.. In these recession hit times everyone needs to make a sale and there is no harm is saving a few bob.

'Nowadays people know the Price of everything and the Value of nothing'... Oscar Wilde

“Necessity never made a good bargain” .. Benjamin Franklin

It's just as unpleasant to get more than you bargain for as to get less” ... George Bernard Shaw

'Bargain Like a Gypsy, but pay like a Gentleman' ... Hungarian Proverb

'Sometimes one pays more for the things one gets for nothing'... Albert Einstein

Russel Crowe as John Nash in ' A Beautiful Mind'

Game theory

John Nash proposed that if everyone took into account others interests as well as their own in a game or a transaction, there could be a win win, to put it simplistically.

How to become a Master Haggler

So let me take you through the steps of a good haggle. Most of us know the rules of Haggle in the Eastern markets, these rules for haggling in the west, in places where you wouldn't normally haggle.


Rule 1: Know the value

You need to know the value of what you are buying. It is easier to check the price variations on the internet and check the manufacturers recommended retail price. Don't forget that most products are sold heavily discounted to retailers and they have a profit margin. They also have sales figures to achieve and will always have a managers discretion. While on holiday it is hard to know the exact value of an object- but you can always check on government regulated shops for a comparison.


Rule 2: Haggle only if you are serious

Don't start the haggling process if you are not serious about buying the item. It is unfair to the vendor. Also a seller can spot a fake if you're insincere. No seller would want to talk to a time waster.


Rule 3: Show Interest but with caution

In the East the vendors will spot your interest and hike the prices, so it is important to be able to show interest in the item but don't be too overly enthusiastic and ooh and aah over it.

However, if you are haggling in the West then show interest, talk about how you do want the item but indicate you may be on a tight budget. Be like someone so tempted but had to hold back. Pretend you may get into trouble if you buy it but you cant really resist it. Ask the salespersons opinion on how it looks on you if it is fashion item and look longingly at it as they take it back.


Rule 4: Turn on your charm

Don't be a bully, don't insult or intimidate. Be nice, courteous, smile and talk pleasantly. Ask intelligent questions and let the seller talk about the item. Don't be a smart ass even if you know what it does. Let them 'sell' it. Let them do their job.


Rule 5: Dont be embarrassed

The Western retail market is based on customer embarrassment and willingness to pay marked price. Discard your cringe mode and be brave. After all it is your hard earned money you are parting with and you have every right to get the best value for it. If the seller is snobbish or irksome, explain you are there with an intention to buy but may choose an alternate shop if they aren't co-operating with the process.


Rule 6: Be tenacious

Some shops may straight away tell you they are not a discount shop and that they are not looking to haggle a price. Be tenacious, maybe the manager or someone higher up has more discretion than the shop assistant. Explain you are their to make a purchase but would appreciate a saving.


Rule 7: Get the cash out

It is usually a good tease ( in East or West) to get the cash out or wave you card as if you are ready to close the deal if they could agree on a price. There is a psychological attraction of the cash or a card that the seller can see. It shows you mean business. literally!


Rule 8: Have a story

If you are up for it, have a story ready. A birthday/wedding/anniversary gift that you do want in time but maybe short of some money, Make the story relevant to the item you want to purchase! Most sellers are susceptible to 'humane' stories and may be willing to be flexible. If you are booking hotel rooms / flight tickets the stories really help!


Rule 9: Loyalty and support

If it is an independent retailer indicate you prefer shopping in such smaller venues but say how the prices do vary if one goes to the bigger shops. Say you would rather spend your money there than else where but are tied by your budget. If you are a regular there say you have been a loyal customer.


Rule 10: Spot a flaw

Most items may have little , subtle flaws- they may be display item, may be slightly out of season or may have a scratch a pulled thread ( in the interest of integrity and honesty please don't CREATE one!) A haggler's eye should scrutinise and be ready to pounce on minor flaws to be used as a negotiating tool


Rule 11: Walk away

Don't spend too long hanging around if you are not making progress. Start walking away. If they want to bite they will come after you or shout you back. If not at least you can move on.


Rule 12: Seal the Deal

If the seller is willing and if the discount is attractive- then seal the deal. Thank them profusely and appreciate their time and energy and be gracious. Then walk away with your hard earned purchase!

The future of Haggling


There has been a renaissance in haggling culture as customers are getting wiser to the inflated pricing structures and the sheer greed of commercial manufacturers. However, haggling needs to be used sensibly and ethically.


It is unfair to haggle over a 50cent/pence margin in a third world market where the money would probably mean nothing to the western economy while it could mean a lot to the sellers family.


In the Western world, stores are waking up to the potential of haggling as it allows for people to pay varying prices while increasing the sales. with increasing threat from the internet most stores are willing to price match and shave overheads.


So try haggling if you haven't already done so. Be brave, Be persistent, Save money!

Are a Haggler?


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Thank you!

Thank you for your time and hope you enjoyed this hub.

Please leave some comments below as it is nice to know what you think. If you like this and think others will too, do share on Facebook and Twitter or other sites using the buttons below and don't forget to vote !

Do visit often and read the other hubs if you like the writing. There's plenty to entertain you!

Thank you!

Docmo

Copyright © Mohan Kumar 2011

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Good information on this art form! Your mom taught you well.

    • Docmo profile image
      Author

      Mohan Kumar 3 years ago from UK

      Thanks for letting me know Peter- I will do so immediately.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Mohan (Docmo),

      This is really a great hub and I enjoyed reading it very much. When I was young growing up in a rural area of Wisconsin, I was taught that haggling was something that only the Jewish merchants did to cheat people out of their good's fair value. Hence the slang term "to jew somebody down" meant to haggle. After I lived in Taiwan during the 70s, I learned that haggling was absolutely necessary when buying most things if you didn't want to be cheated by merchants. In Taiwan in the 70s, department stores were about the only places that fixed prices. It's the same situation in Thailand today. You can't bargain in convenience stores, supermarkets, and department stores, but you can bargain anywhere else. I have learned that it takes a lot of patience and time to successfully bargain. You must also know the fair market value of what you are buying. Voted up and sharing with followers.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Mohan (Docmo),

      Especially in the economy of 2013, the information contained in your article is very useful. We've negotiated with service people a few times who were coming to our home to do repair work, and we've come to a compromise on the price.

      While on vacation, usually in the Caribbean, we've negotiated on the price of handmade craft items, because that was the usual way of doing business in certain areas.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub. Interesting views . As you say in this tight economy haggling is a must. Not only that the goods are way overpriced. But I am not a good haggler. Still trying. Great hub, voted up and shared.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Docmo,

      Awesome tips on how to haggle! I did my fair share of haggling in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, but was not that good. I wish I had these tips back then! LOL Great hub, fascinating!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      It all depends...who I'm buying from. If its a garage sale where a little boy is selling his prized dump truck and asking fifty cents, I'll give him a dollar. If its someone buying from me who looks like he can't afford what he's buying I'll knock the price down. Now, buying in a store is another matter as you so nicely point out. They have more money than I do and have overmarked the item so I'll try to get a cut!

      'Nowadays people know the Price of everything and the Value of nothing'... Oscar Wilde...best saying of all the great ones you listed.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Docmo, this is an art indeed. Thanks for sharing these great tips, now we know how the minds of vendors work! Will practice at flea markets here and let you know how it goes!

    • Docmo profile image
      Author

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Mary.. I know the feeling. Haggling itself sounds so 'negative' actually negotiating a better deal for oneself in life isn't such a bad thing at the right places... I wrote this hub in my early days in the hubs and didn't quite get everything right. I'll have to refresh attributions.

    • Docmo profile image
      Author

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      Sunshine.. thank you for your commets.strangely enough I do too. My brothers go mad when I do pay more than what is asked for if i feel the seller is worth the surprise. especialy when the money they make out of the sale is pittance. I haggle at high end shops though where the mark-up is pretty high and they could afford to.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      No, I don't haggle. I'm a southern lady, and I guess that would be against what I was taught as good manners. I've never been to other countries where it is considered normal to haggle.

      I liked your photos, but how come you don't attribute them? Just wondering.......Mary

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm not much of a haggler, if I really want something I'll pay the price. I shop yard sales every weekend and I've met some wonderful people. I also know if something is overpriced. I just have fun. I usually give more money then requested...especially if the seller is super sweet! I love their shocked and happy expression! :)

    • Docmo profile image
      Author

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      @Ashantina and visionand focus- long overdue thanks for your awesome comments.

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 6 years ago from North York, Canada

      Enjoyed your fascinating analysis of the artful art of haggling, but unfortunately am cursed with over-active cringe glands. Awesome and voted up!

    • Ashantina profile image

      Ashantina 6 years ago

      This hub is priceless Docmo :) I intend to utilise this fine art more often after reading this!!

      Excellent tips from a pro.

      Up/awesome and v useful

    • Docmo profile image
      Author

      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      @all fellow Hagglers and non-Hagglers- thanks a lot for your wonderfully inspiring comments, suggestion and sharing of experiences. I hope in someway this hub helps to demystify the art of haggling/bargaining/negotiating - much appreciated!

    • taterbugpbj profile image

      taterbugpbj 6 years ago

      Wonderful info! I have to say thanks for writing this because this is very useful info for everyone! I love the Monty Python video and the other visuals are classic and descriptive all at once. Perfection.

    • Mimi721wis profile image

      Mimi721wis 6 years ago

      I scored a 100 on the quiz. Now I shall put what I've learned to use.

    • SummerSurf profile image

      SummerSurf 6 years ago

      Class! Yes in the Western cultural we get far too easily embarrassed when it comes to haggling.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Good hub, Doc. The first time I was taught "haggling" was in Nogales, Mexico...actually, they were miffed when I didn't haggle and started to walk out of the store after declining to buy some silver. Lol. Now that was quite an experience for me.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      This is good timing my friend, as I am having a garage sale Sat and Sunday! Once it gets going, it will be fun, but right now it's a whole lot of work! Take care

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      Great tips and ideas for a good haggle.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I love to Haggle and it usually saves a few bucks..I was not a good Haggler when i was younger..In fact, the thought embarressed me, then..I watched others do it and realized it worked. There is nothing i like better than going to a thrift store and finding a treasure ( I know i'm cheap, but i've got a few bucks from being a good Haggler ) Thank's for a fun read.

      Cheers

    • DexisView profile image

      Dexi 6 years ago from New England

      Great hub, Docmo. It's a bit of a victory when you get something for less than the listed price. Fun!

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

      I am useless as a haggler! I feel much to sorry for the seller and also a bit embarassed. But I have never thought of trying in modern shops, maybe it is easier there. At least there they do not look poor. I do agree that this is an art that have to be done with finesse! And with this fantastic article I now know how it is supposed to be done!

      Tina

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

      Hi, Docmo. The term, haggling, seems to have more power and credence in the East. In the West, I think most folks like to look at it as negotiating. But you are spot on, as times get worse, whether it's haggling or negotiating, more people are indulging in the practice from necessity - not just enjoyment. Great hub. Voted up.

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Great hub Docmo! I love haggling when it is appropriate. Especially in foreign countries - they seem to love to haggle!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      The only thing I don't like about the idea is the word "haggling"! It gives being creatively assertive a bad name. I'm a master without hesitation. I was in a local grocery store that always had garden statuary and benches for outdoor living at the front of the store. I had seen a beautiful, tall, "angel" the last couple of times I was in the store. It was marked $120. It was beautiful and I decided I wanted it at the gate of the new cedar privacy fence at my home in Hillsboro. It would be perfect among all the beautiful plants and flowers I had cultivated there...like a keeper of the gate. I approached the manager, who promptly asked my smiling face, what I wanted it for. I did hesitate at that question...wanting to be fair...this was too easy. He said how about $45? SOLD! The girl I paid at the register was astounded as she had been watching for it to come down in price. When I got home, my ex acted somewhat mortified, as usual, not appreciative, explaining the "ex" status. Docmo, as always, beautifully illustrated and interesting topic. You always make me think! Your writing is so "you", which makes it very special and never ordinary. A true, priceless bargain for all readers

    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great advice...I do not feel I am much of a haggler...but my late grandmother was an awesome one....maybe as I get older I will improve on this talent...voted up

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      I am quite good at haggling, probably all my years going to antique and flea markets. I got our house for a bargain several years a go.

      The key is not to appear too interested. You want to act like it doesn't matter to you if you buy it or not. And as you say always be nice and polite.

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      Excellent article as always, Docmo.

      I am a terrible haggler. I'm always afraid that I'm cheating someone out of something. I prefer to assume they know the value of whatever they're selling. I know...some vendors live for the haggle. I am admittedly a terrible disappointment. Though, I might try to make an exception for the rug in that last picture.:)

      up/useful

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'm not a good haggler but I occasionally get in the mood for it at garage sales. With buying used cars it is a necessity, I think.If you like to buy in quantity sometimes a store manage will give a discount on a case of something.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Doc this is another great hub by you. My step mother was a haggler and she was pretty good at it, but it always embarrassed me. But I have learned a few good tips from your hub. Thanks so much.

    • Ancillotti profile image

      Ancillotti 6 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES

      Great hub and great tips! I liked very much! Vote up, awesome and useful for sure.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      This is a great topic, Docmo! I have done a little bit of haggling, in my time. It is kind of uncomfortable for me, because it's not the norm in this culture, but I have done it some time, especially when it comes to something bought second hand online. I have never tried it in regular stores, but I can see how it could work. I like what you said about having to let go of your embarrassment -- that truly is the biggest impediment to haggling.

      One area where haggling is considered the norm, is when buying a house. The whole "offer, counter-offer thing" is a form of haggling! Also, when buying a car, it considered normal.

      Great hub, with such a good topic, that will probably help a lot of people!

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 6 years ago

      Good Morning Docmo,

      What a great hub! I use to be so shy about haggling but after going to Mexico a few times, I got pretty good at it..I haggle with few words and a big smile..it works most of the time..I agree being able to walk away is the key.I have got bolder even in regular stores when the item is not marked down when you check out but I had seen a sign that said so..I will put the item back or talk to a manager..Always kind and respectful though. In these tough times it is important to save every dime we can. :) Thank you again for an awesome write.

      Sunnie

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

      I'm a terrible haggler so I don't even try. But I have friends who are pros and I watch with fascination when they strike a deal. I've always felt it was like a dance - you give a little, then press forward, two steps back, walk away, then come back and seal the deal.

      Wonderful writing as always Docmo!

    • profile image

      Fiddleman 6 years ago

      Good write Docmo. My wife and I are pretty good at haggling snce we enjoy flea markets and yard sales. You never know till you ask and more times than not it works.