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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Future - June 2010

The Lost (and Found) Art of the Haggle
Turns Out, You Don't Always Have to Pay Full Price

Haggling - actively negotiating a price for a product or service directly between the buyer and the provider - is as old as commerce itself. Prior to the Great Depression, Americans negotiated the prices on just about everything they bought. The Industrial Revolution and the evolution of giant regional or national retailers introduced the concept of fixed price tags, a notion that consumers have, until recently, been hesitant to challenge. But, recent economic news, coupled with technological advances, such as online auction sites and bargain finders, and increased competition from online merchants, have made haggling popular again.

More people are pushing retailers, mom and pop shops, restaurants, utility companies and even doctor's offices for bargains.According to a recent Consumer Reports study, two out of three Americans had negotiated a price at least once in the previous six months. But, negotiation isn't always easy, and many people avoid it either because they fear they won't be very good at it, or they don't want to be seen as "cheap." Thus, bargaining traditionally is reserved for high-priced purchases, such as property, automobiles and furniture.

Today, however, more people are pushing other retailers, mom and pop shops, restaurants, utility companies and even doctor's offices for bargains, and they are meeting with surprising success. Bargain-hunting experts say it is always appropriate to negotiate and it never hurts to ask. It helps if you are a regular customer and are able to build a rapport with the seller. You need to stay polite and calm, and treat the other party as you would want to be treated. Here are some more bargaining hints:

  • Know before you go. Do your research and know what the product you want to buy typically sells for. Bring competitors' ads or print-outs from their Web sites and be prepared to mention if a local competitor is selling the item for less.
  • Look beyond the price. Sometimes finding a bargain simply means getting more for the same money. You may be able to get the seller to give you the next model up for the same cost or throw in free or discounted accessories, service plans or warranties in lieu of lowering the price on an item.
  • Be prepared to buy. Haggling is a heat-of-the-moment thing, and you shouldn't do it unless you are prepared to buy immediately. Offering to pay cash, then and there, is a powerful bargaining chip.
  • Know when to walk away. Often, bargain-hunters get so caught up in the negotiation, they feel like they have a stake in closing the deal, even if it is not quite what they were after. Walking away is probably the best negotiation tool there is - it shows the seller you are serious about getting the best price and not just wasting their time on a purchase you were going to make anyway.
  • Ask about sales and bounce-back coupons. Inquire if the item you want to buy soon will go (or recently was) on sale. Depending on the store's markdown policy, they may honor the sale price for up to a month before or after an advertised sale. Similarly, many stores are using "bounce-back" coupons to bring business back. Basically, when you buy an item, they'll give you a coupon for a related item to use on your next visit. If you ask, they may give you one without a purchase.

Our Facebook friend, Kathy said, "(I) love bargains and it is my nature to haggle; it makes me feel better about the purchase when I get a lower price. (Negotiation) maybe even justifies buying the item." Become a fan of our page on Facebook and share your haggling stories.