[Travel Advice] Clemens’ Guide to Haggling

Random Observation/Comment #408: Haggling is an art.

see lemons haggling

I am terrible at haggling. I usually feel bad because haggling naturally occurs in third world countries with Street vendors where the price you pay for the goods and services are already a small fraction of what you would normally pay at home. I’m too nice and give away my buying intentions too soon, thereby losing my advantage in the whole haggling game from the get go.

If you want to be a bad haggler like me, say these things:

  • “I love everything in your store and I wish I could buy all of it.” Telling the salesperson you love their stuff from the moment you walk into the store excited like a kid in a candy shop is not a good strategy. Your enthusiasm for shopping gives it all away. You mark yourself as a target and people know you’ll probably buy something, so they will not budge too much on their price.
  • “Wow, that’s it? That’s such a great deal?” Starting with this is just saying you’re willing to pay the price of the item and the vendor will probably start at a higher price.
  • “Hey, let me count my money.” Never take out your wallet until the end of the transaction. In fact, if you’re going to a line of stores that sell the same thing, do your research and separate the amount of money you’re willing to pay.
  • “If I don’t get something for my gf, she’s going to kill me and this is the last Store on the block.” Desperation is never a good tactic. It’s okay to ask the salesman for advice to show interest, but don’t just give it away. Politely decline on taste and style if you walk away.
  • “This scarf is so soft. I want to sleep in it.” Don’t aggressively browse with emotions unless it’s a part of your tactic. Be casual and Shrug things off if the price doesn’t work for you.
  • “Psst, is that a good deal? Isn’t that only $5 US?” Always know what you want to pay for a great deal, good deal, and par price. The salesperson will always start slightly higher, so start with your great deal price as a counter. You should settle on the good deal medium if you really want the product.
  • “Wait I don’t have enough money, let me go to the car and get more.” If you don’t have enough money, you probably should not buy it. If you really want it, come back when you have the money, but possibly renegotiate with bundling items.

If you want to be a good haggler like papa bear, follow these tactics:

  • Bundling Items – ask for prices of multiple items while you’re in the store. If you want to buy more than one or multiple items, you can usually Haggle a lower total price. The salesperson will think he’s losing more than one purchase if you walk away from it.
  • Silent treatment – when the price is given, raise an eyebrow and let an awkward silence linger. Seem like you know he must be joking about it and you don’t really need it and consider other items.
  • The Other Guy… – tell them the other person down the street was selling it for a lower price.
  • It’s a present and I don’t like who I’m giving it to – you can use this to laugh with the salesperson to keep them in a happy mood. It’s a polite way to decline, but also gives them an opportunity to reduce the price.
  • Tag team it – have another person there be the bad cop stingy guy that always says it’s not worth the price. He or she can be the person the salesperson and you works with so you both get the better deal. Say the gf or significant other doesn’t like me spending money on these things.
  • We’re too far apart – from the get go, if the price is too high, say nicely that your prices are too far apart. Usually salespeople will have 200 to 300% price increases for their first asking price. If what you want is half of that, be nice and don’t waste their time.

As an underlying theme, you will need to understand who controls the money dynamic. There are situations where you either really need the service and will pay absolutely anything for it (e.g. getting a ride down from a mountain). And there are other times where you can walk 5 ft to the next shop and find a better price. If you know who has the power, then you can better access your situation.

In most cases, the purchaser has the power since it’s their final decision to hand over the money. As with poker, don’t give away that eye twinkle too early and be confident that you can walk away or come back another time. Also, don’t fall for the “special friend discount”  “handmade goods” or “best price.” It’s still probably too high.

Remember to be calm, polite, utterly ruthless, and try some of these tactics – you may save a dollar or at least feel like you haven’t been ripped off.

~See Lemons Haggle