Those are all worthy ways to cut costs. But there’s an even simpler way to save. It’s the technique human beings have used for millennia: haggling.
Many of us expect to haggle over prices when shopping for big-ticket items like cars or houses. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t ask for a better deal with less-expensive items, or services like staying at a hotel.
Consider beds: A recent Consumer Reports survey found only 22% of people try to haggle on a mattress. But about two-thirds of those folks succeeded — and saved a median of $258 for the effort. It worked in-store and online.
How do you know if you can haggle for something? There’s only one way to find out, and the worst that can happen is to receive a “no.” Following are several tips to increase your odds of haggling successfully.
1. Do your homework
It’s easier to bargain for a deal — and recognize if you’re really getting one — when you understand the numbers. Before you go shopping, research prices and competitors. Check store policies to see if a business matches prices, and under what conditions.
And while this obviously applies to big purchases like appliances, don’t stop there. If the dry cleaner down the street is charging $2 for shirts, why should you pay $3 at your current dry cleaner?
2. Don’t be afraid to walk away
Your biggest bargaining chip is the fact that your business isn’t guaranteed. If sellers are convinced you have no choice but to buy from them, you’re at their mercy.
Not getting the price you want? Tell the seller you’re going to see if the competitor around the corner can do better. The party with the power is the one who doesn’t care if the deal gets done.
3. Ask the right person
Not everybody has the authority to negotiate, so seek out the decision-maker.
Whether it is an issue of sales, customer service, billing or cancellation, the person you speak to first might not have the authority to negotiate. Don’t get mad at them.
Whenever someone can’t or won’t help you with any purchase or problem, say, “OK, I understand you can’t help me. So, may I please speak with someone who can?”
4. Time it right
One trick to negotiating is understanding the other person’s business. For instance, at certain times of the year, clothing stores are eager to get rid of seasonal merchandise. Or, car dealers might push to meet an end-of-month quota.
Also remember that every salesperson is more attentive when business is slow, such as after the holidays or during summer doldrums. So, try to buy when other shoppers are staying home or keeping their wallets shut.
5. Pay with paper instead of plastic
Businesses can pay up to 3.5% in transaction costs when they accept a credit card for payment. If you’re paying cash, you deserve to take up to that much — or even more — off the purchase price.
6. Don’t fear awkwardness
If you have little experience haggling, don’t sell yourself short just because it feels weird. You’re not being a cheapskate, and the other party isn’t going to hate you.
Don’t get flustered by a momentary silence, and don’t be afraid to pause and think. In fact, silence can be a bargaining tool. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson worked in securities sales for 10 years. He says:
“In any negotiation, make an offer, then shut up. Wait 10 minutes in silence if you have to. Because more often than not, the next person to speak loses.”
7. Be friendly
Being aggressive only works when you’re in the superior position. If you lack power — which you do when trying to negotiate something like a discounted hotel room — play nice. Rude customers are the rule for most people in customer service.
So, be the exception. Smile, be patient, make a joke. Nobody wants to help a jerk, but everyone wants to do a favor for a friend.
8. Be firm
Being nice doesn’t mean rolling over. If you’re a steady customer, don’t be shy about pointing that out. Your loyalty should be worth something. And if not, your future business definitely is.
9. Be persistent
If it never hurts to ask, then it can’t hurt to ask more than once. Stacy’s rule is to ask three times:
“When I go into a hotel, I ask for a discount. If they say no, I say, ‘Are you sure there’s not some special rate you can give me?'” If they still say no, then I use my fallback. I smile big and say, ‘Well, you can at least give me the Elvis suite for the same price, right?’ They invariably laugh, and almost invariably give me the best deal they possibly can.”
Don’t give up too fast.
10. Go for extras
If the price is non-negotiable, don’t give up. There are other ways to sweeten a deal, such as:
- A free upgrade
- A future discount
- Free shipping
- Free delivery
- Free installation
Sometimes, businesses are already prepared to offer these concessions, because they’re cheaper than dropping the price but still make customers happy.
For more on saving, check out the “15 Golden Rules for Saving on Every Purchase.”