I really don’t like negotiating, to be perfectly honest. The first time I tried to negotiate a lower price on something, my legs shook because I was so nervous. Why would a store have a set price on something if they were going to take a lower price? Since that first nerve-wracking experience, however, I have learned that many retailers are willing to take a lower price for certain items under certain circumstances.
Here are some guidelines I use when negotiating prices on goods or services I purchase.
Know Your Prices
It’s important to know how competitors have priced the item you want to buy, because that can give you a leg to stand on when you ask for a lower price on something. Look at prices from other brick and mortar retailers as well as at online prices before you try to strike a deal.
You should also know what the seller’s original price is, if possible (like the invoice price on a car). That way you know how low you can go before the seller isn’t making any money on the deal, which is likely to be a dealbreaker for them in most cases.
When you are traveling in a foreign country, it’s also good to know the customs there. In many places around the world, negotiating is expected even for small items, so things are priced accordingly higher to give negotiating room. If you don’t negotiate, you will always end up paying too much in these places.
Negotiating is not a popularity contest. If you are the one who throws out the first price, make it ridiculously low, because it’s only going to go up from that number. Don’t worry about being seen as a jerk, worry about what you’re going to end up paying for the item. The worst the seller can say is no, and you should never negotiate on something you absolutely have to have from that particular seller anyway.
If you act like you could easily pass on the purchase, the seller will pick up on that and give you the best deal they possibly can. If you act too eager, however, they know they’ve got you and will be less likely to lower their price because they can see that you are highly interested in the purchase.
Where to Negotiate
You will be more successful negotiating at certain retailers than at others. Your local Walmart is not likely to just randomly lower their price for you, since with the volume of business they do, they can most likely sell the item to someone else for a better price anyway. Some good places to negotiate lower prices are the following:
- Car rentals
- Car dealers
- Jewelry stores
- Furniture stores
- Yard sales
- Private sellers
- Antique or pawn shops
- Smaller online retailers
The one exception to negotiating prices at retailers like Walmart or big box stores is when an item is damaged or missing parts. Most supervisors will mark the price down in these cases, I have found.
How to Conduct a Negotiation
Be polite. Nobody wants to deal with someone who’s being rude, so the seller is more likely to walk away if you insult them or their product, or get angry that they aren’t willing to lower their price. This type of behavior can also make a seller suspect that you are overly attached to the item and can lead them to be more stubborn because of this.
Decide your highest price. Deciding ahead of time the upper limit you are willing to spend will help ensure that you do not spend too much. It’s easy to get sucked into the negotiating process and offer more than you want to pay just to feel successful about the negotiation. But you will not feel successful in the end when you have paid more than you wanted, believe me!
Be willing to walk away. Not all negotiations will be successful, and chances are, you can get the price you want somewhere else if you are willing to wait; sometimes it is best to walk away and try again. And sometimes walking away will lead to the seller giving in and giving you the price you want in order to make the sale.
Ask about sales and coupons. If the seller is not willing to outright lower the price, there may be a current or even future promotion that they can give you that will lower the price, or maybe there’s a coupon available that will give you a discount. Asking “can you do any better than this price?” or “when will this item be discounted?” is one good way to approach negotiating if the thought of haggling is too much for you to bear.
Ask for extras. One way to get a better deal without the seller having to drop the actual sale price is to ask for extras to be thrown in for free. For a car purchase, you can ask for free oil changes and inspections, for example. For jewelry, you could ask for cleanings or for a free resizing. At a yard sale, you can ask for a free additional item or for a better price on multiple items. “Will you take $5 for both?” is a question I have rarely gotten a “no” to at yard sales.
Be quiet and wait. Sometimes you throw a price out and when you don’t get an immediate answer, you jump in and offer more. Conversely, the seller may do the same thing if you don’t give an immediate response to their offer. Being quiet and waiting for a response can work in both of these situations by putting the pressure on the seller to respond rather than on you to adjust your terms.
Negotiating doesn’t always work, but it has saved me a significant amount of money on major purchases and even a few dollars on smaller things from yard sales and discount stores. The bottom line of negotiating is that you might as well ask for a better deal, because in many cases you will get it. There’s just no sense in paying more than you have to for anything when your available dollars are, like nearly everyone’s, limited.