Bargaining 101: How to Negotiate a Better Price
Have you ever stood staring at a price tag and wondered, Could I possibly get a discount? The answer is yes. You just need to know how—and whom—to ask.
“Take my money!” is a common refrain as of late, but here’s a reminder from your baggie-washing, coupon-cutting grandma: You can get the best price and be kind all at once. Retailers would prefer you buy from them than their competitor, right? Follow these pro tips to score a better deal on your next purchase. (Before we get started, see more surprising ways to save money every day.)
How to Successfully Negotiate Lower Prices
Try these four bargaining strategies and phrases as you experiment with how to negotiate a better price—while being kind and caring.
“Can you do any better on the price?”
Posing this simple, straightforward question nudges the seller to make the first offer. "If you, the buyer, state a price at the outset, you hurt your bargaining power because the amount can only go up from there," says Michael Soon Lee, coauthor of Black Belt Negotiating: Become a Master Negotiator Using Powerful Lessons from the Martial Arts. "If she won't budge and you have to throw out a number, start really low so you can still go back and forth before settling on a figure."
How to get the best price: Spend a few minutes chatting up the salesperson before you attempt to open negotiations. She will be more inclined to make a deal if she has already invested time in you.
"It's nice, but I can take it or leave it."
Never let on to a salesperson that you've fallen in love with something—even if you're head over heels. This knowledge makes him more likely to insist he has no wiggle room on the marked price because he knows you won't want to leave without it, according to Max Edison, author of How to Haggle: Professional Tricks for Saving Money on Just About Anything. So play it cool to get the best price. Cruise the aisles and look at lots of different products while you wait for an employee to approach you. When he does, politely mention a feature that you don't like about the item, then ask for a discount. Be prepared to walk away if the seller won't come down in price. Most of the time he'll stop you and agree to a lesser amount. (While we’re talking money, don’t fall victim to these sneaky ways banks might nickle and dime you.)
How to get the best price: Casually mention that you'd be happy to refer friends if he will work with you on lowering the price.
"I've seen this elsewhere for less."
Many retailers will beat a competitor's price if you show them a local newspaper ad or printout from an online store. How to successfully negotiate a lower price: "Bob's Appliances has this same gas range for $419. Can you do better?" Be prepared for the salesperson to explain that her merchandise is higher quality or her store offers better customer service. Respond by pointing out that you'd like to buy here and now but only if you can get the absolute best price.
How to get the best price: Inquire whether any markdowns or special promotions are coming up in the next week or two. The salesperson may be willing to ring you up at that price now rather than risk that you won't come back.
"What would you take if I paid cash?"
Good old-fashioned dollar bills can have a hypnotic effect, especially at independently owned stores. "Processing a credit card costs retailers about 3 percent of the transaction," says Edison. Checks take time to clear.
How to get the best price: If a salesperson insists he's not authorized to negotiate, ask who is. "Never accept 'no' from someone who can't say 'yes,'" says Lee. In other words, speak to the right person. (These six apps can also help you save BIG.)
Secrets of Online Negotiating
Even though you never interact face-to-face, you can wheel and deal with e-tailers. To cyberhaggle and get the best price, Google around for the lowest price on an item you want, then email a different online store, providing a link to the price and asking that seller to go lower. If a customer service rep says she can't give you a discount, ask if she has a free shipping or promo code you can use. Request a supervisor if the answer is still no. Generally, small- to medium-size e-tailers are more receptive to haggling than large discount sites.
How to Haggle When It Doesn’t Come Naturally
If you'd rather endure an anesthesia-free root canal than ask for a discount, you're not alone—a lot of women find the thought of negotiating unpleasant. (If salary negotiation is the thing that’s making you sweat, we can help!) Haggling is sometimes seen as pushy or aggressive, says Fatima Mehdikarimi, a money-savings expert. "Men don't seem to care much about those perceptions, but women do," she says. If you're hung up on coming across as brash and unfeminine as you determine how to negotiate a better price on your own terms, keep these key points in mind:
- Sellers are asked for discounts all the time—it's a normal, everyday part of doing business. Remember, the worst thing a salesperson can say is no. Then he'll move on to the next customer without a second thought and forget all about you.
- Haggling is a win-win for both parties. Most retailers would rather sell something today at a discount than have it sit around for a month or longer.
- Asking for a markdown doesn't make you look cheap; it shows that you're savvy about how you spend your money. "If it helps, remind yourself that rich people are generally frugal and rarely just go ahead and pay the asking price," says negotiating expert Michael Soon Lee.
How to Successfully Negotiate Lower Prices
- You: "I like this jacket. Any chance you can discount it?"
- Seller: "Sorry, but we don't mark down merchandise."
- You: "I'd take it today if you could cut the price."
- Seller: "Well, I do have a $10-off coupon I could give you."
- You: "That's not a huge savings. Can you go any lower?"
- Seller: "We've never sold that jacket for less."
- You: "Okay. Actually, the buttons seem a little loose. Thanks anyway. I'll check back later."
- Seller: "How about if I knock off 15 percent?"
Related: Money Lessons From Real Families
Best and Worst Places to Haggle
Some sellers are more open to negotiations than others. Check out our cheat sheet.
Go For It! Get the Best Price at...
- Hotels and car rental agencies
- Furniture stores
- Appliance and electronics stores
- Jewelry shops
- Antique stores and pawn shops
No Way, Don't Bother at...
- Discount stores*
- Warehouse clubs*
- Major department stores*
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
* If an item is scratched, dented, or missing its original packaging, you have a chance. Speak to a manager.