Everything Is Negotiable

Haggling in the marketplace is one of the oldest consumer tricks in the book. But once sticker prices came along we stopped using the power of persuasion to get a lower price.

Bad move.

We have no problem haggling over the price of cars, or houses, or just about anything with a hefty price tag. So why not mattresses? Or shoes? Or groceries? These are things we should be trying to get on the cheap. The fact is, according to Carmen, that in an economic downturn everything is negotiable. All you have to do is ask.

David Sax of New York Magazinewas sent out as a secret shopper for a piece to find out just how negotiable some price tags are. His first stop was Sleepy’s, a large mattress chain, where he found that a method of growing disinterest – or ‘War of Attrition,’ as he called it – got him a great deal. If you’re going to try this method, don’t act too interested or ready to buy and continue to ask what the salesman can do for you in terms of price. Sax even threatened to walk away at some points. By doing just that, he saved nearly $800 on a new mattress, which included getting the delivery charge comped.

Finally, Sax tried to buy a dining table off Craigslist to see what sort of deal he could find there. This required a ‘to and fro’ method of bargaining with the seller until a middle ground was reached. When it comes to Craigslist or other community web sites or tag sales, bartering or haggling is especially welcome and you can do it so that both sides feel like they came away winning. He saved $20 on the table.

But not everyone is comfortable haggling. If you’re shy when it comes to negotiations, Sax recommended having some fun with it. “This is capitalism at its finest,” he said. “People should pay for what the market can bear.” Know that many salesman actually like to haggle – and expect to – and they will be willing to do it to keep their inventory moving. Of course, you have to judge it on a case-by-case basis. It’s less appropriate to bargain at a restaurant or discount retailer where the margins are slimmer than a boutique shop or the local flower store. Use your judgment.