When I first started to haggle years ago, I only did it at independently owned stores. One of my favorite stories included how I secured drastically reduced prices at hotels during a six-week trip out West after college. My technique? I would always show up around 9pm knowing it was unlikely that the hotel would be able to rent many more rooms at that late hour. I’d casually mention that I would be more than happy to camp out that night if I didn’t get the deal I wanted (which was true), but I can remember only once or twice actually rolling out my sleeping bag. My other favorite story is how I haggled down the price of a gorgeous, handmade beanpot lamp — and then once the storeowner and I got to a rockbottom price, I successfully knocked off another 4% because I was willing to pay cash. (As many of you know, storeowners always pay a surcharge for customers who use credit cards, so if you want to help out a local storeowner — or want to haggle for a cheaper price without a lot of drama — always offer to pay in cash).
I’ve noticed recently, however, that it’s becoming easier to haggle even at major chain stores. A few weeks ago, for example, I was able to negotiate a cheaper price at Home Depot which surprised even me. I’m not the only one who has observed this change. Time magazine recently issued a story entitled: “Let’s Make a Deal” about how shoppers are haggling everywhere — even at big retail chains — and are coming out on top. (Time has been doing a lot of great stories like this recently, including a cover story on “The New Frugality” in case you missed it). Some of the techniques outlined include 1) print out better deals you can get elsewhere and show them to the salesperson; 2) if that doesn’t work, ask to speak to a manager. Another one is to let a store manager know is you find an out-of-date item at your grocery store. Most stores will give you one in-date version of that item as a thank you for notifying them of the problem. I just did this for the first time last week and felt extra good about it because it felt more like I was performing an act of public service instead of simply getting something for free. Not everyone is comfortable haggling, and you have to always remain conscious that your attempts to secure a cheaper price don’t eat up too much of your precious free time. But once you find your comfort level, haggling can be really rewarding. Have fun out there!