Consumers who don’t haggle are leaving money on the table. A new nationally representative survey of 2,000 Americans by Consumer Reports found that just 48 percent of shoppers tried bargaining for a better deal on everyday goods and services during the past three years, down from 61 percent in 2007. And most of those who bothered to negotiate received a discount at least once during that period.
The full report on haggling is available in the August 2013 issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.
“Don’t expect your doctor, bank, or local appliance store to cut you a break simply because you have a nice face and smile. It takes moxie and self-confidence,” said Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports. “Having the guts to ask for a discount can result in hundreds of dollars in savings.”
When it comes to haggling, nothing is off limits. But those who don’t take the risk, lose. In Consumer Reports’ survey, 35 percent of respondents said they won’t bargain, period. Men are more likely to haggle than women – 20 percent of women said that it makes them uncomfortable. But both genders were equally successful when they tried. Younger consumers, those 18 to 29, tend to enjoy the practice more than those over 60, who were particularly turned off by it.
Shoppers achieved the highest success haggling over the price of collectibles or antiques, furniture, and appliances according to Consumer Reports’ survey. Schmoozing with a salesperson was the favorite tactic for haggling over collectibles and antiques, where those who negotiated saved $100 on average. Those who haggled over furniture and questioned a health-related charge saved an average of $300; those who bargained on washers, dryers, refrigerators, and the like, saved $200, on average.
Consumer Reports also found that those who were successful at challenging the cost of a cell-phone plan averaged savings of $80.
Six haggling do’s
Savvy negotiators know that politeness, friendliness, and a smile are harder to resist than tough talk. Consumer Reports has compiled the following tips to get to yes:
• Give sellers a reason to negotiate. Loyal customers should remind their merchant or service provider of their repeated business. Offering discounts on products or services is a small price to pay to keep customers coming back.
• Ask open-ended questions. Retailers are more likely to turn down a customer who asks questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Instead of asking for a specific dollar-amount or percentage off an item, ask what they are willing to offer as a discount.
• Decide on a fair price. Research the cost of any product before buying. Print out or take screen shots of website pages or written quotes from competitors. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents told the salesperson they’d check competitors’ prices. Call the store to confirm that it will match a lower price. Ask about a refund of the difference if there’s a price drop within a reasonable period of time. If a discount on the item is out of the question, ask for free shipping, delivery or installation.
• Seek a discount for cash. Offering to pay with paper instead of plastic eliminates transaction fees sellers are required to pay to credit-card companies.
• Find flaws. Retailers are likely to offer discounts on products with cosmetic blemishes or slight defects such as clothing with snags, smudges or stains, and appliances or electronics with dings or scratches. It’s generally easier to negotiate such deals with independent stores than with chains and for private-label products than for big brands because sellers can’t return flawed products to their makers for credit.
• Be willing to walk away. It’s expensive for stores to attract new customers, so they’re often willing to work hard to retain their existing ones. But consumers who don’t think they’re getting a good deal should go elsewhere and try to negotiate a better bargain.