Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Fine Art of Bargaining

My frugal tip for this week is to learn the fine art of bargaining. Many of us hate to bargain or think we can only bargain on a few items such as a car. Bargaining can be fun, however, if done right. Also, especially in this economy, you can often bargain for discounts on items or services you may have thought were at a fixed price.

Case in point, this week my hubby bargained for a discount on a smog check for our car. In our area smog checks go for $78-$100. This seemed ridiculously expensive since there is little labor involved so we were determined to get a discount. My hubby made a few calls, used his bargaining skills, and we ended up only spending $35!

What's the trick of bargaining? Honestly, I'm still learning myself and would love to get feedback from all of you. Bargaining, like any type of negotiation, is an art of relationship building. Sometimes you connect with the person you're bargaining with and it's easy while other times it can be tough or uncomfortable.

Here are a few tips that work for me:

1. Be nice.

Many people, especially men, think you have to be super tough when you put on your bargaining hat. Just remember, salespeople are just like everyone else. Nobody likes a jerk and people generally want to do business with others who treat them with respect. You can be firm in your price demands in a determined way without being rude which leads me to my next tip.

2. Act disappointed.

I often find this is the best way to bargain. A good salesperson wants the sale and wants to give good service and make their customer happy. It’s also human nature that we don't want to let others down. Saying things like, "Gosh, Joe, I really wanted to do business with you and was hoping you could do better than this price…" with a disappointed tone of voice can do wonders in the bargaining process.

3. Avoid yes or no questions.

I've read some other sources for bargaining tips that say to ask the salesperson "Can you give me a discount on this?" I, however, find this often doesn't work well because it makes it too easy for the salesperson to just say "No." In my experience, it works better to not ask this in a question format. Instead, I follow step #2 and act disappointed and voice my demand for a discount as a complaint not a question, for example, "Gosh, I really hoped there would be a discount on this" and then wait for the salesperson to respond. The salesperson may still say there isn't a discount but if they have to explain it instead of simply answering "no" it leaves the conversation open for more bargaining.

4. Give them some competition.

Never let the salesperson know that their product or service is the only one you are considering. Let them know there are other options and cheaper options out there. Sometimes, depending on your own conscience you may even find it helpful to fib a bit that a competitor is cheaper or has offered a lower price even when they haven’t.

5. Offer more business.

Depending on the product/service let the salesperson know if they give you a good price you may become a repeat customer and/or bring in your friends.

6. Be ready to walk.

The best deals usually come when you are about to walk out or hang up the phone. Sometimes, if you haven't agreed on the deal you need to just leave it. Give the salesperson your contact info and make it clear you are still interested and would like to do business with them if they can come down to your price. Depending on the product/service they may end up giving you a call back. This is another reason why you want to follow step #1 and be nice so even if you don't agree on a price that day you still leave the relationship open for possible future negotiations.

Bargaining is a fine art and skill and each of us may have different techniques that work. What are your bargaining tips or stories? I’d love to know!


  1. I really like your advice to act disappointed and be ready to walk if the price is not right. I always do my research on bigger purchases or services so I am prepared with a reasonable price range for the product/services.

  2. That's really a nice collection of tips.