Not only is it winter escape season, we’re also apparently in the midst of some sort of economic crisis. So, I figured this would be a good time to share my amazing wisdom and knowledge about being a cheapskate bargaining for goods and services.
How do I know all these things you might ask? It’s partly from a half a lifetime of teetering on the edge of poverty and partly from just being inherently cheap frugal and partly from realizing that most things are overpriced and can be had for less.
Some of you are squirming because you don’t think you’re capable of haggling. You have in mind a picture of yourself at a loud, chaotic Arabian marketplace engaged in a face-to-face screaming match with a large man with a scary beard.
Erase that picture and read on.
First, let’s look at a list of places where it’s acceptable to try to negotiate prices:
- Flea markets
- Large electronic stores for big ticket items (don’t haggle over a USB cord)
- Car dealerships
- Independent shops
- Craft stores
- Services (plumber, electrician, mechanic, etc.)
- Department stores (On damaged good and large ticket items only,. Always look hard for damage or a flaw and always ask if there’s a discount for it.)
Types of places not to try haggling:
- Grocery store
- Emergency Ward
- The Gap
Next, do some preparation. Research the item you want to buy and know what the high and low prices being offered are. Check online, check wholesalers, auctions… compare prices. Decide how much you want to spend, but be reasonable. Vendors have to make a living, too. This isn’t Highway Robbery 101.
Go to the ATM and get cash. Cash still has some advantages — not when you’re paying for cars or hotel rooms, of course, but for most other items, especially when travelling.
Dress nicely, but not flashily. You want to look like someone who can afford stuff because they’ve saved up for it; not like someone who can throw money around but is too cheap to.
Now, do some deep breathing and give yourself plenty of time. You can only haggle successfully if you’re calm, pleasant and very patient. Don’t even try it if you’re in a hurry. And always be prepared to walk away from the item.
Hotels always show and offer very inflated prices. Unless it’s high season and they’re booked up, you should be able to negotiate a better rate (often much better because hotels typically function at about 70% capacity and want to fill their rooms).
- Deal directly with the onsite reservation agent instead of the toll-free number (check the toll free number first, though to see what they offer as the best rate).
- Then, ask the onsite agent for their lowest rate.
- Some will offer discounts if you use certain credit cards; if you have a value membership with the chain, (you can sign up on the spot, if you don’t); if you’re a member of a certain union or work for a government.
- Ask if there’s construction going on in or around the hotel (because there almost always is) and ask for a room away from the construction and a discount because of the construction.
- You can almost always get a deal by staying longer and/or letting them know you will accept streamlined maid service in exchange for a discount.
- Ask for their lowest rate again. Ask if breakfast is included; if there’s a fridge in the room; if there’s a pool or a gym in the hotel; if there’s an onsite restaurant/room service. If you’ve done your research and already know the answer to any of these questions is no, then you have a bargaining chip.
- Ask the lowest price again (you’ll be surprised how often this changes).
Independent shops, craft stores, and flea markets both at home and in foreign countries
- Say hello to the vendor; smile; look around the shop or stall with delight written all over your face.
- Engage the vendor in conversation. Tell them you love their shop and their stuff.
- Assuming they aren’t run off their feet with customers:
- Tell them a little about yourself (You’re travelling and where you’re from; you love jewelry/crafts/folkart/books/etc. and buy way too much of them)
- Ask the vendor about items in the shop. If you see something you really want to buy, fall in love with it visibly and audibly – gush at how perfect it is.
- Ask the price.
- If the vendor likes you by now they’ll often tell you the sticker price and immediately suggest they could knock a bit off.
- Look pained because it’s just a tad higher than your budget will allow right now. But oh, it’s so beautiful. Pretend to be thinking furiously while gazing longingly at the item.
- The vendor may jump in here and offer an even lower price. Take it if you’re comfortable with it.
- If they don’t offer, tentatively suggest a price you’re comfortable with – again, you want to offer them a fair deal, not rob them.
- If they say no, say you’re sorry, you really can’t afford it though you really wish you could and that you hope the item goes to a good home eventually.
- Sigh regretfully and leave the shop. The vendor may still come after you with a deal. If not, that’s okay. Walk away.
Overall, the best places to haggle are places where people are truly interested in your business and are willing to work with you. Always stay cool, friendly and pleasant. Never tell them their stuff is crap and they’d be lucky if someone would be willing to take it off their hands.
I’m sure some of you also have some excellent haggling and bargain-hunting tips which you’d love to share???