Over the years one of the skills I have managed to hone is my ability to negotiate. People do not always realize almost anything in life has prices and terms that are set in stone. Today we were negotiating a contract and one of my colleagues on the email thread was musing at my response haggling with their rate. I told him “In life you have to look at everything as negotiable.” He then proceeded to tell me about how even chain stores like Best Buy and Circuit City are training their employees to haggle on prices on merchandise.

Having worked a retail job in the past, I have known that most employees have the ability to lower prices (usually around 10-20%) without even consulting their manager. The only times I have really realized these discounts though, is when I was super nice and sweet to an employee and they did me a favor. Often times my friends referred to this discount as the “cute girl discount.” In my single days I became a master of this tool—I had free daily lattes (the cup would appear at 7:40am on the edge of the coffee shop counter with my name on it—I always left a dollar where the cup was and went on my way), free lunch, discounted dry cleaning, and I rarely paid full price for any meals or drinks in restaurants. I don’t employ this discount the way I used to though, perhaps it is because I am older and not as cute, or maybe it is because I just don’t spend money they way I used to, but regardless the idea of negotiating everyday things sounded appealing to me (hey, every girl loves a bargain!).

So here is what I discovered:

  • What is typically “haggling” can be achieved by printing out the price for the same item online. If you bring in this print out the store will often meet the internet price in order to make the sale.
  • Lots of stores offer “freebies” to make the deal more appealing to consumers. You just have to ask (such as useful accessories or accompaniments for high ticket items).
  • Try to haggle at the end of the month. A lot of sales people have quotas and are more willing to wheel and deal when they feel the pressure to meet their sales goals.
  • Look for sales and watch advertisements. Often sales people with share this information with you. Generally if you see a sales price on a item and can reference that price most of the time they will be willing to go that low. (This is what I did when I bought my elliptical trainer—I referenced a sale from 6 months ago when I was shopping for it. I also then asked for freebies like the mat and delivery to be thrown in with the transaction)
  • Pay attention to cosmetic flaws or ask to buy the floor model. Often times these little imperfections can result in 10% off the price no questions asked.
  • This seems to be a phenomenon that has existed for a while, but is coming to light because of the recession and the fact consumer spending has declined.
  • And finally, regardless of the outcome—be nice and smile. You want these people to work with you, and people are much more likely to throw you a bone if your treat them politely and respectfully.

See the NY Times article for more anecdotal stories.

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