Are you ready to haggle?

Put this in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” file. The New York Times carries a story today that as the economy tanks, retailers are more interested in haggling. That is, you can offer less than the price and negotiate your way to riches.

And we’re not talking Mom and Pop stores, here, according to the Times; we’re talking the megastores. You know, where the kid you’re haggling with would give it to you free if it were up to him.

Savvy consumers, empowered by the Internet and encouraged by a slowing economy, are finding that they can dicker on prices, not just on clearance items or big-ticket products like televisions but also on lower-cost goods like cameras, audio speakers, couches, rugs and even clothing.

The change is not particularly overt, and most store policies on bargaining are informal. Some major retailers, however, are quietly telling their salespeople that negotiating is acceptable.

Home Depot and Best Buy are mentioned as likely hagglers. Of course, first you have to find someone to wait on you.

And how long do you think it’ll be before someone starts a Web site cataloging the lowest price that, say, a Best Buy let Model XYZ HDTV walk out the door for?

So here’s your challenge. Try to haggle this week at one of these stores, then report back.

Here are some general guidelines, courtesy of the Wisebread article, “How Haggling Taught Me About Life.”

1. It never hurts to ask.

2. Shop around and learn the market

3. Know your price.

4. Stay calm.

5. Have fun.

6. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

And a Reader’s Digest article a few years ago featured 5 lines you should learn before you go a hagglin’,

Oh, and just for fun, see if they’ll take a couple of goats in exchange for something.

  • bsimon

    My father-in-law has one tip for opening negotiations. He’s a wheeler-dealer extraordinaire, and often negotiates ridiculously low prices. The biggest problem for cheapskates is how to make a low-ball offer without offending the seller. FIL says to ask seller “So, how bad do you want to get rid of it?” Seller inevitably responds “What’s it worth to you?” at which point seller has opened the door to a low-ball offer. Seller might respond that the offer is absurdly low, but then has to name a price of his/her own. This worked extremely well for us, the one time we used it. Its not clear how well such an approach would work in a big-box store. I can’t quite see going into Home Depot and haggling over the price of plumbing fittings.