Smart Buying

How to Haggle for Almost Anything

These strategies will help you negotiate a better price for just about any product or service.

Haggling over prices isn't just for people buying cars or houses. Think bigger. You can negotiate for just about any product or service -- your cable and cellphone bills, credit card interest rates, even your rent. You just need to borrow these tried-and-true methods of savvy negotiators.

Talk less, listen more. Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that might yield an abrupt yes or no response. A common mistake is to ask, “Do you have flexibility?” says Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute and author of Finding Confidence in Conflict: How to Negotiate Anything and Live Your Best Life. Instead ask, “What flexibility do you have?” This sets the conversation off with the assumption that there is always some wiggle room. You’ll find out just how much room there is by listening more and talking less. That lets the other person reveal more information that you can use to drive a bargain.  

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Know when to walk away. Before negotiating, research market conditions and prices. Sellers of products with a large profit margin and short shelf life usually have more flexibility with pricing—think seasonal items, perishables and consumer electronics that are quickly updated and made obsolete.

Consider how the deal looks from the other side. What are the barriers to agreement, and what might prompt the seller to reconsider? If your offer gets rejected, ask, “Is there a price you would accept?” The best negotiators stand their ground, so practice saying no.

Launch a charm offensive. Studies show that when people do business with someone they like, they’re more inclined to discount the price. So introduce yourself by name; ask the name of the clerk. If you realize you need to speak to a manager to get a discount, promise to put in a good word for the person who has been helping you. You can ramp up the charm by empathizing with the other person’s position. If possible, when you negotiate, emphasize your long-standing tenure as a customer and ask about the options for lower fees, better rates or improved terms.

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