Do you bargain at retail stores?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Doctor Q, Sep 25, 2006.

  1. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Do you pay the price shown for merchandise in stores or do you bargain every time you made a purchase? I'm not talking about online sales; I'm talking about retail stores where you buy household goods, supplies, electronics, clothes, furniture, toys, food, or who knows what else.

    In some countries and cultures, bargaining is a standard part of the purchase process. In the U.S., some people pay the listed prices for items in a store without thinking about it, while some people regularly negotiate for lower prices and probably save a lot. Almost everyone expects to do some bargaining when buying a car (that's often part of the unpleasantness of that experience), but I think most people pay the listed price for most types of store purchases.

    I've read that you can bargain anytime anywhere for anything, but I'm never sure when you could really get away with it. It takes a bit of nerve to challenge a price, negotiate, hold your ground, and be wiling to abandon a purchase if you can't get the price you want.

    Not knowing if you got the best possible deal is the nature of bargaining. You might not get every last penny you could have gotten, but you do better than if you don't bargain at all.

    Chances are, a store is unlikely to refuse to sell you an item because of a low offer. They'll either accept it, counteroffer, or stick to the initial price, which puts you no worse off than when you started.

    Doctor Q Gets a Lesson

    Last month I watched a friend of mine, who loves to bargain, go into action at a furniture store. He asked for the salesperson's best offer (and got it, below the listed price), then asked for the manager and asked him if he could do better (he did). Then my friend made a still-lower offer. The manager complained that he didn't have room to cut that much, but my friend didn't relent. He introduced himself and told what business he is in, shook hands, and promised to tell friends about the store, but stood firm on the price until the manager agreed (somehow he magically DID have room to cut the price), and with a bit more shaved off the price too.

    I was already impressed, but my friend, who was polite but unbending, didn't stop there. He "thought about it" and then wrote the guy a check for even less than the previous offer. The manager looked at it, scowled, went away, and then came back with the paperwork for the purchase. He took the deal! Both of them were perfectly friendly as the manager did the paperwork; no hard feelings. I'm sure he still made a profit, or he wouldn't have sold it for that price.

    All in all, my friend saved about $350 on an item listed at $1200. I was fascinated and at the same time a little embarrassed to watch it transpire, because it felt like he was "mean" to repeatedly question their "best offer". But I could see it was just "doing business", not something personal, and it made me feel a bit ashamed for all the times I've thought getting "$20 off because I'm a nice guy" from a salesman was a great deal, without asking for a better one.

    * * *

    What about the rest of you? Do you bargain? Where have you been successful or unsuccessful?
  2. Warbrain macrumors 603


    Jun 28, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I don't bargin unless I have to. I've never been good at it, and I doubt I ever will be. I know I could get things for cheaper than what I get them for, but it's not usually worth my hassle. I want something, I get it, and I'm done.
  3. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    anywhere they don't make commission you'll be pretty unsuccessful. and i rarely shop in those types of stores so no i dont bargin having worked retail and knowing that 99% of stores won't deal with it.
  4. CorvusCamenarum macrumors 65816


    Dec 16, 2004
    Birmingham, AL
    I remember reading somewhere that furniture stores usually have a markup of around 200-400%. They can afford to go way under their "listed" price and still make a profit.

    Whenever I'm the market for a high dollar purchase, I always assemble as much information as I can about it beforehand. Cars especially so; I always know exactly what the dealer paid for it and add on a fair profit to that figure. I got my last car for dealer cost + 5%, well under the sticker.

    When paying for something in cash, I almost always ask for a discount. At the very least, they're going to lose 5% or so to the credit card company on the transaction, so you can generally shave at least that much off the price.

    The thing to remember is that regardless of what any salesperson tells you, you are in total control of the deal. You can always take your money and walk out, and sometimes you'll have to do just that.
  5. dbhays macrumors regular


    Jun 12, 2005
    Salinas, CA
    My mother works in a furniture store and yes, you are expected to haggle over prices. They mark everything way up, knowing they will lose about 10% when negotiating the price. Each price tag has a code on which the sales person can see the "real price". You can also negotiate delivery fees.

    I hate negotiating though. I am a sticker price kind of guy, though I recently bought a new SUV and negotiated the price from 24,000 to 18,000. I felt good about that. Unfortunately, they tried to add 3,000 to the price by add ons. 1500 for an alarm they said was already installed, but then I got a call from the dealer to have the alarm installed. I got a refund instead.
  6. Mammoth macrumors 6502a


    Nov 29, 2005
    I didn't even know they allowed bargaining at retail stores.
  7. jamone80 macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2006
    So Cal
    its hard to bargain at, i wish i knew how.:eek:
  8. Graeme A macrumors 6502

    Graeme A

    Aug 6, 2003
    Melbourne, Australia
    im english, and as such would rather curl up and die than haggle in a store.

    mind, i have seen it done by my old flat-mate in germany to some great effect. me, if it says 10 bucks, i pay 10, not ask if 7 is enough...
  9. extraextra macrumors 68000


    Jun 29, 2006
    It probably won't work in a retail store. Furniture stores, yes! In some electronic stores, you can work around it (I don't actually "haggle" or "bargain", I just go on and on about how I've been a customer for the longest time and how I'm a poor student.. *cough*). Jewlery stores, like Tiffany's and Cartier, can give you like 15% off the price if you're friendly enough and the item is expensive enough. (They're not going to give you anything off a $100 necklace!)
  10. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    I would definitely bargain at place like furniture stores, places with salesmen that actually work with you to make a sale. Antiques stores also work (if you know what you're doing).

    Most places I'd think of have pretty firm pricing...

    I keep getting this image of me trying to haggle down the price of a tube of toothpaste or roll of toilet paper at Wal-Mart (even though I never go there):

    Me: This is priced at 1.99. Can you give it to me for 1.79?
    Cashier: Derrrrr.
    Me: Here's 1.79. Take it or leave it.
    Cashier: Derrrrrr.
    Me: I'm leaving.
    Cashier: *smiles*
  11. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I think the only thing I've ever bargained for was a car. That's it. Otherwise I find it to be a huge embarrassment.
  12. Unorthodox macrumors 65816


    Mar 3, 2006
    Not at the beach...
    Only for cars.

    One time I negotiated the price to $50 above what I thought the car was worth.
    All this bartering took several days.
    They guy wouldn't go any lower. So I walked.
    Oh man, the guy was so pissed.
    He started yelling and swearing at me.

    I went to the dealer across town and told the sale guy what I would pay for the car.
    He's like "No way can I give it to you for that."

    Then I told him what happened at the last dealer I went to.
    He went to talk to his manager.
    The manager came over, shook my hand, and said, "If I ever find out that one of my guy didn't sell someone a car over $50, I'm gonna kick their *** across the parking lot."

    I got the car for the price I wanted.
  13. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    It would depend on the store.

    There's no way I'd try to bargain at my local Apple Store, but at other stores such as furniture or specialized electronics stores I have no problem trying to save myself a little money.

    ...And I truly believe you are supposed to haggle when buying a car.
  14. Kwyjibo macrumors 68040


    Nov 5, 2002

    Statistically this is more of a male thing, we learned that in one of my introductory business classes for some reason.

    I've bargained for furniture, cars, and apartments at various points, the apartment was the best, we snagged free parking because they were desperate to fill the space. I would also bargain in person or at a higher end electronics store, and I always offer to pay in cash, that can usually get you something in itself.
  15. question fear macrumors 68020

    question fear

    Apr 10, 2003
    The "Garden" state
    You can't "haggle" in most retail stores...the best thing to do is to beat the system...for example, when i was a manager for Borders, I routinely allowed use of coupons repeatedly for one customer, before/after expirations, gave discounts if someone had an unpleasant experience, etc. The people who got those discounts were the ones who approached it politely. If you came to my cashier and said "I have this coupon" and you played dumb about expiration, and asked politely if you could use it, you would get it, no problem. If you were a jerk about it, you would probably get it THAT TIME...but we'd watch for future abuse. Whereas the people who were polite and well mannered we'd be more inclined to help. When you aren't on commission, haggling just annoys people who already have less incentive to go above and beyond, and believe me, there's very little good that often comes from the sort of abuse people heap on retail workers.
  16. maxterpiece macrumors 6502a


    Mar 5, 2003
    I negotiated the rent on my apartment down 20%. When I was in China it took me like 20 minutes of playing charades to buy anything. I got prices down by, on average, about 70%... at least 70% off the stupid rich white person price (i'm only rich by 3rd world countries' standards). And when you're negotiating there it's all smiles and buddy buddy language. You're not supposed to get mad. It's like a game. They really have fun doing it.

    I used to always feel uncomfortable negotiating, but I'd also feel uncomfortable when I felt like I was getting ripped off. After negotiating in a language taht I only spoke like 50 words of, I feel much more comfortable. I think almost any high priced item is negotiable.
  17. WildCowboy Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Jan 20, 2005
    I really hate to bargain. But I did my homework before buying my first car and geared up to hash it out at the dealership. Based on my research, I had it firmly in my mind that I should be able to get the car I wanted for about $5000 under the sticker price. So what happens? I arrive at the dealership and see the exact car I wanted (options, color, etc.) with a big sign on the windshield saying "$6000 off sticker price!"

    So, no, I don't bargain. :( :cool:
  18. panoz7 macrumors 6502a


    Nov 21, 2005
    Raleigh, NC
    I bargained when purchasing my car (got rear curtain air-bags and traction control for free)... but that's it.

    My parents own a retail store. They sell custom furniture and contemporary lighting along with more traditional "art." I practically grew up in the store, and have experience from the other side of this.

    We don't ever allow customers to bargain. Never. The furniture that we sell is slightly more expensive then the typical furniture store stuff (think tables starting at around $6000). We mark the stuff up some, but certainly not the two or three hundred percent mentioned in the previous posts. Most of the money goes straight to the wood worker. People have a hard time understanding how much effort, skill, and time is required to make the furniture we sell.

    When people do try and bargain they usually get a polite no. We explain the stuff I mentioned above. If they don't get it, then frankly we don't want them as customers.

    I have no issue with people trying to bargain. It's their initiative and they are more then welcome to try it in my parent's store. I would have a problem with the guy that Dr. Q mentioned... I think he was pushing his luck to the point of being rude. If I were the furniture salesmen I wouldn't have given in.
  19. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Actually, his wife told me that he was "just getting started." I get the feeling that for some people it's a kind of blood sport. :eek:

    I'll tell my story from yesterday, which is why the subject came up for me this week:

    Doctor Q Applies His Lesson

    After watching my friend's performance, I was emboldened to do better than I usually do. Yesterday I had to buy a new mattress at a matress store, so it was a chance to test my skill.

    The posted price for the set I wanted was $600, but I said I didn't want the box springs since I'd use my own platform. That made it $500. The salesman told me his special price (because I'm a nice guy?) was a big savings, $150 off, so that made it $350. (See CorvusCamenarum's post above about furniture markups.)

    Rather than say "wow, that's great, I'll take it" I said it was too much. He came down another $20. Normally, I would have already felt victorious, but this is where my lesson paid off. I "thought about it" some more and then "computed" the price I had in mind on a pocket calculator. I told him I'd pay $256 with no extra charge for delivery.

    Rather than toss me out of his store for insulting him and his best offer, he went away to "see if he could manage it". Lo and behold, he decided he could. Since he clearly offers the $350 price to everyone who breathes, and usually gets it, I figure I saved about 27% off what a lot of people pay.

    Maybe I could have persisted and done even better (I think that friend of mine would have), but I was happy enough with that price. He made money and I got a good deal, about $100 better than I'd get by accepting the "special deal". Not bad for a few minutes work.

    I don't know if I have the temperament to do this all the time (negotiating with the supermarket manager over the price of a box of corn flakes), but it certainly paid off when I did!

    It's helpful to know what stores other people got discounts at. If you ever buy a mattress, ask for another 20% off and see if you get it.
  20. ReanimationLP macrumors 68030


    Jan 8, 2005
    On the moon.
    I dont bargain at retail, I just take it for the price.

    And I'd get pissed if someone tried to bargain with me on a computer or so.

    Its just annoying, and utterly pointless.
  21. Mammoth macrumors 6502a


    Nov 29, 2005
    Another problem I just realised I know I'd have if I tried to bargain is that I'm very young, and most storeowners don't trust people my age period, let alone when they're trying to shave prices down.
  22. Doctor Q thread starter Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    There are two things you can do to deal with that issue:

    1. Be (or at least appear) confident. Your body language can make a big difference in the impression you make. If you look someone in the eye and say something definite in a confident way, it can cause them to treat you like an older adult because you are acting like one.

    2. Arrive informed. Know the value of what you are buying, and be ready to explain/defend the price you want to pay. For example, tell them the price you'd pay elsewhere and that you'd rather buy it from them because... (choices: you are already there, you are a regular customer, you like their support, you need it right away, etc.).
  23. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2006
    In Hell
    I never used to bargin for stuff because I didn't want to appear cheap or like I couldn't afford it, until one day I was talking to a mate who worked in computer sales, and he told me you can always tell how much you're gonna have to knock off the price by how rich the customer looks, the better dressed they are the the more you're gonna have to knock off the price to close the sale.

    If you're ever buying diamond rings you can get them for close to 1/2 whatever the store price is, I got my Wife's engagement ring, list price $6000, paid $3500. And always buy jewelry from the best stores in the richest suburbs where you live, you'll get the cheapest price and they will only sell quality diamonds, cheap jewelry stores sell some dodgy diamonds (they figure that most of their customers don't know what to look for in a good diamond since they don't buy many, the good stores know their customers know what to look for quality wise so they only have good stuff).

    The best one to bargin for is rent, you can alway drive them down %15 on what they're asking, just tell the agent how you alway pay your rent on time, and how they'll never have to chase you for money. And never let landlords put up the rent on you, just refuse to pay the increase and keep paying the old amount, they're never gonna evict you if you keep paying on time. This can save you $10k in 3 or 4 years easily.

    My wife drives a better bargin than me when it comes to car (I don't know why), I always make her buy the cars, she always get an unbelieveable deal.

    Mechanics will always slash the price for everything, ask for the manager and tell them you'll pay cash and you don't want a receipt, same with all other tradesmen. Cash no receipt.

    Cheap furniture is easy to drive them down on price, but I don't even try on good furniture (I've got a thing for nice furniture) they know they're the only place you can buy from and they won't budge an inch. Although if there's a long lead time, you say you need it straight away and see if they'll sell you floor stock, they'll cut money off floor stock.

    Extra profit is pretty much built into everything you buy and the seller is always trying to get the best price they think they can, your job is to get the best price you can.
  24. knackroller macrumors regular


    Feb 28, 2006
    I know I should bargain, but I rarely do. How could one psych oneself to bargain?
  25. rdowns macrumors Penryn


    Jul 11, 2003
    Poor advice and a poor salesmen in my opinion. When I sold computer at retail (anyone remember ComputerLand?), a guy walked in in ripped shorts, baggy T-shirt and sandals. I was new and the other reps all had something to do in the office or back room. I approached the guy, spent a half hour with him and sold him an Apple //gs for his kids. He came back a week later dressed the same. Had a lot of questions that I didn't have answers to. I spent about an hour with him and we worked through the problems.

    I get a call 2 weeks later from him. Asks me if we have a corporate sales program. Turns out he worked for Chemical Bank (big NY bank later acquired by Chase). They bought millions of dollars of PCs and related products from me over the years.

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