how to: haggle without being an a**hole

Well hello there!

To me, the word haggling brings to mind scenes like this.

Dongxiang men haggling over sheep in Gansu province, China.

Stink. Yelling. *shudder*  That said, I’ve learned that putting a few simple haggling, or to phrase it in a more Minnesota-nice way, bargaining techniques, to work, can score you some pretty sweet deals. Here are my top five tips for how to haggle, without being a jerk.

1. Smile! This may be common sense, but a little friendliness can go a long, long way. Start your thrifting trip by greeting who’s working with a smile and a quick hello. If they seem open to chit chat and they’re not a total creeper, it doesn’t hurt to ask how their day’s going, right? Indeed it does not.

2. You’ll never get any kind of deal unless you ask for it. To quote Wayne Gretzky (wait, what?), “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Straight-forward, simple questions, like “Can you go lower?” opens the door for dialogue. It’s not my style to get into back-and-forth banter about a specific price a la Pawn Stars, but you can if you want. The worst that’s going to happen is they’ll say no! And don’t forget tip number one—smile and be nice.

2. Play dumb.  (I rock at this one!) Hand-written labels and tag-less items are common occurrences at thrift stores, so it’s not completely off-base to ask if something’s priced accurately. Example: Asking whether a number was a seven or a one on a tag saved me six bones on the most adorable, ’60s-era summer dress at Salvation Army a few weeks back. Other “dumb” questions to ask: Is this price right? Is this on sale?

3. Point out any imperfections, cracks, stains, holes, undone hems, chips or missing buttons. I use this trick all the time, because frankly, most stuff at thrift stores is slightly (or not-so-slightly) jacked up. Find something busted on what you want to take home and point it out! I’ve saved many a dollar by saying, “Hey, this is ripped/cracked/stained a little here. Can you go any lower on it?” Ninety percent of the time, this works.  Helpful hint: Don’t try this with every item in your basket, or you’ll look like an ass.

4. If you’re buying a lot of stuff, the more room you have for negotiation. I once went to the register with an armload and asked if the price on a leather jacket was right (tip number two at work!). The guy working lowered the price by $20 dollars, I think because it was thrown in with so much other stuff. Ask if one expensive item can be marked down, or if you can save on the lot as a whole. If you’re buying a lot of one kind of item, ask if you can get a deal on the entire shebang, rather than paying per piece.

5. Be willing to walk away. Sometimes, things just don’t work out, and my bargaining advances have indeed been rebuffed. Yes, putting things back and walking out empty handed can be a bummer, but remember, you can always go back and get what you wanted if you decide it’s worth paying full price. Odds are, it will be there. And perhaps, if you wait long enough, it will be on sale.

Well, I hope these tips come in handy on your next thrift-store shopping trip. Let me know how it goes if you give any of them a try!

Changing gears, how on earth is tomorrow Friday? I’m not complaining, but really?! This week’s been a blur of busy, and I couldn’t be happier to be starting off my night with an hour-and-a-half Thai massage from my pal Katie. My poor knotty back cannot wait!



3 thoughts on “how to: haggle without being an a**hole

  1. I get your tips, and i can see how they would work well – but i’m not a fan of haggling in thrift / charity shops. After all, the whole point of the shop being there is to raise money for their cause. It’s obviously a matter of opinion, but i just don’t feel right doing it. Antique centres etc. i see differently, as often a degree of haggling is built into the price

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  3. I’m with you, Vic– US charity thrift shops offer bargain prices to begin with, haggling is swinish.
    In cultures where haggling is de rigueur, they START with inflated prices to leave themselves room for tedious negotiations. You can’t have it both ways.

    The author as much as admits that haggling is obnoxious since she (or he?) counsels us not to try gambit #3 (cleverly pointing out the secondhand nature of secondhand goods) for all the items in our baskets, lest we appear to be asses. If it’s a valid ploy for one item, why the would we be “asses” for applying it to all the items? Because it’s obnoxious to begin with, that’s why.

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