The 10 golden rules on how to haggle this Christmas
Sinead Ryan has some advice for those with the nerve to negotiate in the larger retail stores
You've taken a perverse pleasure doing it on holidays. You'll do it with a street trader but not a shop girl. The more you spend, the bigger the thrill.
What are we talking about? Well, haggling of course!
While most of us are happy to try and get a few quid off at a market stall in Malaga, or at a car boot sale in Carlow, would we try to talk the price down with the sales assistant in Brown Thomas? Not likely. Yet, haggling, or the art of persuading the price lower, if done properly, can result in real savings. But there are rules, and above all, you must realise the difference between barter banter and an argument.
Haggling isn't a stand-off between customer and retailer - it's an assumption that some goods may have wiggle room in them when it comes to the price being charged and if you don't ask, you won't get. Here are the rules to ensure successful haggling:
1 It works best with expensive products
Trying to wangle 50c off your cappuccino in Starbucks isn't going to fly, but getting €50 off a sofa in a furniture shop might. When big ticket items are involved, the shop is under pressure to get them off the floor. Whether it's white goods (washing machines, fridges etc), furniture or cars the price is invariably a little more flexible. The store doesn't want to be left with the items only to flog them in the sale for less anyway and the salesperson may well be on commission, which they're prepared to negotiate to get the sale.
2 Gather your facts
If you've seen the item cheaper online, or in another shop, use this as your opening gambit. The store may want to retain your custom, and they'll have been called out on the price difference. This is what we do with car or house insurance, so why not in a shop? At the very least, ask them can they price match, or throw in another item for free to sweeten the deal.
3 Bulk buy
If you're buying several of the same item or on a shopping trip with friends where everyone's getting something, you should definitely be able to secure a discount on the deal. But don't expect it to be offered - you will have to ask. Remind them of the volume sale and how another store may be in a more grateful position.
4 Look for flaws
If items are slightly damaged, or look a bit grubby, but you're happy enough to buy, then ask for a discount to compensate you. The shop might be happy enough to get rid of the item. I do this all the time - most recently getting a no-quibble 20pc off in River Island for a dress with belt loops torn. A quick stitch at home and they were perfect!
5 Go Shopping with a student
Possession of a USIT student card or iConnect card gives discounts in loads of retailers including Accessorize, Sketchers, Oasis, New Look, Aldo and The Body Shop with 10pc off at the till. Bear in mind, you need to balance off this strategy with the cost of having said student trudging around with you for the day - just ask my daughter!
6 Cash is king
Despite the Minister for Finance's efforts to drag us all into a paperless economy, cash still talks when haggling for a bargain. You probably can't do it in a chain or department store, but small boutiques, local retailers, garages and gift shops along with service providers like mechanics, plumbers and electricians still appreciate the instant reward. Simply ask if there's "a discount for cash", and you'll soon find out. Neither of you should take offence at the question. Cash should never be in lieu of a receipt, though, so you have some comeback if needed.
7 Be Fat... or thin
Outsize clothing is always the last to sell off the rail. Sizes 10-16 are the most commonly sold, and bought in bulk by retailers. At sale time, they're desperately trying to sell off the micro size 6s and bigger 18-22s, and they recognise the market is more limited. Use your size to your advantage and offer to take two dresses, skirts or trousers off their hands… if they make it worth your while, obviously!
8 Up your game
In many shops, the lowly sales assistant isn't empowered to offer discounts; they'd lose their job if they did. If you sense a deal may be in the offing, ask to speak to the supervisor or manager instead. They may have the wiggle room their staff don't.
9 Mind your Manners
When bagging a bargain through haggling, always remain polite, but firm. Rudeness never won favour and you'll just feel bad tempered afterwards. Haggling is supposed to be fun! Use 'wrap up' phrases like, "Let's say €50 for the pair", or "How about we make that an even €100?" or "I heard Tuesday's your 10pc discount day…" (with a smile).
10know when to quit
Look, it's not going to work every time and you'll get better with practice. Never let haggling get embarrassing or out of hand. A quick query, a bit of a push and you'll know if you're in with a chance. If you're prepared to walk away, do so; if not, just shrug and buy. There's always next time!