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Let’s make a deal

June 07, 2011

The numbers you see on that price tag aren’t as indelible as you may think. These days, shop owners are willing to negotiate on items ranging from televisions to sunglasses. Unfortunately, many consumers talk themselves out of haggling for fear of looking cheap or argumentative. That’s a big mistake. By sticking with a few bargaining basics, getting to ‘yes’ is easier than you think. Here’s how.

Choose your contestants carefully. Sure, you may think that bottle of water is overpriced but not all items are up for negotiation. As a rule of thumb, there’s generally plenty of wiggle room on big-ticket purchases such as televisions and cars. But don’t waste your time trying to save a few cents on a commonplace purchase.

Do your homework. As a consumer, comparison shopping is a great way to enter a negotiation from a position of power. But you better bring proof. If you know that a competitor is offering a certain product for less, be sure you bring evidence of the bottom-basement price, whether it’s a print out of an advertisement or a website address.

Know your limits. Before you dive into your pitch for a better price, set your standards. How much money are you truly willing to spend on the item? What qualifies as a good deal? And what counts as a mediocre deal? Once you determine a negotiating goal, start the deal-making process from the lowest price possible and slowly work your way up.

Check your emotions. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced spirit of negotiation. But letting your emotions get the best of you will only result in a great deal on an item you don’t really need, or worse, an offended shopkeeper. If you find the wheeling-and-dealing process is becoming too heated, or that you’re not making any real progress, walk away from the sale.

Negotiating a better price is a fine art. But even the most easily intimidated consumers can hone their negotiation skills over time. With equal parts confidence, preparation and skill, you can turn a hefty price tag into a more pleasing number.