Haggling: A Necessary Skill


    Haggling. Your first time will be scary, but its one of those things that gets easier with time. Just like any other skill, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    The first thing you need is get over the fear. I had to, it was very hard. I’m generally a quiet person, I don’t talk too much. I certainly don’t drum up conversations with strangers on the reg, but its part of my job now. 

    You just need an icebreaker. For me, it happened very slowly. I was one of those people that if I asked how much something was and it was too high I put it back down and walked away. It came in the form of a bearskin rug. It was marked $700, had been marked down to $650. It was really cool, and would have made an awesome bait piece (we’ll talk about those later). I made an offer for $500. The dealer said “No. $600 is the lowest.” Well, that was too much for me, I thanked her for her time and walked away.

    Even though I didn’t win the piece, it broke down a wall. I made a hole in the wall of my fear of talking to strangers. After that, it got easier, and easier, and easier. Each time, I got better at my haggling skills. 

    The important thing to remember is that you won’t win them all, and you have to learn to walk away. If you can’t make a deal, well, you can’t made a deal. I walked away from a wooden fish once, I love wooden fish, I think they’re very cute. We couldn’t make a deal, and she still hasn’t sold it.

    The point of the haggle is to get the price down. If something is marked $100, don’t come at them with an offer of $25. That’s called “lowballing” and its not a nice thing to do. Yes, you want it cheaper, but your offer needs to be fair. Start with an offer of just under what you’re willing to pay.

    I’d like to get it for $80, so my offer will start with “Hey, can we do $75 on this?” At this point, the dealer is most likely going to come back with a counteroffer. He will say something along the lines of “I can’t do $75, can we do $85?” Now, at this point, you can make a decision. You can pay the $85, keep haggling, or walk away. 

    A good technique here you can use is called “splitting the difference.” I’d say “Can we meet in the middle and do $79?” If the dealer accepts, awesome. Now, in some places its customary to shake hands after a deal, we don’t really do that in the US, but just follow the customs of where you’re from.

    On the other hand, the dealer could say “$85.” If that’s the case, he’s probably not going to budge off it, just keep in mind, he’s got to make a profit too. You need to decide how bad you want it. 

    There are some ethics to haggling, some people don’t do it because they feel its rude. From a dealer perspective, they won’t think you’re being rude. We expect it. Haggling is part of the fun. 

    However, if something is priced in such a way you can make a good profit, don’t haggle. In the words of Curt Avery “I never want that person coming back to me and saying, ‘You knocked me down $10, you cheap motherfucker.’” If someone had a Stradivarius Violin marked $100, pay the lady the $100. Just for completeness, in case you’re wondering, one sold in 2011 for $15.6 million. Pay the lady $100. After you sell it at auction go back and give her $1,000. 

    If its priced fairly, pay the price. I don’t make a habit of haggling if I know theres more than enough room for a good profit. Now, if I’m buying something to use, I’ll haggle you till the cows come home. Just last week I bought a wire basket for a clothes hamper at a very good price. 

    Since I brought that up, if someone is in the middle of haggling, STAY OUT OF IT. While I was in the middle of haggling with the dealer who was in possession of said basket, someone decides to pop out of the shadows. She took it upon herself to ask the dealer how much it was, what my current offer was. Then I was told “$59 is a really good price.” 

    I wanted to tell her to butt out. I did my best to be polite, I said “Yes it is.” To myself I said “But $45 is better.” We decided to split the difference and I ended up getting it for $47. Starting price was $69.

    My suspicion, was Mrs. Buttinski wanted it to. She didn’t get it. So, if you spy something you want, and someone else is in the midst of a heated negotiation, don’t insert yourself. Just wait. Theres a change that person might walk away. In which case, you can step up and say “I’ll pay you $X for it.” If they reach a deal, well, you missed out. In this business you have to be able to loose out sometimes. 

    So, in summary, haggle if necessary. Don’t haggle if the price is right. Don’t get in the middle of someone else’s haggle.

Brooke Gilbert