Some people know how to haggle. They’re able to bargain with shopkeepers in order to save a few bucks on pair of shoes, a book, or a piece of furniture. I’ve never haggled before except at garage sales and in World of Warcraft. Computer games are one thing, real-life is another. Real-life haggling scares me.

Recently, I’ve stumbled upon several stories about haggling. An AskMetafilter user writes:

I’ve heard that it’s okay to negotiate the listed prices on furniture at independent, mom-and-pop stores. My friend says no, it’s not like buying a car from a dealership, where there’s the expected offer-counteroffer dance. I know this isn’t possible at Ikea or Target, but at my local, one-location only furniture store, is that a possibility? And, if so, how do I start the conversation? “$400 for this dresser? How about $300?”

This thread has lots of great advice:

  • It is always appropriate to haggle.
  • It never hurts to ask. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • From the start, be clear that you are seriously interested, not just curious. Be prepared to buy if the seller meets your price.
  • Be polite. Don’t try to apply high-pressure tactics.
  • You’ll have more leverage if you’re a frequent customer. Stores want to please regular customers.
  • Engage the seller in a conversation first. Establish a rapport.
  • Be willing to walk away.
  • Pay cash. Cash money is better for the seller than hassling with credit.
  • Shop late in the month. Salespeople are trying to make quota. Weekdays are slow, so that’s a good time, too.

I particularly like this comment from madamjujujive, who learned how to haggle from a friend.

The June 2005 Reader’s Digest featured a short guide to haggling, touting 5 lines that work. The 23 Jan 2006 issue of New York Magazine was all about saving money, and included a piece on how to haggle. In addition to the advice listed above, it suggests:

  • Don’t be ashamed. “You can haggle anywhere, anytime — even at the doctor’s office.”
  • Stay cool. “Haggling is about bluffing; if you show weakness or nerves, the salesperson will know you’re going to fold.”
  • Ask when it goes on sale. “If you ask to be called come sale time, it could be marked down then and there, just for you.”

Haggling sounds like a fun way to save money. I’ll have to keep this in mind the next time I go shopping.