It happens in markets and stores all around the world: Buyers and sellers haggle over prices. Sometimes they succeed and a deal is struck. Other times the buyer walks away empty handed.
Here in the United States, dickering over a purchase is often confined to yard sales and flea markets. But there's no reason that you can't apply your haggling skills to any potential purchase. Not only will you find that you get greater value for your dollar, but you might decide that shopping is more fun with a little friendly negotiation.
Try these 16 ways to make haggling work for you:
1. Research before you shop. Know something about the manufacturer, product, and competing products. Decide in advance which features are important to you.
2. Have a target price. Know what other stores charge for the same or similar items. Decide on a good price before you begin negotiations. Aim for a great price, but know what price you'd be willing to accept.
3. Don't insult the seller. You can make an offer that's so low that the seller thinks you're not serious. That will shut down negotiations before they even begin.
4. Be willing to hear "no." Not every attempt to haggle will be welcomed. Sometimes you'll be rebuffed. Don't take it personally. You haven't lost anything by trying.
5. Look for damage. Whether it's clothing or a refrigerator, even minor damage should mean a lower price.
6. Don't be desperate. Don't allow yourself to fall in love with an item before you begin to haggle. A desperate buyer has few tools to motivate the seller.
7. Have cash in your pocket. Using cash to pay for your purchase adds about 1 percent to the seller's profit margin. Let the seller know that you're willing to pay cash.
8. Timing is everything. Most sellers are more willing to deal when an item is going out of season, out of style, or out of model that year. If you can help the seller reduce unwanted inventory, you can increase the value of any offer you make.
9. Timing is everything—part two. The calendar can be your friend. Sometimes salespeople or a store are under a monthly quota. There may be other financial advantages for them to complete a sale this month, so deals may be a little sharper near the deadline.
10. Make it easy on the seller. You'll have more leverage if you're ready to take possession now and take the item with you. Let the seller know that's your plan.
11. Find a willing partner. If a salesperson tells you they cannot change prices, politely ask if there's someone in the store who can. A manager or store owner might be just the person you need to negotiate a deal.
12. Help the salesperson to like you. Treat them with respect. Compliment them if they deserve it. They'll cut a better deal with someone they like.
13. Change the subject. If you can't haggle on price, perhaps you can get an accessory thrown in or free delivery.
14. Be willing to ask for help. Sometimes it will seem like you don't have enough money to get what you want. Tell the salesperson what you want and ask if there's any way to get it. They might share a creative solution.
15. Be prepared to walk. Walking away from a salesperson is a great motivator. Often you'll hear them come up with one last offer.
16. Keep it light. Haggling isn't warfare. If you approach it with a sense of humor, the salesperson is likely to join you. Two people having fun haggling are more likely to come to a mutually agreeable price.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website. The site features many personal finance topics, including an article on the art of haggling.