There are two shirts hanging in my closet glaring at me - haunting reminders of moments of failure: I paid full price for them. To a born-to-bargain New Englander, they represent my Waterloo, colorful (albeit stylish) flags of defeat.
When I was a lad, Mother initiated me into the penny-pinchers' hall of fame, Boston's Filene's Basement. She'd rake through racks of Madras jackets and tangled piles of argyle socks, chanting her mantra: "You never have to pay full price for anything."
I learned quickly, soon advancing to neighborhood garage sales and country flea markets.
Bargaining was the name of the game. And I was quickly becoming a first-draft quarterback.
"How much are you asking for these Hawaiian tiki torches?" (Note operative word in italics.) Or, "Excuse me, is this price correct?" (Note operative batting eyes and innocent smile.)
Never assume that the marked price is to be taken seriously, no matter how low.
This education primed me for finishing school - travel abroad.
In many countries - Italy and Turkey are two that come to mind - haggling is what you do. There it's a sport as well as a science.
Thanks to the Internet, Americans are becoming more comfortable with the process. Faceless haggling makes it a lot easier.
And how have I done?
Come by my house sometime. It drips floor to ceiling in worldly, worthless schlock. And those tiki torches have been in my cellar since 1976. Some evening I may use them, if I can ever get a good deal on a Weber grill.
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