Haggle while Christmas shopping: 5 tips

Most of us will go to a lot of trouble to get a deal, but we're too embarrassed to ask for one. Here are five simple tricks to help you haggle for the best deal – and how to know when to walk away. 

T. Rob Brown/The Joplin Globe/AP/FIle
In this November 2012 file photo, Ann and Lee Haggard, of Carthage, Mo., peruse stoneware during the Midwest Clay Artists Pottery Show & Sale at City Pointe Shopping Center on Madison in Webb City, Mo. Most of us are too embarassed to haggle when shopping, but Zinn argues that shouldn't be the case. It's your money, after all.

Most of us love a deal, especially when we go shopping for the holidays. We sift through weekly circulars, clip coupons, browse daily deal sites, and visit various stores looking for that killer deal.

But instead of just looking for a better deal, why not ask for one? We’ve mentioned it before in posts like "The Simplest Way to Save on Everything." But in case you missed it, here are the basics.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask

According to a recent CouponCabin survey of 2,319 shoppers, 23 percent of respondents said they’re too embarrassed to haggle and 10 percent refuse to haggle because they don’t want to appear cheap.

The key to successful haggling is focusing on the fact that it’s your money. There’s no need to be embarrassed, there’s no need to fear appearing cheap. Prepare yourself by having a firm idea of the item’s price. Then decide what you’re willing to spend, and go for it!

2. Talk to the right person

If you walk into a department store and ask an associate for a better price, they’ll typically say they don’t have the authority to make those decisions. They’re probably right – ask for someone who does. If you can’t find a manager or other store employee with the ability or willingness to negotiate, the store may be too big. Head to a local shop or boutique, where you can often talk directly to the owner. Which brings us to our next tip…

3. Know where to shop

You’ll have a better shot at a deal if you shop at an independent retailer or second-hand store. Small Business Saturday, which American Express introduced in 2010 to encourage shoppers to support their local community businesses, occurs on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. While haggling might be possible on Black Friday, you’ll find more luck negotiating when hitting the local shops on Small Business Saturday – or year-round.

4. Be aware of the best times to negotiate

Haggle on weekdays and afternoons when stores are less crowded and sales associates and managers have more free time. It’s also better to ask for a bargain at the end of the month or shopping season, when shop owners are closing their books or clearing shelves for new merchandise.

5. Don’t be afraid to walk away

Negotiating is a subtle human art that’s been around as long as people have. Like any art, there are different approaches. But there are a few that have proven consistently better than others. For example, appear in love with the product and the person on other side of a negotiation knows you’ll pay full price. Be rude, and people won’t want to talk to you at all, much less negotiate. Act like you’re only kidding, and the merchant will assume you are.

Want the best deal? Act uninterested and be willing to walk away. Be nice, but firm. Look your opponent directly, and tell them with complete confidence what you expect. You might be surprised at the result!

Dori Zinn is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.

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