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Looking Good For Lots Less

Bargaining Basics Part 1
Posted by James F. Brown on Sep 27, 2009 - 4:59:42 PM


— Dress Like A Fortune 500 CEO On A Mailroom Budget!


LOS ANGELES—We all want to wear quality attire that’s well coordinated and makes us look good. But beyond that, we’d also like to get a great deal, and pay as little as possible for those quality goods. Haggling, dickering, bargaining, or negotiating over the merchant’s asking price is a very effective money-saving strategy.


Sadly, most Americans are woefully unprepared and inexperienced when it comes to wrangling over price. Except for real estate and vehicles, haggling just isn’t a part of our culture. We’re conditioned to paying the stated price without question.


The rest of the world is very different. Other cultures teach the psychology, techniques, tricks, and tactics of how to bargain and haggle from early childhood. As adults, most foreigners are way ahead of us. It’s no secret that Americans are viewed as pushovers and easy marks when it comes to purchases. This series will explore bargaining techniques that can save big bucks when buying goods, and these techniques can work as well here in the U.S. as they do elsewhere.


The first consideration is when and where to haggle over price. Generally, here in the U.S., it’s a waste of time to try price wrangling in large chains, big box outlets and department stores. The price is what it is. Everything’s run through point-of-sale (POS) terminals linked to mainframe computer networks. Sales associates have little authority or leeway to alter prices. A possible exception is when an item is stained or slightly damaged,
Photo by Jocelyn Holt
but can be cleaned or repaired easily and inexpensively. You might be able to get a 10 to 15 percent price reduction, but only if you ask.  


That brings us to the second consideration. ALWAYS ASK IF THERE ARE ANY DISCOUNTS AVAILABLE! Never be afraid or hesitant to ask. If you’re a senior citizen, a member of some organization, or if you work in a given profession or for a specific company, you may be eligible for a discount. Be proactive here; go down the list of possibilities that may apply to you when talking to the salesperson. You probably won’t be able to dicker over the amount of the discount, but take whatever reduction you can get. It adds up over time.


Unlike large chains, the opportunities for bargaining on price open up considerably at small businesses. These are the emporiums where haggling can be successful and significant. In the next column, I’ll discuss some proven methods for negotiating lower prices at small, owner-operated, one-of-a-kind stores.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire. His e-mail address is




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