How to haggle like a pro

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The ability to strike a hard bargain is a useful skill to learn, and not just for car boot sales or foreign holidays - consumer champion Which? says it could save us at least £500 a year on everyday shopping and bills. Here's how to do it.

Haggle blog - Alan SugarIt has to be said that as a rule, we Brits are not natural hagglers. According to financial psychologist and author of Taming the Pound, Kim Stephenson, it's because we don't like social discomfort and are afraid of looking silly. However, by sticking to the price on the ticket, we might be missing out on significant savings. All it takes is a little knowhow…

  • Not a natural haggler? Get some practice in over the phone first - by getting the best deal on your energy bills, for example - then you can build up to a face-to-face situation. 
  • Do your homework. If you know a product is being offered cheaper elsewhere, you might feel more comfortable asking for a discount - and it gives you a reason to ask for a discount in the first place.
  • You're more likely to succeed if you're polite but firm, with a dash of humour thrown in. As long as it is said with a smile, no request is too cheeky!
  • Hold your nerve. Silence almost always works in the buyer's favour.
  • Don't be afraid to walk away - leaving can often be enough to persuade the seller to accept your price. If it isn't, you might get a better deal elsewhere anyway.
  • Remember the worst that can happen is that the seller says no, while you could stand to save yourself some serious money, so give it a go!

Bag a bargain on the High Street

While it's often easier to talk a price down with the owner in an independent shop, a lot of larger chain stores are open to negotiation, too. John Lewis, Homebase, B&Q and Currys/PC World are all receptive to bargaining, according to Try these strategies:

  • Prime opportunities for haggling are over end of sale items, with damaged or faulty items, older models, out of season stock and when you are buying in bulk.
  • If you can't get money off an item, ask the seller to throw in an extra, such as an additional six month's warranty or necessary add-ons such as cables or batteries.
  • Make sure you talk to the right person. Shop assistants may not have enough authority to offer you a price reduction, while the manager may not have time for a long negotiation. Try and pitch yourself at an assistant manager or supervisor, and choose a quiet time of day.
  • Take confidence from this statistic: a Which? Survey found that six out of 10 consumers who have tried haggling on the high street were successful!

For more advice, try

Get money off your holiday

Bazaars and souks are obviously prime sites to test your haggling, but you can actually save money before you even start your holiday.

  • You're more likely to get discounts in travel agents when you visit in person. Lots of agents will not want to miss out on a deal and so will lower the price to suit your budget. Which? researchers found that asking a high street travel agent for a discount, something thrown in for free, or a better deal on travel currency worked around 90% of the time.
  • The same researchers found that free extras weren't as readily available as money off, but were still successful in 17 out of 46 visits - and in most cases, this was in addition to getting money off the holiday price.  You may also get an upgrade if you mention that your holiday is to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary.

Want more tips? Read this from Which?

Get a better deal on your service bills

Questioning the price of your broadband bundle, car insurance and home insurance alone could save you up to a whopping £288 per year, says Which?.

The best time to negotiate a discount on mobile phones, broadband, insurance and breakdown cover is when you are coming to the end of your contract - providers don't want to lose customers and may be willing to drop the price.

  • Before you call, take the time to find out what other companies are offering on the same deal, and then ask your provider to match or better the price.
  • Make the call at a quiet time of day, not at lunchtime or right after work.
  • If you are put through to the 'disconnections' department, don't panic - it's often called 'customer retentions' internally and staff here have much more negotiating power, as it's their job to stop customers from leaving.
  • Customers at reported at least 80% success rates with companies like AA, Sky and Virgin Media.

Want to know more? Try Which? for lots of useful haggling advice - it even offers scripts for you to follow!

So what can you do with all the money you've saved?

Why not put it into a savings account so you can save up for something you really want (but don't forget when you eventually spend your hard earned savings on something, to haggle for a better price on it - and to smile while you're doing it)!

If you have top tips from your own haggling experience, please let us know by adding your comment below.

This blog is intended to provide information, not financial advice, to help you make an informed decision about savings and investments. We do not offer financial advice.  You should contact a financial adviser, who may charge a fee, if you want financial advice.