Effective hagglers carefully set the stage for their success. Exploring your own alternatives for haggling success is inevitably followed, says Max Bazerman, by assessing the other party's alternatives. Setting the stage is the third step in the art and science of haggling.
Setting the stage is an old idiom very familiar to those of us with background in drama. Because the stage for your negotiation is a key success factor, setting the stage needs elaboration. You don't just walk in and start haggling over the price of a product. My very successful "horse trading" father regularly talked me through stage setting and its importance.
If, for example, there was a purchase to be made from one of his ethnic buddies on "14th Street" in old Detroit, he talked to me about the best week of the month, the best day of the week, the best time of the day and who to engage. He was very calculated in his assessment and I learned that it usually paid off big time. (I doubt that this kind of experience takes place anymore. That world is gone. But if I was along, the sale occasionally concluded with coffee, donuts, candy and a lot of laughter from one of the store owners. On those occasions when my dad did exceptionally well, he received the kudos, "Well Tom, you did it to me again." And since my dad had priced the object in question at several other places, the owner was not just BSing.) Studies over the past 10 to 20 years indicate that my dad's success is typical of trained negotiators.
How do you set the stage for successful haggling?
There is a lot to be said for my dad's focus on timing. Consumer Reports advises negotiating early or late in the day when the stores are quiet. But you'll need to know the customer cycle. I've found that in some suburban stores the best time is between 10 am and about 11:15.
In addition, Consumer Reports reminds us that we may need to work with a manager out of earshot of customers. The mere presence of other customers might put an end to your negotiating before you ever got started.
Make certain you've done your homework on competitor's prices and expect the salesperson or manager to verify the prices. Electronics stores will check prices on the web and will want to discredit prices such as Amazon where delivery times are an issue. So be ready to push back on delivery times when time is not an issue for you.
Finally, be polite, listen intently without any need to respond instantly to the salesperson's question of you. Bazerman and colleagues also remind their readers that stores typically pay fees on credit-card purchases. Keep in mind that cash may encourage further bargaining. In major purchases, like autos, cash can work against you because installment loans are a major part of their price, but you don't have to tell them you're going to pay cash until you've already negotiated. Be especially wary of the tacked on prices for warranties which many firms will attempt. I recently bought a $60 item at an electronic store where they wanted me to buy an $18 three-year warranty. I don't buy warranties, not even for a new auto.
One final note for those of you who are resistant to haggling. Check out the web and you'll see that as a result of the recession, haggling is becoming a lot more common . In the final analysis, it's street smarts, par excellance, and your buck.