The research finds that far more things are negotiable than most imagine. Indeed, even though the economy is picking up, I've found that haggling is still very, very possible.
Indeed, my basic rule is that you can barter or haggle for just about anything. In today's world, where the notion of job security has become a farce, haggling provides another means for some setting aside some "f--k you money."
But it's still amazing how few are willing to haggle. A few months ago I was conversing with a woman whose kids had rented a home, they thought, in one of the top school districts. When they found they were on the wrong side of the street, they decided they'd have to take their lumps and stay there. Although I suggested otherwise, she wanted nothing to do with it, nor did she believe her kids would be willing to renegotiate or haggle to move across the street into the best school district.
Consumer naivete keeps most people from doing what sophisticated businesses do every day: "if you'll do this, I'll do that." Or, "I'm really interested in that TV set, but not at that price. I do, however, have some other products I'm looking at, so lets create some kind of a deal. Here's what I suggest."
A few years ago, Negotiation, the monthly newsletter put out by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, did a fascinating series on the science and art of haggling...
In some cultures haggling has a long tradition in the markets and bazaars and so it inevitably flows into the bricks and mortar stores. Some cultures assume that only fools pay the full price on anything. Growing up in Detroit, I learned that some first generation immigrants and their children--Greeks, Jews, Chalcedonian Christians, Armenians and Lebanese Americans--took haggling for granted. With the influx of East Indians, I've learned that some of them are geniuses at haggling.
If you fail to haggle in this economy, you're passing up real chances to save money. With many firms having to deal with global competition and/or monstrous warehouse discounters, this has become a true buyer's market, so just about everything is up for grabs, even, to my surprise, some meat at the supermarket as well as my recent auto check-up. ($30 off a $180 bill is $30!)
A May 2009 Consumer Reports poll found that 66% of Americans had tried to negotiate discounts in the previous six months. Of these hagglers, 83% succeeded in getting lower hotel rates, 81% got better deals on clothing and cell phone service, 71% negotiated cheaper eletronics and furniture, and 62% lowered their credit-card fees. I make it a rule to haggle over my cable and cell phone bills at least every two years. I used to need a hotel one or two nites a month, so I'd call the day before I left, "double-check the fee" and often get it lowered or some amenity.
Consumer Reports suggests you could save considerable cash by negotiating in the following realms:
- Hotel rates and airfare
- Phone, internet, and cable-TV
- Credit-card interest rates and fees
- Clothing and jewelry
- Furniture, electronics, and appliances
- Medical and dental bills
- Lease renewals
- College tuition
- Existing mortgages and other loans
I'll pump out several posts on the art and science of haggling over the next few weeks. The academics have researched the sox off the practice of negotiation over the past ten years. Here's another rule: don't pay any attention to negotiation strategies unless there is research supporting them. This is a field that seems to attract quacks. So, I'll happily share the research findings and talk about some relevant experiences. Stay tuned.