How to haggle and save a fortune

09 October 2016

Haggling may seem daunting but you can save a lot of money.

What is fair to haggle for?

Research from TopCashback reveals that only 30% of us regularly negotiate during a purchase, even though 75% of us don't like paying full price for an item. 

Embarassment is the biggest haggling hurdle (73%), with almost half believing they won't haggle effectively.

To maximise your chances of success, it is vital that you know when it’s appropriate to haggle. If you ask an independent butcher for a discount on a single leg of lamb, you’ll probably get a dirty look.

If you are buying a large quantity of meat all at once, stocking up for the next few months, then you’re in haggling territory.

To put it simply, don’t be ridiculous when you suggest a price. If all your meat adds up to a cost of £75, you’re not going to impress anyone by offering £50. Politely suggest what you think is reasonable – this really depends on what you’re buying!

People are individuals, and where one might shrug and say “go on then,” or come back with an alternative offer, it might get some else’s back up.

If they seem particularly frustrated, it might be best to drop the haggling, but most people will at least politely hear you out. If they come back with a figure of their own, after a bit of back-and-forth you’ll reach a sensible middle ground.

If you’re spending the same and getting more, that’s also haggling. If you were to ask the butcher in our example to throw in a few sausages for tonight’s tea alongside a large purchase, they might oblige you – and may feel far more comfortable doing this than giving you a cash discount on your original purchase.

To maximise your chances of success, it is vital that you know when it’s appropriate to haggle. If you ask an independent butcher for a discount on a single leg of lamb, you’ll probably get a dirty look. If you are buying a large quantity of meat all at once, stocking up for the next few months, then you’re in haggling territory.

To put it simply, don’t be ridiculous when you suggest a price. If all your meat adds up to a cost of £75, you’re not going to impress anyone by offering £50. Politely suggest what you think is reasonable – this really depends on what you’re buying!

People are individuals, and where one might shrug and say “go on then,” or come back with an alternative offer, it might get some else’s back up. If they seem particularly frustrated, it might be best to drop the haggling, but most people will at least politely hear you out.

If they come back with a figure of their own, after a bit of back-and-forth you’ll reach a sensible middle ground.

If you’re spending the same and getting more, that’s also haggling. If you were to ask the butcher in our example to throw in a few sausages for tonight’s tea alongside a large purchase, they might oblige you – and may feel far more comfortable doing this than giving you a cash discount on your original purchase.

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Be friendly and polite when haggling

You can’t expect people to do something nice for you if you act entitled and are rude. Be confident and smile, but don’t be arrogant and demanding.

The person doing the selling has a living to make, and they’re not going to hand out freebies or discounts to everyone who asks.

Even if you have developed a good rapport, you can’t expect to have everything you want all of the time. So don’t get haughty if you’re told no.

Having said this, you have nothing to lose either. Keep a smile on your face, be friendly and make the effort to chat while you shop.

People will like you more and therefore be more inclined to offer you better deals. This is true of pretty much everywhere you go, from small-time market traders to massive furniture retailers.

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Buy in bulk

There’s no way you’d get a store to drop the price on a small sale, but if you’re going to use a lot of a certain item(s), buy it all at once and try to get the price dropped.

Perhaps you have friends who are after similar items that you could team up with. If a group of you turn up in a store looking for a bulk discount, the business will be loath to let you leave without making a sale.

How to haggle

How to haggle when buying a car

You can save thousands of pounds when buying a car if you haggle. 

Look carefully at the car, and point out a few things you don’t like. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t appear too enthusiastic.

It’s the job of the salesperson to get you excited about the sale, to get you to fall in love with the car – so don’t get emotional, think rationally and clearly, and talk price.

Many people recommend visiting dealerships towards the end of the month, as the dealers often have sales targets they have to hit.

This isn’t always true though, and there’s no harm in visiting at another time to see what they can do for you. Just don’t feel pressured into buying if you’re not convinced.

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How to haggle

Finally, be prepared to walk away. Even if you’ve spent an hour trading numbers, make sure you have a limit in mind. If they can’t meet it, give them a phone number in case they change their mind later, and you can head off to another dealer.

If they don’t try to stop you from leaving the forecourt right there and then with a better offer, they might call later. 

Now you've saved on your car, save on your car insurance!

Keep quiet

A salesperson may stay silent after making an offer, as they want you to fill the awkward silence by accepting it.

Don’t respond, but stay quiet and think about whether it’s a price you’re willing to take. This way, you can force them to fill the silence themselves.

It’s difficult, but don’t feel pressured to accept a lower offer just because it has been made.

It’s tempting to say yes, if only to feel like you’ve successfully haggled, but you can still say no. If you do so, chances are they’ll drop the price again to secure the sale, so keep calm and think clearly.

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How to haggle

Keep an eye out for damage

If an item has minor cosmetic damage and you can live with that, you have a fantastic opportunity to get a much better deal. 

Let’s say you buy a £300 TV on the basis of seeing a display model in the store. Taking it home, you open the box and discover damage to the plastic cover on the back, so you take it back to the shop.

You are, by law, entitled to a full refund or a replacement, as the damage to the TV you took home was not made apparent to you. But if the TV works fine and the damage doesn’t affect its functionality, there’s another way of handling the situation.

Call or visit the store, and explain that you’ve unboxed the product and found damage.

Say that you might be happy to keep that particular TV, but you’d want significant portion of the price refunded. This could work wonders, as it doesn’t affect their sales record and saves them returning the item to the manufacturer to boot.

Since this involves some hassle as you may have to return to the store, it's always wise to unbox expensive items in your car or even on the shop floor to inspect them before you pay and leave the shop.

If you haven't already parted with your money, the salesman might make an even better offer to avoid losing a sale.

How to haggle

"I’m leaving"

Here are four golden words for you, free of charge: “I want to leave.”

If you call large companies like Sky, EE, TalkTalk or BT with this phrase on your lips, you’ll be transferred to a ‘cancellation team’ which is doublespeak for customer retention department.

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How to haggle

Do your research first and see what sorts of packages are available from other providers. Then when you call you can mention these rival deals and point out any differences in price and key features. If it’s a phone and broadband package for example, these will be the maximum speed, television channels available, free evening and weekend calls, and so on.

At this point, they’ll likely offer price cuts, freebies, or anything else to keep your custom. Talk through the details and make sure you remain friendly and polite at all times.

Bear in mind that their first offer probably isn’t as good as they can go, and you can push back harder if you point out a few disadvantages to staying rather than switching to a specific deal elsewhere, to which they will probably come back with an even better offer.

Generally speaking, there’s a better chance of being offered an improved deal if you’ve been with your supplier for a while. 

If a service provider is raising its prices, then it’s a great time to call and say you’ll be looking elsewhere unless they can keep you on at the same rate. If they refuse, ask about extras like a free subscription to premium sports or movie channels or other perks you fancy.

This has worked really well in the past for Love Incorporated's Managing Editor, Simon Ward:

“Each year when my phone and broadband contract is up I phone BT and threaten to leave. I always make sure I have a couple of specific deals from other providers to quote to make sure they know I’ve done my research and also to ensure I get the best deal possible. Last year my annual bill, excluding line rental, actually fell.” 

If you can’t get the deal you want, don’t put up with unreasonable price hikes or substandard service – move to another supplier.

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Haggling success stories

When haggling goes right, you can get some brilliant results.

loveMONEY senior writer Reena Sewraz got money off her broadband after being firm with Sky:

“I called Sky to cancel my TV and broadband deal and see what they could offer me for fibre broadband instead. At first they just quoted the standard deal available to new customers of £22.40 a month with a set up cost of £36.95 for 12 months.

But I said I wasn’t impressed with that deal as a customer of three years. That’s all it took for them to them offer a deal of £17.99 a month with no set up cost instead. I saved £89.87 on the deal.”

Find out more about How to reduce your Sky bill.

This article is regularly updated

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