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Yes, you can haggle at Macy's

Writer asks for deals and saves $730 in a week of bargaining.

By Teresa Mears Jan 29, 2010 6:15PM

Seeking a way to save some money, Washington Post writer Michael S. Rosenwald resorted to a time-honored tactic: He haggled.

 

Much to his surprise, many of the times he bargained for a lower price, he got one.

 

 “For consumers such as me who have spent decades shopping at full retail, getting a deal on previously no-deal items is liberating and invigorating, as I found out during a recent week I spent haggling,” he wrote.

 

He managed to save $730 in a week, netting discounts on items as diverse as a pair of loafers at Macy’s, steaks at the supermarket and his Verizon bill.

We’re not surprised. We’ve managed to score discounts in the last year on clearance tile at Home Depot, a slightly scratched table at Target, out-of-network medical bills for which we paid cash and cable television. We also get 10% off at Lowe’s even though we didn’t have the coupon with us. And, we gave a discount on rent to a good tenant who asked. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

 

These are the discounts the novice Washington Post haggler was able to score:

  • 10% off a pair of shoes at Macy’s.
  • $6 off a $30 DVD at Best Buy. (To get this deal, he used a free smartphone app called ShopSavvy that lets you scan a barcode in a store, then comparison shop online.)
  • $1.50 each off two packages of steaks nearing their sell-by date at Giant supermarket.
  • $50 a month off his Verizon bill (which includes cable TV, Internet and phone), plus double the Internet speed, triple the number of  HD channels and free Showtime.

This bit of history from Rosenwald’s story: Haggling was the norm in the United States until the Industrial Revolution. Rowland Macy, the founder of Macy's, played a key role in the trend to fixed prices. Macy’s officials, by the way, told Rosenwald that getting discounts by haggling is not common.

 

A recent Consumer Reports National Research Center survey found that more than 66% of Americans tried to negotiate a better deal in the six months preceding the survey, and most were successful. The success rate for the hagglers was 83% on hotel rooms, 81% on cell phone bills, 81% on clothing, 71% on electronics, 62% on credit card fees and 58% on medical bills.

 

Consumer Reports’ Money Blog offers this advice if you want to negotiate a better deal:

  • Be patient and be nice. Or, as my Southern mother used to say, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
  • Pick the right time. Late in the month, when salespeople are trying to meet their quotas, can be a good time to bargain for big-ticket items. If you shop at less busy times of day, clerks have more time to talk to you.
  • Avoid an audience. Clerks don’t want the other customers to hear you get a deal. In chain stores, you may need to talk to a manager.
  • Know prices and store policies before you go. Bring newspaper ads and mention prices from competitors. If you can’t get a discount on the price, try asking for a deal on delivery or installation.
  • Learn to read the ticket. Tags often contain date stamps that tell how long an item has been in the store.
  • Offer to pay cash. That saves the merchant the fees charged by credit card companies, about 2% for large stores and up to 8% for small ones. We recently got a discount at a local store for paying cash for used appliances.
  • Be prepared to walk. It’s your most potent weapon.

What luck have you had in negotiating deals in stores? Or do you hesitate to even ask? One tip: Appearing indecisive in some situations may elicit a discount if you're dealing with an owner or manager.

5Comments
Jan 10, 2011 10:16AM
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In response to the question from j.15 about the Verizon bill, it could probably work if you threatened to change to another company (as long as you're not stuck in a contract of course). So if you tell them that you think $100 is too high and that AT&T is prepared to give you the same service for $80, they'll mostly likely lower the price in order to keep you as a customer.
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