Haggling is a honed art in some countries, but Americans often find it an uncomfortable exercise. But how the times they are changing. According to a 2009 Consumers Reports poll, more than 65 percent of Americans negotiated a purchase in the previous six months. Perhaps more importantly, most were successful in their efforts. The same poll, however, found that only 28 percent haggle "always" or "often," clearly suggesting a "How to Haggle Guide" wouldn't go amiss. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable negotiating. Kate Forgach, www.freeshipping.org/blog/
Do your research. When possible, perform preliminary research on the Internet for price and quality comparisons. Remember to figure in any extra fees and taxes and whether free shipping is included in the price. Learn about any product add-ons, specifications, etc. Also comparison shop brick-and-mortar stores in your area, if possible. Each bit of information will give you a starting point from which to open negotiations.
Have the right attitude. Work to create a collaborative atmosphere. Be friendly and cooperative but firm. Let the seller know you like the item and would prefer to buy from them, but only at the right price. You simply want their help to close the deal. Your trump card, however, is the willingness to walk away if the seller won't work with you.
Ask if they will meet or beat. If you see a cheaper price elsewhere, bring the ad, printout or photo of the in-store display and ask if the second store will meet or beat that price. You may have to talk to the manager.
Can you buy before the sale begins? There's a rhythm to sales. You'll find the best prices on big appliances in January, and clothing toward the weekend. Ask if a product is about to go on sale. If it is, can you secure that price before the sale begins?
Use coupons creatively. The expiration date on a coupon isn't always a hard-and-fast rule, nor are they always restricted to a particular merchant. Ask a store if they'll still honor a coupon after it's expired or provide the face-value discount of the coupon, even if it's for an online store or other merchant.
Be quiet. Use silence to your advantage during negotiations. It's human nature to fill awkward silences: Let the sales rep be the one to do so — hopefully by offering a lower price.
Bring a reluctant consultant. Work the good cop/bad cop gig. Ask a friend, partner or parent to accompany you for major negotiations and have them show reluctance when the negotiation nears closing. You want the item but your co-negotiator is reluctant — at the offered price. Tell the sales rep you only have permission to purchase the product at "X" price. You might look less macho to the sales rep but think what a hero you'll look to your friends when you brag about the deal you got.
Ask for extras. If you're buying a camera, ask for an extra lens or larger memory card. With a laptop computer, you might want a carrying case. On other items you can ask for a free or cheap upgrade.
Offer cash. Cash up front is mighty tempting to a retailer. (Make sure you've split your money into smaller increments so the seller can't see how much more money you have in your wallet.)
Shop at closing time and end of sales. Merchants are more willing to give you a deal when they're facing unsold products. Storing or giving floor space to unsold inventory is expensive, so use that to your advantage.