A skill­ful hag­gler will al­most al­ways save money. We asked the ex­perts to share their top tips.

Reader's Digest International - - Contents - BY JULIUS SCHOPHOFF

A skill­ful hag­gler will al­most al­ways save money. We asked the ex­perts to share their top tips.

AF­TER 30 YEARS in Re­gens­burg, Ger­many, Ira­nian rug mer­chant Hadi Rad al­most feels like a Ger­man. The one thing he has never got­ten used to, how­ever, is that the peo­ple in his adopted coun­try hardly ever hag­gle. “For Per­sians, hag­gling is a game”, he says. In Ger­many, on the other hand, older peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar hardly ever dis­cuss the price.

It sim­ply isn’t some­thing they’re ac­cus­tomed to. When the Ger­man Dis­counts Act came into force in 1934, it pro­hib­ited dis­counts of more than 3 per­cent. The Act was abol­ished in 2001 and vir­tu­ally all prices can now be freely ne­go­ti­ated. In prac­tice, how­ever, hardly any­one tries to do so.

Hadi Rad thinks this is a shame— hag­gling is fun. “If you come across as friendly and cour­te­ous, you have a far bet­ter chance of pick­ing up a bar­gain—suc­cess­ful hag­gling can of­ten be down to whether or not the other per­son likes you,” he says.

Here are our top ten tips for hag­gling like a pro.


Ger­hard Eirich, Man­ag­ing Part­ner of Cor­po­rate Train­ing, has been giv­ing sem­i­nars on ne­go­ti­at­ing for 26 years. “All great deals be­gin with re­search”, he says. “If you have read up on the prod­uct spec, al­ter­na­tive mod­els and mar­ket prices, then a sales-

man won’t be able to pull the wool over your eyes.” He also rec­om­mends do­ing a bit of re­con­nais­sance on the shop it­self. Is it busy? Are they mak­ing a lot of sales? If they aren’t, then you have a bet­ter chance at a dis­count.

When you’re chat­ting with a sales­per­son, try and find out what mo­ti­vates them. Do they get a com­mis­sion? If so, when is it paid? At the end of the month? As our ex­pert Ger­hard Eirich ex­plains, “If that’s the case, I’ll go and shop there on the 30th. Per­haps our deal will be the one that gets the sales­per­son over the thresh­old for a higher com­mis­sion rate.”


Hadi Rad’s cheap­est rug costs 300 eu­ros, while his most ex­pen­sive one will set you back a cool 30,000. “The more some­one spends, the more I can knock off the price,” he says. It’s no dif­fer­ent for him as the owner of a busi­ness than it is for a sales­per­son work­ing for a com­mis­sion: “I need to sell!” So to ne­go­ti­ate a lower price, the best strat­egy is to buy more. Tak­ing two rugs will boost your chances of get­ting a dis­count. And if you keep com­ing back, you may even get of­fered spe­cial prices for be­ing a loyal cus­tomer.


Sem­i­nar leader Eirich usu­ally goes shop­ping at the end of the week, just be­fore the shops close. “It’s a sales­per­son’s last chance to clinch one more deal be­fore the week­end,” he says. Try­ing to en­gage a sales as­sis­tant in con­ver­sa­tion when the shop is very busy is un­likely to pro­duce the de­sired re­sult. “You won’t get very far if the next cus­tomer is al­ready stand­ing right be­hind you.”

The time of year is even more im­por­tant than the time of day. When de­mand is low, prices are slashed. Al­most ev­ery prod­uct has a time when it doesn’t sell as well: win­ter jack­ets in early spring, rub­ber dinghies in the au­tumn, or com­put­ers when a newer model is launched. Even rugs have their quiet times. “Fe­bru­ary gen­er­ally isn’t so good”, says Hadi Rad. “And Septem­ber, when ev­ery­one has just got back from their hol­i­days.”

Time to put the the­ory to the test. I need a dust­buster. I’ve done my home­work on­line and picked out the model I want. It has good suc­tion, a long bat­tery life and low power con­sump­tion and it fea­tures cy­clonic tech­nol­ogy and a dual fil­ter sys­tem.

I en­ter the do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances sec­tion of a depart­ment store. There are three sales as­sis­tants be­hind the counter and I’m the only cus­tomer. Looks promis­ing.

“Hello. Would you mind help­ing me with the dust­busters?”

“Cer­tainly, sir”, says one of the sales as­sis­tants and walks me over to the shelves. “Have you de­cided which one you want?”

“I like that one”, I say. I point to the price tag. It says 89.99 eu­ros. “How much can you give me off the price?” She hes­i­tates. “Noth­ing.” “Noth­ing?” “I can give you 5 per­cent—on your Pay­back card.”

I don’t have a Pay­back card. And I don’t want one.

“The com­pe­ti­tion is sell­ing it for 20 eu­ros less,” I say.

She shrugs. “Sorry, there’s noth­ing I can do.”

“What if I buy two?”

To her credit, at least she smiles. I say good­bye po­litely and leave with­out a dust­buster and with the feel­ing that I still have a lot to learn.


“Sales as­sis­tants in large depart­ment stores don’t usu­ally get a com­mis­sion”, says Ger­hard Eirich. In many cases, they also don’t have the au­thor­ity to give you a dis­count. “If you want to ne­go­ti­ate a lower price, you may need to talk to some­one higher up.” You have a bet­ter chance of suc­cess in small, in­de­pen­dent stores where you will of­ten be speak­ing di­rectly with the owner.

Try and find a sales as­sis­tant who seems nice. “We like to do busi­ness with peo­ple who are on the same wave­length,” says Eirich. If you look around a small shop, it will of­ten tell you a lot about the per­son you’re buy­ing from. A fam­ily photo from a hol­i­day in Italy. The pen­nant of their fa­vorite foot­ball team. A golf club. Per­sonal in­ter­ests like this are a great way of start­ing up a con­ver­sa­tion.


In Eirich’s ex­pert opin­ion, ask­ing how much they can give you off the price is not a good open­ing gam­bit. “In 80 per­cent of cases, the an­swer to this ques­tion will be dis­ap­point­ing,” he ex­plains. It’s much bet­ter to get your own bid in. Eirich calls it the “driv­ing seat” prin­ci­ple. “If you’re the one be­hind the wheel, you can steer the ne­go­ti­a­tion in the di­rec­tion you want.”

There are cer­tain ques­tions you should know the an­swer to be­fore you start: “What do I want? How much am I pre­pared to spend? What things are non-ne­go­tiable?”


Just how much you can beat some­one

down de­pends on the na­ture of their busi­ness. As a rule, how­ever, de­mand­ing an out­ra­geously low price is un­likely to work. If you of­fer 800 eu­ros for a rug priced at 2,500, Hadi Rad will say thanks but no thanks and bid you good day. “I can stretch to 10 or even 15 per­cent”, he says, “but no more than that. My prices are very com­pet­i­tive to start with.”

One psy­cho­log­i­cal ploy sug­gested by sem­i­nar leader Eirich is to avoid round num­bers. In­stead of ask­ing for 10 per cent or 200 eu­ros off, ask for 11.3 per­cent or 215 eu­ros. “That makes the other per­son think wow, this guy has re­ally done his sums”, says Eirich. This is a well-known ruse in the re­tail in­dus­try. “You never find round num­bers on price lists. It makes it look as if the price is al­ways the re­sult of a very pre­cise cal­cu­la­tion. Of course, this of­ten isn’t the case at all.”


Jörg Jor­dan is a sec­ond-hand car dealer spe­cial­iz­ing in low-mileage cars. The ve­hi­cles on sale at his Ham­burg premises are bought from pri­vate sell­ers through­out Ger­many.

He says that many of his com­peti­tors make dis­parag­ing re­marks about cars they want to buy in or­der to try and bring the price down. He him­self takes a very dif­fer­ent tack—he says nice things about them. For ex­am­ple: “Wow, it’s still in re­ally good con­di­tion! Fif­teen years old and only 60,000 kilo­me­ters?” “It flat­ters the seller and makes them more re­cep­tive to your bid.” Ac­cord­ing to Jor­dan, this tac­tic even works with him when he him­self is sell­ing. Sell­ers don’t like it when peo­ple start find­ing fault.


Jor­dan some­times uses a hag­gling tech­nique that few peo­ple have in their ar­mory: say­ing noth­ing. “It can be quite ef­fec­tive if you re­main silent for a bit”, he ex­plains. Sem­i­nar leader Eirich agrees. “When the other guy sug­gests a price, try not to say any­thing for a cou­ple of min­utes.” A lot of peo­ple will of­fer a fur­ther re­duc­tion af­ter as lit­tle as 20 sec­onds be­cause most of us aren’t com­fort­able with si­lence.

I de­cide to give it an­other go. I’m de­ter­mined to suc­ceed this time. Just be­fore clos­ing time, I en­ter the Ci­tyFlohmarkt, a sec­ond-hand shop in Re­gens­burg. I’m look­ing for used pic­ture frames. But I soon dis­cover an old Tor­pedo type­writer.

“It was made in 1926,” says the man in the shop, “it was a very pop­u­lar model with news re­porters.” Ap­par­ently, he once did a course on of­fice ma­chin­ery. So the news re­porter’s type­writer is my way in. As I tell him about my old Mercedes Prima, my eyes come to rest on an an­tique wooden frame.

“Ten eu­ros,” says the man. I say noth­ing. Ten sec­onds go by. Then 20.

“Un­less you’d like more than one.” He fishes out some more frames un­til I

see an­other one I like.

“15 for the pair of them”, he says. “Twelve”, I re­ply.

“You drive a hard bar­gain”, he sighs. He has to go and ask his boss. I fol­low him into an­other room where an el­derly gen­tle­man is sit­ting in an arm­chair. It turns out to be his fa­ther. “Have you no­ticed how cold it is in here?”, asks the old man. “We’ve got the heat­ing turned off. That’s how low our mar­gins are.” He ex­am­ines the frames. “Th­ese are good frames”, he says. “Twelve eu­ros?” He peers at me over his read­ing glasses, look­ing me up and down. Then he grins. “Okay, then.”


When sem­i­nar leader Eirich de­cides it’s time to buy a new car, he doesn’t just hag­gle for a dis­count. He also asks if he can get an ex­tended war­ranty, a money-off voucher for its first ser­vice, a free set of win­ter tires, and so on. “If sev­eral things are up for grabs, you can get down to some se­ri­ous ne­go­ti­at­ing,” he says. It’s of­ten eas­ier to get free ex­tras than a dis­count be­cause they don’t cost the seller as much.

This has a par­tic­u­larly good chance of suc­ceed­ing if you’re buy­ing ser­vices. Ho­tels will of­ten give you an up­grade if you re­quest one. And even re­tail­ers will fre­quently pro­vide you with ex­tra ser­vices at no ex­tra charge. All you have to do is ask. “I’ll de­liver your rug to your home ad­dress if you wish,” says Hadi Rad. “And if you have a rug that needs wash­ing, I can do that for you, too.”


If you spot a fault, you have a strong case for a siz­able dis­count. If Jörg Jor­dan no­tices that the air con­di­tion­ing unit is faulty on a car he wants to buy, he’ll ex­pect to pay 300 eu­ros less for it. If Ger­hard Eirich steps out of his ho­tel shower first thing in the morn­ing to dis­cover that there’s no bath towel, he knows his break­fast will be on the house.

A mark on a jacket, a scratch on a screen—even small de­fects can trans­late into big dis­counts. You have a right to be sold un­dam­aged goods. If they are not in per­fect con­di­tion, ask for money off.

I or­dered a floor cush­ion on the In­ter­net. When I open the pack­age, it’s not what I was ex­pect­ing. When you sit on it you al­most sink right down to the floor. I get in touch with the shop in the UK that sold me the cush­ion through a Ger­man dis­trib­u­tor. I po­litely in­form the shop that the cush­ion is too soft and that I’d like to re­turn it and end my mes­sage cour­te­ously: “My apolo­gies and kind re­gards.”

Sales as­sis­tant Nick replies the next day. The ship­ping costs are so high that it isn’t worth send­ing the prod­uct back. “I’ll re­fund your pay­ment within 24 hours.”

So not only do I get my money back, I can keep the cush­ion, too. A 100 per­cent dis­count—beat that!


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