Bargaining 101

Some people are comfortable bargaining, but others would rather stick with the number on the price tag. There's no need to fear bargaining; the worst that will happen is that a person will say "no deal."

Bargaining 101: The Syllabus

When setting out to price negotiate you must have a goal in mind. The general goal for bargaining is to get the seller to drop the price by a third. Sometimes the buyer reaches the goal, and sometimes she falls short. Accept that.


The Course Requirements

There are a few hard rules of bargaining no matter what the sale situation.

The first, don't let the seller know how desperate you are. Most people have heard the bargaining tactic of walking away in order to make the seller grab your offer before he loses a sale. If you're going to use this trick, be sure to stick to it. Nothing ruins a good negotiation like a toddler who begins to cry because you're walking away from the item you promised you'd buy. Plan ahead for complications if the seller calls your bluff.

The second rule is to know when the negotiation isn't going in your favor. There are sellers who won't bargain, and there's no point in trying. Ask the final price and decide either to pay or not to pay it.

The third rule is to be reasonable. A seller is looking to make a profit, and you're looking to save money. A nice middle ground is the ideal place. Be respectful of the seller and his goals, and the two of you most likely will reach a nice agreement on both ends.


The fourth rule of bargaining is to always bargain. It doesn't hurt to ask if someone is willing to work with you on a price, other than a department store. Even on-line auction items (those listed as "buy it now") can make some ethical deals if asked. Try asking someone if she'll accept a buy-four-get-one-free deal on buy it now auctions. Another option is to ask if she'll take a dollar off each item if you buy all of the items or ask for free shipping after purchasing five items. Again, the worst you'll hear is "no."

The Exam

You're at the flea market, and it's time to negotiate. What tricks can you keep up your sleeve? Know your prices and be honest. If something is overpriced, tell the person and offer a better price. However, for a serious final exam in the bargaining course, there are a few tips to use for the professional bargainers.


Play one seller off another. If someone has a similar item cheaper, let the competitor know that. The statement, "I saw a similar vase at a stand in aisle 3 for $4 less," usually gets the desired response.

Avoid change. If an item is priced at $14, offer to take two items for $20. Something marked as $6 is appealing at $5 because there's no change needed. This is especially helpful at the end of a sales day when change is running short in sellers' hands.

Beat the clock. If the flea market is closing shortly, sellers don't want to take items home. The seller's chance of selling the item is diminishing with each tick of the clock's hand. This is a great time to bargain.

One more tip for foreign bargaining: if you're traveling offer items from home in return for bargains. An item selling for $10 might be purchased for $5 and a bottle of Coca-cola. Brand name jeans can equal an even trade on a hand made item. It's more bartering than bargaining; everyone gets something they want for a price that makes both happy.


Why Bargain?

Don't start your bargaining career in a high stakes location. It will most likely send you running back to department stores. Try your skills at relaxed locations like yard sales - they expect it. Use it when calling about an item in the classified ads - sellers usually add a bargaining buffer to their asking price. Don't expect to get off the plane in Jamaica and be a master of the price negotiation; you'll be working with professional bargainers.

Other than flea markets and yard sales, where will you use this skill? Good bargaining skills will help when purchasing automobiles and larger negotiable items. It will build your confidence as a buyer and make you feel better about your purchasing power.

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