You’ve probably walked into a store, found exactly what you were looking for, realized it was out of your budget, and walked back out.
Here’s what most people don’t realize about that situation: There’s a good chance you could have walked away with that item — for a price you could afford.
According to a survey done by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 89% of people who bargained were rewarded at least once.
However, from 2010-2013, only 48% of people actually tried to bargain.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Tod Marks, the senior projects editor at Consumer Reports Magazine, says that people are afraid to ask, which is why they avoid bargaining all together.
“There is a tremendous fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of looking cheap, and a mortification at hearing no,” Marks says.
According to Marks, nothing is off limits when it comes to negotiating price. So no, your neighbor’s garage sale or a weekend flea market aren’t the only acceptable venues for negotiating. You can bargain for anything from your credit card bills to your doctors visits.
Here are some of Marks’ tips to help you get started. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?
1. Be discreet.
Don’t start bargaining with a salesperson in front of a large group of other shoppers. If they hear you’re getting a deal, they’ll want one too. A salesperson will be less likely to negotiate with you if they know they’re going to have to give that same deal to 10 other shoppers.
2. Be diplomatic.
“Sweetness will win every time,” Marks says. “Come in with honey, not vinegar.” Salespeople will respond much better to a offer coming from a friendly, low-key customer than a demanding, stern customer. Show them you’re willing to work with them.
3. Give them an incentive to bargain with you.
If you’re buying a car at a dealership, tell them you’re planning on bringing your car back to them for repairs. If you’re at a mom and pop hardware store, tell them you always try to support local businesses when you can. Merchants will be more likely to offer you a better price if they have a reason to.
4. Ask open ended questions.
It’s easy to say no if someone asks, “Can I get this for 15% off?” It’s not so easy to say no if someone says, ‘I really love this 60 inch TV, and it would fit perfectly in my bedroom, but it’s a little out of my budget. Is there any way you could help me?” Don’t make it easy for salespeople to tell you no, Marks says. “Give them the opportunity to expound or elaborate, not cut you off.”
5. Show your intelligence.
If you’re negotiating for an antique and you’re an antique collector, mention that. Even better, share some specific product knowledge with the seller. “You want to come across as a qualified buyer,” Marks explains. Chances are, if the seller knows you’re an educated buyer, they’ll be more willing to work with you.
6. Do your homework.
If you need to, do a little research on what you’re bargaining for beforehand. That way you’ll know what a fair price is, and avoid asking for a price that’s way too low.
7. Use silence.
Yes, periods of silence in a conversation can be awkward. But when it comes to negotiating, Marks says, “Silence is a great tool.” If you resist the urge to fill it, the seller might just say yes to your offer in hopes of avoiding the silence.
8. Seek a cash discount.
Merchants have to pay fees when you use a credit or debit card to make a purchase. They can avoid these fees if you pay in cash, though. Bring some cash and ask ahead of time if the seller will give you a discount if you don’t pay with a card.
9. Bargain on items at the end of the year, and where competition is high.
Most stores look to clear their shelves right before the end of the year, which means that sellers will be more likely to bargain with you at that time if it means they’re going to sell their merchandise.
You’ll also have more luck bargaining for items such as cable, since there are so many different cable companies — that might offer you a better price — for you to choose from. According to Marks, “It’s all about leverage.” Let salespeople know that you can go somewhere else and get a better offer.