/ Money

Do you haggle for a decent deal?

Calculating savings

Over the years we’ve encouraged you to haggle on your bills, and we’ve recently discovered that those who do can save about £725 a year. So do you haggle for a good deal?

Here on Which? Conversation, we’ve been discussing how customers stay faithful to certain retailers and providers but don’t always get much in return. Often, we’ll end up paying more to stay with the same provider.

But pick up the phone and begin your bargaining skills and suddenly your provider will become interested in you again.

Haggle for a deal

We surveyed consumers about their haggling experiences with insurance, broadband and mobile phone providers. The majority of people who attempted haggling were offered some form of incentive, discount or better deal.

And other savings can be made on things like insurance if you persevere. This is what happened when Richard decided to haggle with his car insurance provider:

“I have recently renewed my car insurance policy and noticed the renewal premium had gone up by £45 (16.5%). I used a comparison website and obtained a reduction on the price of £26.95. Armed with this information I went back to my insurer who offered me a reduction of £58.29, i.e. 18.36% less than the premium originally quoted. Well worth the effort!”

Ideally, service providers would be more proactive in ensuring their long-term customers continue to be well served. But in the current marketplace, haggling seems to be a necessary part of the process if you want a cost-effective deal.

At the moment, companies only seem to step up their game when you’re already frustrated, looking to leave and have spotted a better deal elsewhere.

Industry insiders have told us that providers are focusing increasingly on holding on to customers they’ve attracted – and many companies have increased their retention budgets exponentially.

How to haggle on bills – top tips

Haggling can be nerve-wracking if it doesn’t come naturally to you, so consider some of our top tips before you start:

  • Compile your case: Have your case backed up with details of issues you’ve had with the provider, how long you’ve been a customer, whether your usage matches up with the price charged and what deals are available on comparison sites.
  • Explain your situation: Tell them if you simply can’t afford the price and have a good reason for haggling – e.g. your main income is low.
  • Have an aim: Know what you’re aiming for and do the back and forth: haggle with your provider for a lower price; take that price to another provider to match or beat. Take your new competitive quote to your original provider to see whether they’ll match it.
  • Use the three Ps: Be polite and pleasant, but persistent.
  • They’re expecting you: If an awkward conversation is holding you back, remember that this is a conversation companies are expecting to have. Their pricing is specifically set up so they’re able to offer discounts to hagglers.

What are your experiences of haggling?

Have you had to haggle with a provider to get a good price? Do you think it’s fair that existing customers have to be proactive in order to get a fair deal?

Have you negotiated with a service provider for a better deal before?

Yes and it worked (50%, 527 Votes)

No I haven't tried haggling before (34%, 357 Votes)

Yes, but it didn't work (16%, 169 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,053

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Linda says:
15 December 2017

I haven’t haggled before but after reading the recent article in the magazine I decided to give it a try.
BT sent letters out about a price rise and , as I am currently paying £50 a month I didn’t want to pay more.. I rang and explained my circumstances…on a government pension. Immediately they reduced my payments to £44…not a lot I grant you but I would have been happy to not have the increase. The customer adviser was so kind and listened to me. It seems I have been given a new 12 month contract and that I should call again this time next year when the contract is due to end.

I have always been with BT…they have been reliable and consistent..and I have heard bad stuff about other proividers and I fear the risk of a change over could spoil a good thing.

I really don’t like companies hiking prices, which wastes my time. Rather than haggling I switch to another company and once this is done I phone the company I am leaving and make it clear why they have lost my custom. I also ask for my contact details to be removed from their records and say that if I am contacted I will never use the company in future. Somewhat surprisingly, this seems to work.

I have no problem with people haggling for luxury goods but if prices of essential products and services are raised artificially to accommodate the fact that some will haggle, those that cannot haggle (many older people lose confidence) land up paying more. Consequently, I’m not happy with Which? promoting haggling. Will we be haggling over the price of a loaf of bread next?

Wavechange – I agree with you on Which?’s posture on haggling. It is not an honourable or equitable stance and not worthy of the organisation. One person’s haggled deal is another person’s surcharge. I want the first quote to be the best.

With insurance, if I feel the price is too high, I adjust the excesses and cover limits and live with the potential consequences; it’s never ruinous but probably means I take more care.

Thanks John. I appreciate that.

I’m quite capable of haggling, having done a fair amount of this at work. As I’ve said, I’ve no problem with people haggling over luxury items, houses etc. Over the years I have had a lot to do with older people and seen examples of them being ‘ripped off’ because they do not or cannot stand up for themselves.

One of the reasons that I chose to insure my car with NFU Mutual was that Which? suggested that they don’t hike premiums. I’m not sure about that, but it was the smallest increase I have seen for some time.

I agree that it’s worth looking at cover and excesses with insurance and renewal time is the opportunity to make changes without incurring costs.

A friend runs a marina and chandlery and says his prices are non-negotiable, though he does offer quantity discounts. It seems to work very well and on the rare occasion that I have visited the place, he is very well respected by both customers and staff.

As we’ve often discussed before, those of us who “haggle” for good deals on energy will be putting up the prices paid by those on SVTs.

So has W?C just done a “180” on that issue?

Morning all 🙂 We don’t think it’s fair that loyal customers are ripped off and we know that this can disproportionately affect vulnerable customers. So we want to see companies be more open about their pricing, and proactive about informing existing customers of better deals, which is why we recommend haggling for loyal customers.

This is in regards to services, such as broadband or insurances, rather than products.

I don’t believe the concept of loyalty exists with many companies, particularly large organisations such as energy suppliers. I suspect what is meant is that customers who have been with them a long time. I do not see why that should entitle them to better prices than anyone else.

There is a difference between haggling (energy companies do not seem to indulge in that) and shopping around. It is easily done for all kinds of purchases, and always has been. Many people are better at it than others. You only have to look at the CMA report on energy prices to see how many people who could shop around cannot be bothered because they do not regard the savings as worth the effort. How, in reality, do you change that, and do we want to?

Hi Alex – Vulnerable and poor customers are less likely to haggle over the cost of services. If the rest of us haggle for lower prices it will put prices up for those who can least afford it. I support a great deal of what Which? does, but I think this is the wrong approach. I would prefer to see Which? promoting companies that don’t hike their prices or charge existing customers more than new ones.

Hi Wavechange, thanks for the feedback. I’ll pass it on to Anna, who is the researcher for this topic 🙂

Thanks Alex.

Banning haggling is a hiding to nothing. We won’t, it has been a feature of life for as long as I can remember. What we should be doing is to help those who are less able, not preventing the able. Which? offers useful help when it deals with “haggling”, which is a positive approach.

I’m not sure where haggling occurs in “essential” purchases, as opposed to “luxuries”. We don’t haggle over water, food, council tax, energy, clothing, rail fairs, petrol and diesel……. But we can shop around for better prices on some of these – Which?Switch, internet, choice of supermarket for example. The same items at different prices that some may not be able to access. Should we decry that?

I have had marginal reductions on insurance, bigger on the AA, use the internet to get the best deals (recently a “£40” kettle for £30), my sons use cash back sites…..Our gains will always be someone else’s loss, as profits will be maintained or shareholders dividends reduced. Before you leap with joy at the latter, remember many people have put their meagre savings into stocks and share ISAs, and more important, it is stocks and shares that are the basis for all your private pensions.

Perhaps we could explore what are the essential goods and services where haggling substantially distorts the market?

Motor insurance is essential because it is a legal requirement. For mortgagors, buildings insurance is essential because it is a contractual requirement. In both cases I consider haggling to be inappropriate; there should be [and there is in my view] enough competition in the market to render it unnecessary.

John, my ‘haggling’ with the AA goes like this:

Me: I have got my insurance/breakdown renewal. It seems to have gone up rather a lot.

AA: Let me see what I can do for you.

As a broker, they auto-renew with the same company and always seem to find another company that can do it cheaper.

Apart from mentioning having 2 policies with them and having had breakdown cover with them for many years, I actually do very little haggling. They just reduced my renewal by £20 although still slightly up on last year.

I used to use the AA for insurance and originally thought highly of them. Over time, though, I thought they were being a bit lazy in not exploring more options for the renewal as a good broker should.

My technique with insurers has been to ask them for their best quote; if I sniff at what they come up with and they say “we could do it for less or give better cover”, I remind them that I asked for their best quote and feel that they have let me down on a matter of trust. I then go somewhere else, calling direct, not through a comparison site. Remarkably this usually results in a lower premium, or better cover, or both, at the first attempt and with absolutely no effort. That satisfies me enough; I am not necessarily looking for a rock-bottom premium as I would have doubts about the claims performance and general customer service standard.

The worst thing to do with insurance, in my view, is to start loading up all your details on an on-line application form [without which the process will not proceed] and within minutes someone will ring you up on the number you have just entered and try to sell you a policy, putting you on the back foot. I prefer to retain the initiative. Ringing them up means they have to listen and type in all your details. I try to veer them away from their ‘script’. I can ask questions, but I cannot haggle – unless you count pregnant pauses.

If you phone John Lewis, they get a quote by putting your details into a price comparison site.

I found out when I phoned another company who mentioned my details had already been put in the database so I didn’t need to repeat them.

I had been with the same company for quite a few years when I decided to switch and price comparison sites were fairly new. The only company I had given details to was JL.

I wonder how many brokers all get their quotes from the same place?

My home insurance is through JLP. I phoned this year to discuss my insurance. My policy with JLP is underwritten by RSA, just as they state on their website “John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority number 416011) of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. John Lewis Home Insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc (No. 93792)“.

I believe John Lewis insurance is effectively a desk or two in the R&SA office. I became dissatisfied with their customer service which I considered was inferior to the JLP standard.

I have become used to the need to print off all the insurance documentation at my expense but it annoyed me that the John Lewis paperwork had not been formatted usefully for home printing and there were layout misfits and wasted space so it was quite uneconomical. Grey print on a grey background didn’t help either. It might be better now but I have moved on and won’t be going back.

That’s not good enough and deserves a complaint. It would not be much help to someone with poor sight.

Insurance documents sent online should be formatted for printing (which usually means a pdf), allowing you to print as much or little as you wish and store the electronic file for future reference. One advantage of pdfs is that they are searchable.

I did send a letter of complaint, Wavechange, and can’t remember now whether there was a substantive response.

I wanted to print the whole of the policy document but it was merely a reproduction of an A5 format, double-sided booklet and not presented sequentially. This might have been with JLP’s previous insurance provider, not R&SA.

JLP used to use AXA if I remember correctly. All my documents come through the post. I have had no complaints at all about JLP. But then, fortunately, I have not had to use them. That is really when customer service matters, and I hope never to find out.

John – Maybe it was the pdf used to create the booklet, which will have the pages in the wrong order and possibly size. I have to be careful sending the correct pdf versions of a magazine to the printers and to those who take the magazine electronically.

I always haggle with the AA and always get the renewals reduced.

Why they can’t just give it to you in the first place I don’t know, especially if you have been with them a while.

The RAC plays the same silly game. I now have breakdown cover on my car insurance, which seems to be the cheapest way of buying cover, though I have not compared terms & conditions. When I had a problem recently I called my insurer and the RAC turned out to help.

Too many foolish people who just accept what is offered who cannot be bothered to do anything but accept what is put before them More money than sense maybe

“Over the years we’ve encouraged you to haggle on your bills, and we’ve recently discovered that those who do can save about £725 a year.”

Could you manage to provide a link to the research backing up this claim please. Seems more than slightly wrong to make the claim without the evidence link being included.

I am not sure that this link to the Sun reveals much of the original research of the 2000 people involved.

I don’t think people could save anything like £725 every year just by haggling.

I don’t like haggling and won’t do it. I ask firms to give me their best and final quote. If I don’t like it I go somewhere else.

I do the same. I politely make the point that I won’t be coming back to haggle.

You do have to choose what you haggle over. If, for example, it is a proprietary product or service then you are unlikely to come of worst. But if it is, say, a builder or decorator, you are likely to get just what you pay for.

I would not haggle with our builders or decorators any more than I would with the solicitor or dentist. In respect of the tradespeople I see it as our responsibility to ensure we get everything done to our complete satisfaction according to the specification and estimate or quotation. I find things go better if there is no suggestion of haggling or dissatisfaction over the price.

Hi Patrick, you can find a breakdown of the figures here: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/12/which-research-reveals-loyal-customers-being-ripped-off/

I tried to haggle this weekend and it did not go well. I managed to knock £2 off my monthly car insurance. £2 is £2 I guess!

You can only save these once, in the main – like switching to a fixed term energy deal from an svt. And you have to be careful you get the product you want – like car and house insurance with the right cover. However there is no question that haggling is effective, but in the main I think the main savings are not in haggling, but shopping around. even for relatively small things – a £40 kettle for £30 with free delivery (25% off). It is all worth the effort.

Some argue that haggling is immoral; others pay for what you save. That applies to shopping around really; if a manufacturer or distributor is prepared to sell a product cheaply to one supplier, it will maintain its profit margins by supplying elsewhere at a higher price and someone will lose out. So should we therefore not take advantage of such deals? Perhaps a Which? survey would ask the question, but I can guess the result.

Every year the AA sends me a pricey renewal notice. Every year we have a nice conversation and it reduced by around 35%, this year in fact less than last year. I have no complaints about the AA service having used them a few times over the years so why abandon them?

I was a little put out this year though. My eldest son joined the AA last year through a cashback site and not only got a particularly good deal, but a big chunk of money back and one of the AA’s “extras” free – the “Stay mobile” that gives you a hire car if they can’;t repair yours at the roadside. This year a full price renewal arrived and as a responsible parent and Which? Member, advised him to haggle. He was offered the same package I have £30 cheaper even than my deal. Next year, AA………….!!!

Which could publish the sort of deals people achieve to give others an objective to haggle towards. So, as a start, his negotiated renewal AA deal for two people (any vehicle), Relay, Home Start and Roadside was £139. This is the same as a new customer gets online, supposedly a discounted introductory price. I expect this can be bettered……?

Just used the opportunity that my Sky tv box broke to haggle. I mentioned I was unhappy with price, the fact I cant get Sky whilst travelling abroad (though it is possible using a VPN) and the fact BT have obtained lots of the sports fixtures (Premier League football, The Ashes etc) as my bargaining tools. I also mentioned that Freeview HD channels are pretty good, and FREE.. Result, rather than lose me as a customer I get a free engineer visit with free repair or replace on my Sky HD box and £25 a month reduction on my subscription, ie a £300 per year saving. The only downside is that I am locked in to a new 18 month contract.

Whilst there is a lot of scope for negotiating better deals with existing suppliers, if it comes to changing to another organisation entirely, it’s important to bear in mind that there might be an early termination penalty to pay!

Mary F says:
16 December 2017

I am with BT and this year close to the end of my contract I took a look at the broadband and calls offers available from other providers. Then having found one that offered the same package at a lower cost I rang BT and told them about the offer on my screen, within a couple of minutes I was offered a £15 per month discount if I signed up to a 24 month contract. I accepted as the new rate was only £1 different from the rate offered by the alternative provider.

With my car insurance, Aviva rang me about a week before I was planning to renew, and they offered me a better deal – result NCD protected on both cars, it was only protected on 1 before, and the total premium less than the quoted online renewal premium. Even better than having to haggle. Another insurer quoted a higher premium for one car than I pay for both with Aviva’s multi-car policy.

Haggling is a part of everyday life, where we all (well most) seek out something at a cheaper price. No more than searching the web for the lowest price for the domestic appliance you desire, reducing the price of your new or secondhand car purchase, finding a cheaper energy deal, negotiating your terms of employment (or, in the more extreme, going on strike to get your own way), buying a cheaper rail ticket…… In the end, if you pay less or earn more someone else will pay more or earn less to ensure the profitability or conservation of resources remains at the required level. It is not something we will change, although we may tinker around the edges. Which? have a similar pragmatic view it seems and, rather than adopt some
unworkable principle, help their Members to make the most of their hard earned cash. Which?Switch is a very useful tool in this regard.

I am afraid I do not see researching the market in the same way as haggling. If having researched the market and found the product or service i want at a better price at Argos or SSE, for example, I will not then negotiate with Argos or SSE over its price or possible upgrades. I will just order it.

It is up to all companies to put their best offer in the public domain and it is annoying that some so-say reputable companies refuse to do that, especially for essential services. If they all did that there would be no need for costly and parasitic comparison sites that, for all we know, are the source of so much personal data that floats about in the world wide web.

I always haggle and always save money. All the companies I’ve contacted seem to expect it or they may just remember me as a nuisance but it works well. Mike.

I tried my hand a haggling yesterday. I’m renovating my house and needed to buy a back to wall toilet for the cloakroom. Having tried a few retailers to buy one off the shelf, nothing was suitable. I then went into a bathroom showroom as a last minute resort and while they didn’t sell anything to take away from their store, they had one that they’d just removed from the showroom. I argued for a discount on the ex-display toilet, fixings and cistern and got 50% off! That saving means I can now afford the tiles I wanted 🙂

I find haggling a bit awkward, but will definitely try it more often for bigger ticket items.

Well done Lauren. I find you can usually get a good deal on avocado sanitary ware.

You can buy it in pairs, too 🙂

Can you? I thought they were in short supply these days 🙂

I feel flushed even thinking about it…

Loos ley connected, I find the current advert for Vipoo stinks, along with the demo pic, when it suggests you gift wrap one for all your best friends and relatives. Is that just what you’d like from Father Christmas?

Nearly as bad as the scent (sorry, parfum) ads where the artificial pheromone effect will have men or maidens going beserk. (I’ve tried them and it doesn’t work).

When I was refurbishing my toilet a couple of years ago, i needed a particular wc because the toilet was in a small room, scoured the internet for the best price, then went too a local plumbers merchants, showed them the screendump of the best prirce and asked what they could do, and that I wanted to support a local business if possible. The manager thought about it for a few minutes, made a phone call, and met my best quote.

When I was re-roofing a little later, I drew up a (rough) list of what needed,went my local builders merchant , showed them what I wanted and asked what they could do. I saw the manager without difficulty, got an account, and a 20% discount on whatever I needed.

For the last 2 years my car and house insurance renewals always came out more than last year. In the first year I used a single price comparison website ( meerkat), got a bettter quote, and went back to the insurer, and lo and behold, they matched it.

Last year, I sought quotes from every comparison site I could find, found the best quote, and went back to my insurer, and they matched it. For 10 points, guess what I will be doing next May when the renewal comes up?

I offer this, not to show “aren’t I clever”, but to show approaches that have at least worked. The secret is to make it easy and desirable for people to do what I want – drop their price.

I’m sure people more versed in negotiation can do better, and if you have a good approach, please share

But you made the effort and you were rewarded howard! Some critics say that there are people who are unable to use haggling, either because they are too shy (perhaps) or because they do not have easy access to the means – the internet to scour the field for example Therefore we should outlaw haggling.

I take a different view. We will not outlaw haggling, it is part of life, and if we don’t do it we simply miss out. Rather than taking the negative approach and trying to prevent those who haggle from benefiting, I think we should take a positive stance and concentrate on finding ways of helping those with haggling difficulties. Family can often assist. Which? has, in my view, taken a pragmatic and helpful view on this and given helpful guidance online and in the mags, including the Jan 18 Which?

I blame The Apprentice.

I always haggle over insurance but when I contacted Co-operative insurance over our house contents I was offered a reduction without needing to haggle at all, okay it was only £2, but I was also given a very reasonable an increase in coverage. I was in shock for some time afterwards!

Insurance companies are now required to state last year’s premium when inviting customers to renew their policy. I see that as a reward for widespread greed. I look forward to this being extended to other products and services.

I keep a record of what I’ve paid for a number of services in the past. We can help ourselves.

So do I, but I presume that others are not so organised. Are you opposed to helping them by printing last year’s premium on the renewal invitation?

No. I am not opposed. I am simply pointing out we can, and should, be prepared to help ourselves and not rely on others. If you are responsible about managing your finances you should know well in advance of a renewal what your insurance, for example, is likely to cost you, along with other major expenditure items.

As John W points out, many people are prepared to learn all about gizmos, but may not bother about the more important things in managing their lives. Their choice, but also the consequences are of their making.

I seem to get on fine by knowing when insurance etc. expires and digging out the file when the renewal invitation comes. I also know the renewal dates and when my car insurance did not turn up this year I contacted the company and popped into the branch, where they printed a copy. (Royal Mail eventually delivered the original document a week or two later.) I might not be as organised as some but seem to cope.

I hope that printing last year’s premium on renewal invitations will prove a deterrent to those companies that try to get away with hiking their prices for existing customers.

What you now have to look out for is cover reductions, increases in excesses, and claims limitations.

I agree there. Nowadays, insurance companies seem very good about drawing attention to material changes. I have no idea whether the insurers have a code of practice or whether this was achieved by the regulator.

Kevin and Rosalie Byrne says:
19 December 2017

We have been with Nationwide for home insurance for many years. The premium for the coming year was £741. We contacted Age UK who quoted £409. We went back to Nationwide and by putting me as the first name on the policy in place of my wife we were quoted £298 for the same cover (minus one item we didn’t need). It included an “introductory discount” of £78 and £110 reduction for “loyalty allowance”!
We noticed the bill from Anglian Water had gone up for the coming year from £36 to over £100 per month. The metered consumption had risen from120 to 130 cubic metres for the last three years to 248. There are still only two of us in the house. A plumber identified a leaking loo upstairs and the meter stopped whizzing round. The web site for Anglian Water suggested you were allowed “one leak on the house”, and the lady we spoke to confirmed this to be so and wrote off the excess leaving us in credit by £8. Anglian Water have a fantastic ring back service whereby you key in your phone number to their website and they ring you back immediately. The staff we spoke to were all knowledgeable and helpful.
So in an afternoon we had save £850.

I have to confirm that Anglian Water’s customer service and technical operations are, in my opinion, the best of all the utilities. My only niggle is that they include a Homeserve promo with their bills and other communications, but many other utilities do that and it might keep the cost of services down [I still don’t like the way Homeserve worries people about their liabilities for underground service pipe repairs, though].

We had a non-stop flushing loo in the ground floor cloakroom for a couple of days before we noticed it. It is worth checking these things frequently, especially with the modern dual-flush syphonic cisterns as they tend to get stuck in the flow position if not used often. Hard water might make it worse as well.

Read the article “Insiders Guide to Haggling” as I have never haggled before.

With the tips in mind went onto BT where I have not only my main phones but also their 78MPS Fibre To The Premises Broadband. Had at my finger tips the latest deal being offered by the Post Office and to cut a long story short ended up with a new 18month overall contract which is saving me £252.00 a year!

It was clear to me from the ‘get go’ that they ARE expecting you to call and negotiate to the extent that their call handler told me TWICE, to note down the end date of the new contact and make sure I rang them about 10 days beforehand to re-negotiate a new deal, otherwise I would automatically end up being put onto whatever the full price would be for both ‘phones and Broadband.

Next on my list are the various Insurance Policies I have for Cars, House etc.

Thank you WHICH…now about the cost of my Annual Subscription for your magazine……!!!!!!!

I like it. 🙂 If Which? are promoting haggling then perhaps you should give it a go. Best of luck there.

My home and contents renewal was raised by £40.I said “NO” as my pension was only 2% up.I got a reduction to £10 less than the old year.
Also jearned that intruder alarm provision not taken into a/c in “crime absent” areas even tho on insurance foarm plus need to declare regular mtce!