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Is it unBritish to haggle – or the only way to get a fair price?

When I asked Which? readers for their haggling stories, many told me of savings they’d made using just a phone call and a dash of charm. But not everyone liked the idea – one even claimed haggling was ‘unBritish’.

I can’t believe it. While I respect those who believe the price you agree at the start should be the price you pay – it doesn’t always follow.

Anyone with a service contract that lasts more than a couple of years knows that enticing deals used to lure us in at the start soon pass, and give way to bill creep.

Extra charges appear, the monthly cost goes up, and the companies bank on our apathy preventing us questioning the increases or taking our business elsewhere.

Our haggling survey reveals big savings you can make

best deal

Our latest research has found plenty of reasons why it’s worth haggling, most of which start with £ symbols. We found the average saving for broadband was £163 a year, mobile phone savings were £90 a year.

Tempted to pick up the phone?

Recently, I decided to try to save on my broadband/ TV package – I was in the middle of writing an article on haggling and felt I should at least give it a go.

It was easy. That’s what struck me. On the phone, I voiced a few doubts about the value of my service, lamented the lack of deals for existing customers, and pointed out some appealing prices offered by rivals.

That was it. I was £140 better off – and unbearably smug. All it cost me was a ten-minute phone call. And a few friends, after I bored them repeatedly with the lofty tales of my great negotiating skills.

Most people still don’t haggle

Fewer than half of the people we surveyed had tried to haggle. But more than 80% of those who did haggle, saved money.

If stoically paying over the odds for a service is a national trait, I’d suggest that like colonialism, it’s one we leave in the past.

Are you happy to haggle? What tips do you have?


Encouraging haggling means that retailers inflate their prices, so that those who do not haggle will pay more. Elderly people who have lost their confidence are amongst those who do not haggle.

I would like to see Which? promoting fair prices for everyone rather than disadvantaging the less able members of our society.


Hello Wavechange. I agree that there may be some people who are intimidated by haggling. I wouldn’t confine this to the elderly either, I am sure that there are lots of folk out there who simply don’t fancy it. However, it really does pay off, literally. Through our articles we’re trying to raise awareness of the benefits of haggling, and just how easy it is. The worst thing that can happen is that the person at the other end of the phone says no. In this case, all you’ve lost is a few minutes of your time. Of course, we know from our research that those who do haggle are more often than not successful and bag themselves a better deal.

It comes down to the old adage of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’. A companies favourite customer is a quiet one, but when faced with annual rising prices and extra charges for the same basic service, we really should pick up the phone and raise our voice (albeit politely!).

We’ve got advice on which.co.uk for anyone who wants to give haggling a go, including step by step guides: http://www.which.co.uk/money/money-saving-tips/guides/haggle-to-cut-your-bills/haggling-how-to-save-more-than-400-a-year/

As for calling for ‘fair’ pricing, I would say this is something that we have doggedly tackled in the past, and continue to do so. Right now our campaign calling for fairer energy prices is in full swing. If anyone’s interested, you can read more here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/fair-energy-prices/


Hi Jack – I should have pointed out that I have done a fair amount of haggling when I was working, sometimes saving thousands of pounds on specialist equipment. I know it is easy to get discounts by haggling.

My point is simply that to allow for people haggling, companies publish inflated prices in expectation that customers will haggle. That means that those who are unable to haggle end up paying significantly higher prices. There’s less problem if they are well off but some vulnerable consumers are really struggling to make ends meet. I far prefer discount prices that are available to everyone.

I’ve supported the Which? campaign for fair energy prices since the start. The present system disadvantages vulnerable consumers who cannot afford to heat their houses properly and may be paying more than they need thanks to being on the wrong energy tariff, for whatever reason.


wavechange, it is easy to change to the “right” – better – energy tariff. That, if anything, is what needs promoting.

Ever been to, for example, a builders, plumbers or timber merchants, or electrical “wholesaler”. Trade prices for some, retail for others. Why? Discounts for buying large quantities or substantial annual spend is one reason, but it shows the difference in profits that are available to be haggled over. Belong to a Trades Union or the Civil Service for example. Discounts available. It’s that sort of a world.


I do understand and have certainly taken advantage of these discounts. My concern is primarily over goods and services that are used by those who are struggling to make ends meet, where our discount means that they have to pay more. Essentially we are exploiting the vulnerable.

I continue to support the Which? campaign for simple unit pricing.


“I continue to support the Which? campaign for simple unit pricing.” But that is not fair pricing as it does not pass actual costs on to all consumers – rich or poor, vulnerable or savvy. We have to ensure what “fair ” is before we promote it. Indiscriminate subsidy is not fair, is it?


This Conversation is about haggling. Does haggling pass actual costs on to all consumers?


I was responding to the remark made about simple unit pricing, not haggling. They are, of course, separate issues.
Perhaps we should concentrate on haggling. 🙂

TERRY says:
13 June 2015

I’ve had problems with the internet for nearly ten years. When i complain an engineer from talktalk comes round, looks at my set up, and tells me that everything is ok but the line service is very poor and I should call the line provider BT. So I call BT and they tell me that the line is ok and the fault lies with talktalk. I am fed up with this treatment and from 22 June I will be changing so that everything will be with BT and no one can blame another supplier because BT are the line provider and also they are responsible for reception of the internet. I hope that the problems that I have had for so long will eventually be cured.

I Myself says:
13 June 2015

What’s ‘British’ got to do with lazy apathy or pessimism?

I Myself says:
13 June 2015

I’d never subscribe to BT. It is notorious for appalling customer service. Telecom companies who fail to provide decent speeds, blaming the problem on BT owning the lines, should charge their customers less and lobby BT to improve the situation

Suzanna W says:
16 June 2015

Hello Terry,

I had the same problems for years, it got to the point where I couldn’t use my phone, a the line was so bad. My line rental was with BT but phone services with Sky.

Both were just unhelpful, until I had enough and rang to cut off both services, finally an engineer comes out. However BT wanted to charge, I told them if they wanted my business there would be no charge, and guess what there was a fault on the line at the exchange centre.

I would say be forceful, give them an ultimatum if that is not achieved, go else where. As I did after BT had sorted out the problem.


What we need is to be able to claim back for wasted time and calls beyond what should happen. Think about it. The supplier expects to get paid so they should do the job not some alternative. However there seems like the easier the service is to deliver the worse customer service gets.
Which should be campaigning for a claim back system to restore balance to the relationship. There are a lot of companies out there that need a good kick up the rear and they only understand one thing.


Back to haggling. It’s always been a feature of purchasing – private and business. Another term is negotiation. It won’t go away, so make the most of it. Some British need to overcome their embarrassment perhaps but once you’ve done it, and its worked, it becomes easy. The worst that can happen is the vendor says no.

Fair prices? What are they. Tell me how they are arrived at. In most cases the price quoted is what the vendor thinks the market will generally pay – so with a more unique product they can really profiteer. Try iPhones! Haggling simply meets them on their own ground and saves you money.


The number one rule of haggling is “be nice”.

A problem with a service will often get you some sort of discount, if they don’t offer then ask. It will help if you haven’t yelled at them first though.

Products that cannot be sold at their normal price because of a damaged box, a set of glasses or china with one missing that is only going in the kitchen for everyday use, odd lengths of wood at a timber merchants, there are loads of examples where the vendor is only too happy for the product to be taken off their hands.

Haven’t paid an insurance renewal price for years. They always manage to come up with a better price, it helps to know what you can get elsewhere and can save the hassle of changing insurers.


Good points, Alfa. A little bit of research can go a long way when querying your pricing with a company. Having a few competitors fees to hand can be a great way to encourage your provider to reduce the cost for you. While switching providers isn’t quite the chore it used to be, it’s a lot less work if you can get them to agree to lower your charges rather than go elsewhere!


What about those who are unable to haggle? Not everyone remains able to look after their financial affairs throughout their lives. They may have family who can help or have managed to save sufficient money to make it irrelevant that they pay full price when they lose that ability to haggle. The ones that concern me are those who don’t have much money or people to turn to for help.

It’s not necessarily a question of ability to haggle or embarrassment. I have haggled over prices when I was working. It’s standard practice outside the consumer environment.

Is it OK to secure a good deal for ourselves at the cost of putting up prices for those who cannot haggle? The more success consumers have with haggling, the higher prices will be for those who don’t.


wavechange, we won’t change a haggling world, even if we want to. So banging our heads against a brick wall will get us nowhere. Simply make the best of what we have got.


If we can get enough support, brick walls need not be a problem. 🙂


What is a fair price?
You have to be aware that the rich get richer because the poor believe in silly statements about haggling being un-British as the only way to get a fair price. It is the same silly argument made about the minimum wage leaving the taxpayer to supplement an unsustainable income for the working poor, which is really a redistribution of the wealth from the poor to the rich. People who don’t change their banks or energy suppliers are treated with contempt and exploited because of their implicit belief in a fair world.
Denmark is the happiest country in the world while its GDP is one of the highest with a VAT rate of 25%. It also has the lowest income equality in the world and the highest employment rate of 75%. All this is achieved whilst having the least corruption level and a national commitment to the tenets of democracy.


I think the claim should be lowest income INEQUALITY. The UK seems substantially worse in this area. Certainly it is lower than many countries and there is a tradition of transparency alien to the UK.



If I were running a business I would definitely haggle if my profit margins depended upon it or if I were contemplating a large purchase such as buying a house or a car I would certainly haggle. For ordinary every day purchases I wouldn’t want to be bothered for the sake of a few pence.

If UK VAT increased to 25% as in Denmark (heaven forbid!) I could change my mind.


Jack – Are you suggesting that we should be haggling over what we subscribers pay Which?

I know that is is the most expensive Consumer group I can find in the World and I am paying nearly £100 per month and then with the Legal Advice it is about £130 a year. I have cancelled my Travel subscription.

ComsumerReports in the US costs me $30 a year for on-line access. And I get the Consumerist for free. The French Que Choisir AFAIR is around £50 and includes membership of the local group and four free consultation with local solicitors. In Australia Choice on-line is less than £50.

I have tried to reduce the amount I pay but I am also a Ordinary Member/Shareholder in the Consumer Associaition that owns Which? so probably means my attempts to pay less have easily been rebuffed as I am marked as an idealist..


dieseltaylor, how come you pay so much? I have Which?, Money and Travel, for £24.75 a qtr, and Legal plus Online for £7.75 a month. £192 a year. You pay £1330?


: ) Its why I take it so seriously.

Ok it was a typo. So you are responsible for five of the 1.4 million subscriptions. I am merely two subscriptions.

The fact remains Which? is the most expensive consumer organisation to subscribe to. Though to be fair we also have the most expensive executives at £330,000 for the CEO and £250,000 for his deputy. And we put aside over £1m last year towards the potential bonus of £2.5m for the top four executives. The three year LTIP ends June 30th.


Perhaps some of this money should be invested in providing staff to answer a few more questions raised by these Conversations. What is the point in having a Conversation where there is no more input than that in the introduction?


Hi Diesel, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I just thought it would be worth briefly explaining our membership prices for the benefit of everyone. We offer a range of different subscriptions and we work hard to ensure that every membership offers a strong level of service and support. We’re always working to add new and useful services to give our members better value, including the Which? Money Helpline, a mobile app for our reviews and a tablet version of the main mag.

As a not-for-profit social enterprise without any public funding or donations, our success is entirely dependent on commercial growth. And the money we get from our commercial ventures goes back into funding our campaigns and free advice for all. You might be interested to hear that over the last 10 years this growth has allowed our charitable arm to increase its spending six-fold to £10m a year. This has enabled us to really ramp up our campaigning efforts, such as our splash for our Dentistry campaign today.

Our Long Term Incentive Plan helps us retain key commercial staff to support our growth. No payments will be made unless independent valuation experts assess there to have been exceptional growth in our commercial businesses.

Thanks very much. If you ever have any questions about your membership, don’t hesitate to call our member services team: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/contact-us/

Just quickly for Wavechange – we’re working to improve this and hopefully you’ve started to see more replies from Which? peeps recently.


Patrick – I have noticed recent improvements, especially in answering simple questions posed by new contributors. I’m particularly keen to know if Which? plans to take issues forward, possibly helped by suggestions made by contributors. That’s what I want to haggle about – in the right place of course. 🙂


Patrck, I am a fan of straightforward information. I’m sorry but this sounds like a marketing response or, worse, the sort of language a politician might use. 🙁

I would like Which? to concentrate on UK consumer problems and devote their resources to those, but without spreading their net too widely. My impression is a lot of jobs are tacked but only part-done. We still have illegal imports of dangerous products hosted by Amazon, Sony Xperia problems just drag on, you seem not to tackle the application of consumer law (SoGA) in a way that is helpful to consumers.

And yet you set up an ill-fated venture in India (why, oh why?) that has lost substantial money – shown in the accounts as £1.9m, Which? Mortgage Advisors in the last accounts showed a deficit of £5.8m and other ventures (maybe linked to India?) of Yellowfin Holdings Ltd (Mauritius) – who they?- and Which International – ? – with a combined deficit of £15m. I am not good at reading accounts – I confess – but it does seem that here are some poor decisions and management that cost substantial money.

Do we really need to set up companies to deal with mortgages, annuities (now wound up), will it be personal independent financial advice next? Why not, like trusted traders, simply identify good companies to go to without risking investing your members subscriptions in speculative ventures? Perhaps this is all driven by the bonus terms – to increase business turnover. What about increasing the current effectiveness of Which? as a requirement instead?

I don’t suppose that personal remuneration was reduced for these failures. So salary plus bonus is a one-way ticket?

I am not always this moodyl, but when many in these conversations look cynically at the activities of commercial organisations and the rewards for their upper staff I just wonder whether we should see this any differently?

Perhaps you could enlighten us?

Gripe over. Mrs r just made a cuppa, then I’m back to cutting the lawn. :mrgreen:


Diatribe errors – PaTrick, tackled (not tacked), and I mean to refer to your post (wavechange slipped his in between). Tea now poured out.



A little known, and little used, forum for subscribers started last November by Which? in response to very strong appeals for a forum to communicate more about governance etc, and what Which? does.


dieseltaylor, it is little used and I find it difficult to navigate round so tend not to use it. A pity, because there are always replies from Which? to comments made. I should try harder!