/ Money, Shopping

I was a haggling sceptic – now I’m a convert

Asking for a discount in a shop is embarrassing, and there’s no chance they’re going to listen to you. At least, that’s what I thought – until I gave haggling a try and got a £60 discount on a £430 camera.

As part of our article on the best and worst high street shops, we wanted to know whether a cheap online price can help you save money on the high street.

So, I hit the shops armed only with a print-out of Amazon’s price for a camera and a willingness to haggle.

And by ‘willing’ I really mean ‘willing to give it a try’. Having never haggled before, I was sceptical about my chances of success and expected to be laughed out of at least a couple of shops.

Name your price

But those doubts quickly disappeared as the first shop which stocked the camera offered me a £20 discount without batting an eyelid.

Better was to come as another shop offered to sell me the camera for £370, despite the price on the ticket being £430. No-one was able to match Amazon’s £350 price – though one shop was already selling it for less – but every independent was willing to give me a discount.

Several of them seemed to be expecting me to haggle. Most of the independent shops didn’t have a price displayed for the camera, and more than once when I asked how much it was they answered by asking, ‘How much do you want it for?’

I had less success at chain stores, though one Comet staff member I spoke to did say that if I came back on the day willing to buy the camera, he would ask his manager if a discount was possible and suggested he might be able to meet me halfway between the Comet ticket price (£380) and the Amazon price.

No rudeness – just resignation

Once I’d haggled in a few shops, I stopped worrying about whether I’d be greeted with laughter or rudeness. The most common response from staff was a weary resignation about the fact they couldn’t match Amazon’s prices.

My success wasn’t a fluke. Our research shows that almost two-thirds of people who’ve asked a shop if they can match an online price have been successful, saving an average of £52.

So if you prefer to buy on the high street, it’s certainly worth giving haggling a try, especially if you’re shopping at an independent store – though high street shops are always going to find it difficult to match or beat the low prices you can find online.

My top haggling tips

  • Some shops will try to give you ‘free’ accessories instead of a discount, so decide before you go in whether you would want these or not.
  • You’re likely to get the best deal if you’re buying on the day and offering cash may help too.
  • Be wary of dubious claims from silver-tongued shop assistants. Several shops claimed that if I bought the camera from them it would be of a higher build quality than if I bought the same model on Amazon.

What are your tips for successful haggling? Or if you’re still not convinced haggling’s for you, tell us why you’re sceptical.


I want to see fixed prices, making it easy to compare prices offered by different retailers. No haggling thanks.

In the past there was something called “Retail Price Maintenance”. This killed competition. I don’t want to return to that.

I wonder how many people would feel the same way? No price competition? A recipe for disaster in my book. Perhaps Which? could do a survey.

I don’t want to be in the queue when you are haggling over the price of a loaf of bread. 🙂

Haggling is always good, if I hadn’t haggled, I wouldn’t have got £10k off and loads of extras on my house, £900 off my Mini.

My girlfriend always pays the advertised price, she has to leave the room when I get going. For basic stuff no, but things that cost a lot, you should always haggle.

So, tips –

1- Always offer well below what you want to pay, almost insult them with a price you are willing to pay.
2- Do your research and say things like “well I could get one of those at xxx for xxx”
3- Never feel like you are being rude, it’s called negotiating.
4- Try and find imperfections, on cars, you can always find something wrong
5- Go to Shanghai and try it out in the Fake market (long trek I know) but they will chase you down the street trying to sell you stuff. You say OK, You’re trying to sell it for 100 yuan, I’ll pay 10… You then have really amusing exchanges in broken English before eventually you pay pretty much what you want. I paid 7yuan for some rayban sunglasses they were trying to sell for 100 yuan, needless to say they fell apart the moment I put them in my bag 🙂

IrvSwerve says:
21 May 2012

The thing to remember is that High Street stores have
mark-ups of 2-300% so that a price reduction of 50%
still leaves them them with a gross profit margine
of up to 50%.
Happy Haggling!
PS What planet is your first entrant coming from?

PS What planet is your first entrant coming from?

My planet is called civilisation. 🙂

The key to getting over the “embarrassment” of haggling is to start by recognising the nature of any trade. It requires each party to want and value what the other party has, more than what they have themselves. You enter into any trade as equals, but it is the professional’s job to wrong-foot you, so they always get the better part of the deal.

You want that shiny new car in the showroom more than you want the money sitting in your bank account. The salesman wants your money, more than he/she wants the car. In fact, in spite of what you might be told about supply shortages and order backlogs, he probably has several more identical cars festering on a piece of waste ground, running up interest charges, just waiting to take the place of the car in the showroom.

However, it’s far less likely that you will have a surplus of cash waiting for room in your bank account! So I think it is only fair (and civilized) that the salesman is not too greedy, as you are the one with the commodity that’s in short supply, not the other way around.

My top tip for those new to haggling is to first practice making offers that any sensible trader would be stupid to refuse. If they still say “no”, they really don’t deserve your custom – move on until you find someone that does.

I might not get the best deal but phoning for some quotations and asking what garages are selling at a discount seems to work reasonably well, or so I am told. I save money by keeping cars for for years and my present one is nearly ten years old. I did ask for a full tank of diesel and 12 months VED (instead of 6 months) but I do not regard that as haggling. A friend who knows about cars said that I paid a good price.

I never did understand why anyone should want to replace their car every few years, unless their requirements have changed. Seems like a pointless waste of money to me.

I have haggled down prices for years at a motorcycle clothing shop called Hein Gericke. Easily every time.
I got nine months free internet last year by playing off one ISP aginst the next, and more recently got a very good deal for my new phone when 02 matched a short lived offer from Tesco [done face to face in store]
I asked in PC World for a discount on a laptop – they said no – I walked out. Simples !

jollyhs says:
22 May 2012

it is always worth asking, it really doesn’t hurt. I will choose my moment based on the type of shop (e.g. I wouldn’t bother trying in Tesco) – definately worth it in trade type shops. recent example was Brewers when getting some fairly expensive paint, I simply asked whether they could do anything on the price and they immediately took 15% off.

My wife is not such a fan and gets embarrased of me asking but it really doesn’t phase me – why pay full price in a competative market.

I tried to haggle at comet for a new electric cooker but they would not come down on the price when i said i could get the same model cheaper somewhere else the salesman asked where and i told him dixons or john lewis, he just shrugged and said Dixons was an online store, i thought as they do what everhappens they were all the same company along with currys and pc world he said No. So i said ok thanks and left, so one store did not get my money, won’t go there again.

Sally says:
26 May 2012

I have been haggling for years. My husband used to walk away as he was embarrassed but once he realised I was getting a discount, occassionally “goodies” he was very happy. Before the internet I used to just smile and say what’s the lowest price they could offer if none then I would say ok thanks and walk away and say I was going to the next shop and they would then offer a lower price but I usually was offered a discount straight away. Haven’t done it recently as I usually hunt down best bargains on the internet. Good luck all

There is not much support for my suggestion of fixed prices, making it easy to compare prices offered by different retailers.

Maybe we should go back to bartering. Could I pay for this holiday with two cows, three sheep, a bushel of grain and a Blackberry?

I find it depends on where you are. Usually in a branch of a multiple you have much less chance since prices are fixed on computer systems which appear ‘non negotiable’ and staff have no control. The sale will only proceed through the check out at the ticket posted price.

what profit on car tyres? One quoted £120 a tyre plus balance and fitting. Aother I tried quoted £110 balanced and fitted, another just under £100 again balanced and fitted. ( I wan ted all four tyres by the way) I returned to the original Tyre supplier with the quotes and????? £90- balanced and fitted. Thats £120 per tyre plus, to £90 all in. I wont name names. No damit it was ATS, Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead

I always ring round for tyre prices. I agree they vary greatly. Recently I was quoted from £133 to £188 for exactly the same tyre. My sons buy theirs online, like BlackCircles and have them delivered to their registered tyre fitter – usually one of the normal tyre fitter/suppliers. Cheaper still.

Like a lot of other purchases – white goods, insurance, and so on it pays to shop around. They even buy their own oil and take it to their service garage for an oil change – the dealer doesn’t mind and they save the seemingly hefty mark up put on engine oil.

I would like a couple of new tyres before winter and will phone up two local dealers to compare prices. It’s a while since I have bought tyres but prices have always been much the same, and much cheaper than the car dealer. I don’t haggle but do make a point of asking for a price for two (or four) tyres.

For years I have changed oil by putting a tube down the dipstick hole and pumping it out with an electric pump. With some cars this might not get all the oil out, but it works for me. I buy oil, filters and other parts at a sensible price from a motor factor.

wavechange, I’d suggest you ring round, say, 4 tyre outlets before you decide. You’ll often find a local dealer will “price match” if an inconvenient source gives the best price. Our local Formula 1 gives decent prices.

Watch out for tracking. They’ll check for free but may charge £30 + vat to adjust it. Look at your tyres to see if they have worn unevenly. If not its likely your tracking is fine.

It’s a hard world and it’s your money. Worth seeking the best deal.

What I usually do is get prices for the same brand and type of tyres already fitted and two or three alternatives. Not knowing much about tyres, I have a look at Which? reports. I know my tyres are a popular size, which was one thing I checked before I bought the car. I learned my lesson when I once bought a car with that had an uncommon size of tyre, which was not readily available and consequently expensive. Depending on what I find, I may phone around various suppliers.

The present (original) front tyres have covered 27.5k miles and from the TWIs look to have 2.5 or 3mm tread left, with no indication of tracking problems. That’s the best I’ve achieved on any car to date.

I prefer to save money by keeping cars for a long time and combining journeys to save mileage to chasing round to find the lowest possible prices for tyres etc.

I buy tyres from Black Circles, Eco Tyres, or camskill. I can fit them as I held onto our oldest and most worthless walk around machine and an old balancer but I know others who buy from Black Circles and have them sent to a local tyre shed where you get them fitted at Black Circle price
You’ll get on okay with the pipe down the dipstick tube and especially if the oil is well heated first.
Your local factors will be the place to go. There’s nothing to beat a bit of diy. At least you know it is done