/ 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. 🙂

Em says:
21 May 2012

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.