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Your view: haggling in John Lewis

Woman going into John Lewis

Bartering is a skill more and more of you seem to be experimenting with. In our haggling debate, the discussion turned to John Lewis. Can you barter in John Lewis, and should you want to?

Gordy bit the bullet and gave haggling a go:

‘Having heard a young mum and her advice on haggling, I gave it a go in a shoe shop – my wife and daughter retreated in embarrassment. “I really like these and they’re just what I’m looking for, they feel great, don’t suppose you could do something about the price, could you?”

‘The salesman returned a few seconds later – “I could knock a tenner off the price”. I screwed my face a little – “oh, £15 then how’s that?” I left in new shoes with a smile on my face… my wife and daughter left (still embarrassed) but in shock!

‘If they say no, leave, but you may only make it to the door when you are approached with a better offer.’

Figgerty brought the debate round to John Lewis:

‘Has anybody haggled and succeeded in getting a significant discount in John Lewis. I tried in a John Lewis store and was told they had no authority to reduce the price. I asked to speak to the salesperson’s manager and was told they were at lunch and that they also could not reduce the price. I made no excuses, just left. Does haggling succeed in a John Lewis store?’

John had some luck in John Lewis, living up to its ‘Never knowingly undersold’ policy:

‘I recently bought a new dishwasher from John Lewis. The salesman totted up the price including disposal of the old machine and delivery to give a total of £410. When I pointed out that their website offered this for £349, they went into a huddle and waved bits of paper around and finally (one hour later!) agreed that they would supply at the lower price. As I am retired, the time taken was not important to me, but I reckon that £60 saving is worth the time spent.’

John shows that it’s good to keep retailers on their toes, even in John Lewis. However, commenter ‘Lower de cost’ didn’t have such luck:

‘I tried haggling in Sheffield’s branch of John Lewis with no joy. I wanted to purchase two Samsung smart TVs, total value over £2.4k at the time. I even spoke to the floor manager, with no success. They lost my trade for the sake of 1 or 2% discount, or an extended warranty.

‘Walking out of the store is the best method of telling them the customer is always right.’

Robert, who gets our Comment of the Week, argues that haggling is ‘OK up to a point’:

‘You also have to consider value for money too. I buy electronics from a hi-fi shop and white goods from John Lewis, and on the odd occasion I have needed after-sales to fix something they have, without a problem.

‘I have no confidence in certain other retailers; they’d probably decline after a few weeks use, unless you had their three-year extended warranty. I do not haggle with the shops I value, as they do not haggle about service.’

Are you a haggler? Or do you stick to the brands you value and pay them in full price?


The only haggling attempt I would make with John Lewis would be to persuade them to price-match an online-only retailer. Their “never knowingly undersold” policy applies only to retailers with physical shops, but I imagine that with a little persuasion or haggling, they would extend this on a one-off basis to online-only retailers, resulting in the peace of mind of buying from John Lewis (free extended warranties etc and excellent customer service) but the price of an internet retailer.

To be fair John Lewis do pay tax in the UK unlike a well-known on-line store which I dare not mention otherwise this post will be not be approved

Those who are haggling are putting up the price of goods for those who pay the advertised price.

But many are selfish and don’t consider anyone other than themselves and their families.

It’s not often I disagree with you, but the same could be said of many things. For example, those who pay by debit card subsidise those who pay by credit card. I always pay by credit card so that I pay no more than 99% of the price (taking 1% cashback or greater incentives into account), whereas those paying by debit card pay 100%.

Why shouldn’t those who invest the time in haggling pay less? If other customers are less price-sensitive, then they can pay more. Haggling represents the best of a free market and it is fair and reasonable.

NFH – I think you are being slightly optimistic as to your effects on the retailer. Because you pay by credit card the retailer is paying the card company anywhere up to 5% for the pleasure of your business. If you paid him by debit card the retailer may pay 35p for the transaction.

Who is the chief beneficiary? The card companies. You may say that they provide a form of insurance on your purchase – aswell they might given the huge rake off they take from traders and the ability to charge-back to the retailer. I see it more as a tax for doing business on vendors created by financial companies and consumers.

Perhaps Which? could kindly confirm whether businesses who take credit cards are forbidden under their contract from providing/advertising cheaper prices to those who pay by cash or debit card.

I am quite surprised sometimes by consumers dislike of Banks but there eagerness to support the bank owned corporations that provide card services and truly expensive store cards.

Perhaps Which? could kindly confirm whether businesses who take credit cards are forbidden under their contract from providing/advertising cheaper prices to those who pay by cash or debit card” – Such a prohibition was made unlawful by the Credit Cards (Price Discrimination) Order 1990. However, the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012 have since limited any difference in price based on means of payment to the difference in cost to the trader.

NFH – It is standard business practice to negotiate on prices, but we are discussing individuals making purchases for themselves. Not everyone is up to haggling and many people lose confidence as they get older. I don’t see why they should subsidise those who are good at haggling.

You are absolutely right over the issue of card payments, and I have no problem with credit card surcharges providing that they reflect the actual cost to the retailer. With small companies I tend to ask how they would like paid, and some do prefer a debit card, cash or cheque, simply because of the cost of taking payment by credit card.

Why should the seller have to be the price maker and the buyer have to be the price taker? In a free market, anyone should be able to set a price at which they are willing to buy or to sell. This principle applies irrespective of the market in which the goods or services are being traded.

Well, we will just have to agree to differ on this, even if there are many things we agree on. Perhaps if I had worked in business I might have seen things from your point of view.

I had just hoped for a little compassion for those in their dotage who are neither able to haggle or to make ends meet.

We have to live in the world as it is, not an idealised one. The view that because one group chooses not to haggle (through inability or apathy) and does not benefit then means that no-one should try and benefit seems to me quite odd. Most haggle at some point – or perhaps, better, negotiate – throughout life – wages and salaries, buying and selling a car or house, selling or buying something secondhand. Shopping around for the best deal is a form of haggling with less pain if you’re shy.
It is standard practice to haggle, or negotiate, in business. A skill that needs learning but then is useful in private life. Why should the two be different?
As for John Lewis, I have negotiated on sales goods and got better deals, and I’ve used “never knowingly undersold” several times successfully. I have never tried reducing the normal cost in store but did have a friend who wanted a bed costing £3020 and said he’d take it if they rounded it off to £3000. No joy, so on principle he went elsewhere.

Increasingly, the ‘real world’ is one with a large elderly population and others who are not in a position to haggle. As I have said, the hagglers’ bargains mean higher prices for others.

I’m going to have to go to three funerals in the next week or so. Two of the deceased have not been in a position to haggle for years.

When I learned that the difference between cash or a debit card payment was the retailer losing money in fees simply for my convenience I made sure that I only used my card if it was a large store or a large purchase. I never paid for anything with credit cards and warn people paying me on eBay that it costs me more and I only get 2 free transactions per year.

We are not allowed to pass Paypal and sales fee costs on to our customers according to eBays rules, but I usually do anyway. If you are selling an item for just 99p you will end up with approx £0.49 – £0.55p in the hand at best. There’s no way I’m gonna absorb transaction costs with margins as close as that.

In case of credit cards costs being passed on to the retailer in stores, any good business owner would in turn pass these on to their customers, spread across all prices in the store. I don’t know how much they end up paying in fees, but it may take only a few pence increase in prices to cover the charges on credit card payments. Where the store is smaller and they have to be competitive with prices, they may not have such margins to work within, so I try to pay them in cash.

I appreciate your comments about haggling at John Lewis, I tried at Bluewater on a Smart TV to no avail, problem is a lot of their stock is ” exclusive ” to them, hence the “ABC123” sold in mainstream outlets comes from them as the “ABC124” with one feature missing or added so you can’t get a direct comparison. Hence their “never knowingly undersold” is fairly cast iron.

Andy says:
7 December 2013

My experience with John Lewis dates back some five years ago when my wife and I purchased a Miele washing machine. The in store price was £999 (YES £1k), however the sales assistant price matched with a high street competitor at £843. Still expensive for a washing machine I know, but its not let us down yet and we have two young children so its busy! You shouldn’t be embarrassed to request a price match as you are only asking the store to be competitive.

renniemac says:
9 December 2013

I wasn’t lucky haggling in John Lewis, but I did get a free 14inch HD tv and wall brackets thrown in by Curry’s on a £3,000 HD Tv. I was happy with that. you don’t get if you don’t ask.