I remember my first experience of haggling well. It wasn’t actually me doing the haggling, but my formidable little Italian mother. She marched into a major white goods retailer and proceeded to negotiate animatedly with the salesman. Me, a dreadfully embarrassed 14-year-old, looked on in a mixture of amazement and horror.
Recent research from price comparison website MoneySuperMarket has found that us Brits are nervous about haggling. Two in five people say they wouldn’t haggle at all. Nearly half (44%) are simply too embarrassed, while one in five (21%) thinks it’s too cheeky or rude to do so. Bizarrely, one quarter (25%) say they don’t have the ‘skills’ to haggle.
You don’t need to be a Cockney wide boy to do it, but you would be really surprised by the number of different ways you can save money by a bit of haggling. Having watched and learnt from my Mediterranean mum, it is something I have put to good practice. But I have also learnt there is more to it than just stomping in and demanding a lower price.
Most recently, I was on the lookout for a new phone deal. The latest handset had come out and I was determined to get a good deal on a contract. So I consulted my good friend Google and found a selection of online prices from various providers. This is an important first step because often in-store salespeople will work to a commission and are willing to meet your demands to get the sale. If you’ve got the online price in mind, tell them and see if they can beat or (at least) match it.
I quoted the salesperson the deal I had seen and they immediately agreed to match a 20% discount on the contract and no upfront cost for the phone. Over the course of a two-year contract, five minutes on the internet and one question asked in the shop will save me upwards of £300. It really was that easy.
The MoneySuperMarket findings also revealed that only one in five (20%) of homeowners haggled over the price of the house they bought. This is the biggest thing you’ll ever buy in your life, and it is well known that sellers will have a price range in mind. It’s in the interest of the estate agent to push you to the higher end of that range, so if you don’t ask, you’ll pay too much.
Haggling doesn’t just have to be about cash value either. Going back to my mum, she walked away that day with a new washer and a free insurance policy. The salesperson was keen enough to shift some goods that he’d throw in a guarantee that if it broke, they’d fix it.
Speaking of insurance, this is a marketplace that’s ripe for haggling. Insurers have a bad habit of punishing loyalty. Last year, when my home insurance policy was up for renewal my premium quote was 50% higher than the year before, despite my circumstances being exactly the same. After shopping around, I gave the insurer a call, and it lowered its quote substantially. Ultimately, these companies would rather have 100% of something than 150% of nothing.
I also managed to haggle down my travel insurance. My pension provider sends me periodic ‘offers’ for other products. On this occasion, it offered me a free one-year European travel insurance policy for being such a loyal pension customer. Now, I had two holidays planned this year. One to Colorado, USA and one to Cape Town, South Africa. So I gave the provider a ring and said: “Sorry, I don’t need European travel insurance, but what about worldwide cover, excluding Europe?” I had checked how much this type of cover cost (around £50) online, so when the nice lady on the phone suggest I pay £20, I took her up without hesitation!
There are some important pointers to remember when it comes to haggling, though. Don’t be pushy or aggressive. A smile and friendliness are much more disarming. Do your research. If you go into buying something with no benchmark of value, you won’t get what you want. And be prepared to walk away. If the salesperson isn’t interested in negotiating, often a competing business will be.