Haggling Picks Up Steam During Recession With household budgets as tight as ever, haggling is increasingly popular these days. Customers are contesting the price they pay at gas stations, chain stores and other places you might not think to negotiate. The key, says one pro, is always ask for a discount. If you don't ask, forget getting a deal.
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Haggling Picks Up Steam During Recession

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Haggling Picks Up Steam During Recession

Haggling Picks Up Steam During Recession

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Flash trading is one way to get the best price, but if you don't own a super fast computer our next story offers another way. In this recession, it seems more shoppers are haggling at stores.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this story.

(Soundbite of beeping of electronic devices)

YUKI NOGUCHI: Leah Ingram and I are at Roger's Electronics store in Flemington, New Jersey. Specifically, we're standing in front of a stainless steel, double-door refrigerator that's marked clearance. Ingram claims not to be impressed.

Ms. LEAH INGRAM (Author and Speaker): A thousand bucks. I was at Sears the other day and I saw a refrigerator that's like, twice that size, that was the same price. So, you know, even though this seems like a good price, it's like I could do better somewhere else. But, we'll see what we can do.

NOGUCHI: And it's game on. And as if on cue, store manager Harry Pursell walks over.

Ms. INGRAM: Is this on clearance because this is a floor model that you're selling?

Mr. HARRY PURSELL (Store Manager): Yes it is.

Ms. INGRAM: If I was able to get a truck today and take this out, what could you do for me as far as the price?

Mr. PURSELL: The price is where it's at, what you see.

Ms. INGRAM: There's no wiggle room, whatsoever?

Mr. PURSELL: No wiggle room whatsoever.

NOGUCHI: To me, this sounds like a set back. The opposing team's defense seems strong. But Ingram, who even finagles 10 percent off at the dentist, remains undeterred. Pressing Pursell harder, she learns about a tent sale going on outside.

While Ingram wanders off in search of better bargains, Pursell says he's not new to haggling. Within the last eight months, he says the number of people who might have never have questioned the sticker price now ask him for what Ingram calls wiggle room.

So, what percent of customers would you say are actually negotiating with you now?

Mr. PURSELL: I would say probably 40 percent, at least.

NOGUCHI: And about a year ago, where was that?

Mr. PURSELL: Probably about 10 percent.

NOGUCHI: Do you haggle yourself when you're a customer?

Mr. PURSELL: Yes, I do. That's just in my blood. If I go out and purchase, I will haggle with whoever I'm purchasing off of.

NOGUCHI: Now, I'll admit I'm a lame haggler. I feel powerless and also afraid to embarrass myself. Often, I'm not even aware there's any other price than the one on the label. So, I consulted Michael Soon Lee before shopping with Ingram. He's the author of a book called "Black Belt Negotiating." He immediately puts me to shame saying things like this:

Mr. MICHAEL SOON LEE (Author, "Black Belt Negotiating"): I save over $2,500 dollars a year, just on going out to dinner.

NOGUCHI: Lee talks his way into frequent buyer discounts in places most people couldn't imagine haggling — at gas stations, dry cleaners and at restaurants, he strikes deals where he gets money back for every $100 he spends. At other places, he might guarantee a certain amount of business, or shop on their slowest days. And he negotiates this apparently with Zen-like composure.

Mr. LEE: Before you ever go into the ring, you can't be afraid. Because if you are, you've already lost. And you've got to recognize, in haggling, there's really nothing to lose. If you don't ask for a discount, the answer is already no.

NOGUCHI: You tell a vendor what you're worth to them, he says, and then you ask what they can do for you. Then there's the hard part: you sit and wait.

Mr. LEE: The next person who speaks — loses.

NOGUCHI: Back at the tent sale at Roger's, Ingram has hit pay dirt.

Ms. INGRAM: Seven hundred dollars? How could you get a side by side, stainless steel refrigerator for $700?

NOGUCHI: She's looking flushed, elated. But without betraying her excitement, she still tries to negotiate the $75 delivery fee. Ingram fails on that count but gets Pursell's card because she plans to come back and parlay her refrigerator purchase into a possible package discount when she's ready to buy a microwave and stove.

As we wait for her payment to process, Ingram reminisces about victories past. Like the time she and her husband offered half the $2,000 price for two leather chairs at a discount store called The Dump.

Ms. INGRAM: And they said no. So, we said alright, you know what we're going to do? We're going to sit here. And it's like we had a sit in at The Dump. And we did not move from those chairs. And, you know, the sales guy kept walking back and forth, and finally he was like, okay, how's $1,200? We're like, great. Sold.

NOGUCHI: After leaving the store, we hit the sandwich shop next door and, without even thinking, I whip out my credit card and pay full price.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.

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