Want better holiday deals? Try haggling

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The FINANCIAL — Shoppers may want to put some haggling into their holiday shopping this season.

Negotiating prices isn’t a very American way of retail shopping, which experts say is a shame given that it’s more often effective than not. While only about half of consumers surveyed by Consumer Reports said they haggled prices with retailers or service providers, 87 percent of those who did negotiate were successful, according to CBS Interactive.

Picking up the habit this holiday season may result in extra savings, especially after Black Friday sales disappointed some retailers because that may make them more willing to cut a deal. One of the biggest hurdles for American shoppers may be getting over a reluctance to ask for a better price, especially because consumers may be afraid of coming across as rude or cheap, said Nerdwallet financial expert Farnoosh Torabi.

“The holidays are actually a prime time to haggle, especially this year. Retail sales have been down in some cases, so stores may be more open to negotiating or beating competitors’ prices,” Torabi said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “Haggling — or negotiating — can be very effective. It can earn you discounts or freebies. On big-ticket purchases like cars, furniture and electronics, haggling can lead to significant savings.”

Some stores have policies about meeting competitors’ prices, according to Ultimate Coupons. Nordstrom (JWN), for instance, has an unwritten policy of meeting rival stores’ prices, which some other big department stores, such as Macy’s (M) and its Bloomingdale’s unit, also have, according to NerdWallet.

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Here are six rules of thumb for would-be hagglers.

Try mom-and-pop stores, but don’t skip big retailers. Smaller shops may be more open to negotiating because they can be more flexible on pricing, especially if the shopkeeper is the manager. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the bigger retailers, Torabi said. “I’ve managed to convince sales associates at Best Buy (BBY) and Macy’s to lower prices on big-ticket items like TVs and jewelry by spending time on the sales floor, asking questions and letting them know that I want to save money,” she said.

Remind retailers that you’re a loyal customer. They may be more willing to cut you a deal if you let them know you often shop there. Rewarding loyalty may be seen as a cost of doing business for the retailer, which wants you to keep coming back.

Do your research. Torabi recommends using apps such as ShopSavvy or RedLaser to search for lower prices at competing stores. “If you find a lower price, show that to the retailer. It may encourage them to either match or beat the price,” she noted.

Use an open-ended price question. Instead of asking for a specific price or discount, ask the retailer if they would be able to help you out with a lower price. Torabi said asking for specific prices make it easy for a retailer to say “no.” Instead, keep it open-ended as a way to encourage a discussion on price.

Cash talks. “Offering to pay with paper instead of plastic eliminates transaction fees sellers are required to pay to credit card companies. This works especially well at small mom and pops,” Torabi noted.

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Be willing to walk out the door. Don’t get too attached to the product or the store, Torabi said. “It’s expensive for stores to attract new customers, so they’re often willing to work hard to retain their existing ones,” she said. “But consumers who don’t think they’re getting a good deal should go elsewhere and try to negotiate a better bargain.”


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