NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Nearly half of consumers are missing big discounts on everyday purchases, and they don't need a coupon, membership or smartphone app to save hundreds of dollars. They simply need to employ a time-tested shopping technique that has worked for centuries: haggling.
Less than half (48%) of 2000 Americans surveyed by Consumer Reports attempted to negotiate a better price on the purchase of everyday goods and services during the past three years, down from 61% in 2007. Shoppers that did received a discount at least once during that period.
"Don't expect your doctor, bank or local appliance store to cut you a break simply because you have a nice face and smile," says Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports. "It takes moxie and self-confidence. Having the guts to ask for a discount can result in hundreds of dollars in savings."
That's the thing. Many people are simply too shy to ask for a price break. In fact, 35% of respondents said they won't haggle at all. And even though sexes are equally effective in earning discounts, men are more likely to beg a bargain than women -- 20% of women said that it makes them feel uncomfortable. Younger consumers aged 18 to 29 tend to enjoy trying to strike a deal more than those over 60, who are put off by dickering for a discount.
The biggest money savings from a brisk round of negotiation is awarded to shoppers of collectibles or antiques, furniture and appliances, according to the survey. Schmoozing with a salesperson for the perfect price on collectibles and antiques saved shoppers an average of $100. Angling for a discount on appliances saved an average of $200 and consumers who haggled over furniture or questioned a health-related charge saved an average of $300.
Even working to strike a deal on a cell-phone plan pocketed an average savings of $80.
Haggling is more art than science: turning on the charm and resisting the urge to muscle a discount works best. Consumer Reports offers these six tips to savings success:
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet
- 1. Give sellers a reason to negotiate. If you're a loyal customer, remind the sales person or service provider. In a world of fickle consumers, repeat business is gold.
- 2. Ask open-ended questions. Keep the conversation moving by avoiding questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Rather than asking for a specific price break or percentage discount, ask what they are willing to offer.
- 3. Decide on a fair price. With a little research, know what a good deal would be, and bring proof with prices from competitors. 57% of survey respondents told the salesperson they'd check competitors' prices. Also ask about a refund of the difference if there's a discount on the product or service within a reasonable period of time after your purchase. And if the price negotiation is just not working out, see if you can get free shipping, delivery or installation.
- 4. Seek a discount for cash. Offering to pay with paper instead of plastic eliminates transaction fees sellers are required to pay to credit-card companies.
- 5. Find flaws. Retailers are likely to offer discounts on products with cosmetic blemishes or slight defects. This works best with independent and private-label products, because many sellers can't return flawed products to their makers for credit.
- 6. Be willing to walk away. If the price is not right, take a hike.