Haggling in Northfield: the good, the bad, the ugly

Last week’s Strib had an article on retail haggling titled Pay Dirt: It never hurts to ask.

haggle The next time you’re out shopping and want to pay less for an item, go ahead and ask. There’s a fair chance you’ll get lucky.

As the economy has gone downhill, it’s no surprise that consumers are asking for discounts on everything from appliances to credit-card fees. But what’s interesting: A recent survey found that it usually works.

Which Northfield area retailers are willing to haggle? What’s been your experience – good, bad, ugly – as a shopper? As a retailer?


  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    interesting article Griff. A lot of this is the walmart mentality of everything cheaper all the time. what’s in it for me. People often haggle with me. some people are down right rude and just looking for a deal. Others just want a fair price. guess who wins? I take the Saturn route and try to offer my customers the best deal I can while not giving away the store.

    the best approach is one that is mutually beneficial handled in a civil manor. building a relationship with the store and employees will get you further. After all, if you like the place, you want them to succeed, right?

    July 6, 2009
  2. Tracy Davis said:

    I think there should be a bit more bargaining in American society…it can be one of life’s small pleasures. However, there’s an art to doing it well, without being offensive. I’ve had the best luck in doing it with people who either come from or have lived in other cultures… I’ve had great luck with cab drivers!

    I have mixed feelings about doing it in Northfield, though. (Jerry, have I ever tried it on you? I don’t remember.) Our indie retailers can use all the support they can get, although I’m not averse to asking for a sale price a day or two after a sale ends, or something like that.

    I tried asking for a “cash discount” on some labwork at Allina today. They couldn’t help me out with that. 🙁

    July 7, 2009
  3. Patrick Enders said:

    I’ll leave the haggling to wheelers-and-dealers like you, Griff and Tracy. I hate hate hate HATE it.

    If the price is acceptable to me, I’ll buy it. If not, I won’t.

    If I suspect that the price is inflated in order to anticipate haggling, I try to stay as far away as possible. This may be why I’ve never bought a car from anyone except a family member.

    July 7, 2009
  4. Robbie Wigley said:

    Griff… a wheeler-dealer? He is all talk… I used to have to take things back for him when they didn’t work… he wouldn’t do it! 😉

    July 7, 2009
  5. john george said:

    What people really want to be assured of is that they are getting a value. A value is when a person finds a product that will meet his/her needs and expectations at a price they can afford. I work for a company that does not haggle at all. We will match a price from a competitor if a person brings us a firm quote on the same item being purchased under the same terms (new as compared to a display model). I have worked for companies in the past who padded the price of items to allow room for bargaining, as Patrick refered to. No one walked away with a good feeling from this. The salesperson felt that if he would have stood his ground, he would have been able to get a higher price. The customer felt that if he would have exerted a little more pressure, he could have gotten a lower price. Just a bad deal all around.

    Some industries work differently than a retail store. I just made a trip out to Massachussetts and rented a vehicle. There is one on-line travel site that you can put in a bid for a particular type of vehicle. I put in a bid for a vehicle to be able to pick it up at our destination airport for the same price I could get it from an off-site agency. I was able to get it, and it saved me a couple hundred dollars plus cab fare and time to and from the airport. This is like bargaining, I guess, but it is impersonal, and there was an open invitation to do it. It seemed a little different than walking into Jerry’s book store and trying to twist him out of a couple dollars on a book.

    July 7, 2009
  6. Patrick Enders said:

    I still have that problem.

    July 8, 2009
  7. Tracy Davis said:

    You’re all proving my point that this unwillingness to negotiate is a peculiarly American thing. Even the term “haggling” has negative connotations, as if one party in the transaction is trying to cheat another out of a fair price.

    “Fixed price” is a policy statement, not a determinant of absolute value. Different products and different industries have different pricing structures, different goals, and different profit margins. I see no harm in making an inquiry.

    July 8, 2009
  8. Patrick Enders said:

    You’d need a couple of non-Americans weighing in before you point would begin to be proved. But still, why would it actually be better to haggle?

    July 8, 2009
  9. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    Prices set by a retailer are based on market and costs. If the market won’t pay more than costs, the retailer fails. Selling an item that costs $10 for the item plus $5 for the haggling time means that the ending price has to be higher than $15 (we’ll ignore fixed overhead etc.). Far better to just set the price low to begin with (ala Walmart).

    I’m like Patrick, I prefer to know that the business model is more like Jerry’s (fair price) than like a car dealer’s (“Let’s deal Deal DEAL!!!!”). On the other hand, I love making counter-offers in that last bastion of haggling, the flea market. Luckily, we have both here.

    July 8, 2009
  10. Bright Spencer said:

    I tried haggling on one item and had several articles in my hand to buy with no haggle. I got such a bad “NO, absolutely not!” that I put everything down on the counter and walked away. I was very gentle about it all at the time, but I don’t go there and never will again.
    Competitors are happy about that, however.

    July 9, 2009
  11. Jane Moline said:

    As a former retailer I hated the hagglers. Hagglers assume you are giving everybody else a discount but not them–they are always dissatisfied. They go and brag to everybody that they got a better price–making everybody else come in and claim that they knew someone who got a better deal–so they felt that we were always cheating somebody–either them or their neighbor who wasn’t as good at haggling.(And hagglers exaggerated-they may have just been in on a good sale, but they make it out to be their skill in negotiation instead of the great sale price.)

    In our store (a contract store, similar to a franchise) we had signed a contract agreeing to sell at the price set by the national group–so we would be in violation of our contract if we sold something for a lower price.

    Also, consumer protection laws are in place that require you to be truthful in advertising. If you are advertising 20% off but give all your friends 25% off (and they all happen to be white while another customer is un-white), you can get in trouble for discriminatory practices and false advertising.

    Haggling should be confined to flea markets and other “re-use” type retailers–not regular stores–and then you better know your stuff–to offer ridiculously low prices for items is insulting.

    Haggling is not the same as asking for a discount if the merchandise is damaged–if is the last dress in my size but has a damaged seam that I would need to repair, say. Or for volume discounts.

    July 9, 2009

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