How to haggle for the best deal, from broadband to travel

The lowdown on negotiating discounts on everything just by asking for a lower price

Give it a go

It may not come naturally to you but many businesses are open to haggling, so do not rule it out. They want to make a sale, even if the profit margin is slightly lower, so a displayed price tag isn’t necessarily the final price. No contract has been formed until money has changed hands. The worst that can happen from haggling is being told no by a salesperson.

Earlier this year, Which? surveyed broadband customers found the ones who had haggled had saved an average of £85 a year – a discount of 20%. The saving was even bigger for people who have a combined broadband and TV package: £128 a year on average.

Jenny Ross, the Which? Money editor, says that in its online shopping research it found people could sometimes obtain discounts of up to 20% from popular retailers just by asking for a better price on the company’s online chat function.

Someone holds a glass of champagne next to the bottle
Could haggling with your hotel result in a bottle of champagne on arrival? Photograph: François Nascimbeni/AFP/Getty Images

She adds: “You could save money on your next holiday, too, by haggling with your travel agent or calling your hotel directly instead of settling for the price online. This could result in a discount, free upgrade or even a bottle of champagne on arrival.”

Do your research

Have as much information as possible at your fingertips when you start your negotiation. For example, look at competitors’ prices using comparison websites such as Google Shopping, Kelkoo and PriceRunner.

Michelle Bailey, who writes the Time and Pence blog, haggled £600 off the price of new windows and doors by speaking to several firms and seeing what prices they charged.

Or Goren, the editor of the Cord Busters blog, says: “Before you call, write down two numbers – the maximum you’re willing to pay and the lowest you’re willing to pay. These numbers should guide your haggling.”

He advises that if you stay focused and within the limits you have set, you are more likely to win.

Go with ideas

Have the cost in mind but also consider what you could also accept. Could the company throw in something that would make the deal better for you? Batteries? Sofa cushions? A couple of extra contract months?

However, Claire Stitt of the website Stapo’s thrifty life hacks says you should think about what you actually want and need. “There’s no point in a phone contract with 500 text messages a month if you usually only send 10,” she says.

Grey contemporary modern sofa with lamp
Would the company be prepared to throw in something that would make the deal better for you, such as sofa cushions? Photograph: Mihalis_a/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Outline the benefits

A haggled deal is a win-win. The trader gets a sale they might otherwise not have made, and you get a good price. Try to show the trader the beneficial impact the sale could have in future. Shilpa Panchmatia is a retired entrepreneur, teaching people how to grow their business. When booking a hotel deal for a conference, she pointed out that she would be bulk-booking rooms every month for a whole year and got the manager to waive the room hire charge. “The secret was to show the [manager] the bigger picture and how he would benefit,” she says.

Think about bulk-booking rooms for an overnight stay for a wedding, for example – a venue might offer a discount in return for having a guaranteed number of rooms booked.

Pick your moment

Try going to a store during its quiet time, when no one is under pressure to move you on.

If you are buying a car, go to the showroom towards the end of the month, possibly on the last Thursday. Becky Derbyshire, who runs the Lifestyle Blogger UK website, recently haggled on her Ford Fiesta. She says the salespeople are often desperate to hit monthly targets, so may well lower prices.

Polly Arrowsmith has haggled for years, including with companies such as Harrods and Prada. Her successful negotiations include getting hundreds of pounds off a dishwasher and furniture. Many of her wins have come from knowing when the sales are coming, so she knows retailers will be ready to reduce their margins.

Build a good relationship

Be cool, calm, polite and assertive. Say that you are a cash buyer or can pay today, to show that you are serious. Importantly, make sure you start the haggling process with the person who has the authority to make deals.

Keep it good-humoured. People are more open to persuasion if you make them feel good rather than trying to beat them down in price. Make them want to help you.

If it’s a no or you can’t get the desired discount, accept gracefully, thanking the person you are talking to for their consideration. At some point you may be back to haggle on something else.

Negotiate on renewal

Often if you threaten to leave a company when a contract or subscription comes to an end you will be made an offer to stay. Don’t just accept it – look at what offers are available for new customers and request one for being a loyal customer.

Insurers are now banned from quoting policyholders a higher price to renew their home or motor insurance than they would offer a new customer. But that does not mean that what you are being offered is the cheapest price. So tell your provider about the comparison site prices that they must beat.

Haggle when complaining

If you need to complain about a service, such as problems with your broadband, request a discount as well as redress. I did this recently and got six months’ fees refunded, a free year’s upgrade and a wifi booster.

Offer to pay in cash

Shops are typically charged 1-4% of the transaction value when you pay for something with a credit or debit card. Although traders may have to pay for putting cash into a bank, it may be a lower cost, so it is worth offering as part of your conversation.

Five stacks of newly minted one pound coins arranged in increasing height on British pound notes.
Bring up paying in cash when haggling. Photograph: Rosemary Calvert/Getty Images

Approach small businesses

Brad Burton is a motivational business speaker who founded Network Central, a business networking organisation. He says it can be far easier to haggle with smaller businesses because they have the flexibility that comes from a smaller chain of command and are often hungrier for the sale.

“When it comes to negotiation, offering immediate or short payment terms is always a good starting point to help any cashflow problems,” he says.

“Don’t make unreasonable offers. Understand that any business has to make a profit and that they are offering a product or service you want and/or need – so be respectful.”

Helen Dewdney

The GuardianTramp

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