While it’s often thought to be acceptable to haggle at car lots and flea markets, most consumers assume prices at retail stores are nonnegotiable. However, with the economy in a downturn, retail shoppers may be more ready to bargain.
While it’s often thought to be acceptable to haggle at car lots and flea markets, most consumers assume prices at retail stores are nonnegotiable.
However, with the economy in a downturn, retail shoppers may be more ready to bargain. I visited stores at Lisbon Landing and in Putnam last week on a buying experiment to find out how much money could be saved using different bargaining strategies.
The people interviewed for this story did not know it was for a news story until after I attempted to negotiate a lower price.
On my first approach at Lisbon Landing, I was not successful.
Browsing around at Famous Footwear, a shoe store, I eventually made an attempt at negotiating the price on a pair of Anne Klein black leather boots. The boots were stylish, but not something to wear going into the summer. The box already was marked down, but because it was merchandise the store probably wants off the shelf, I took a chance. I approached the store manager, Jennifer Fleming.
“Can you reduce the price on these boots at all — since they’re out of season?” I asked.
I got nowhere with that. Fleming told me the managers have no say over pricing. She must wait for price changes to come through the computer from corporate. Although there was a pretty good sale going on at the time (buy one pair at full price and get a second pair half off), Famous Footwear does not offer price matching if you find shoes they carry priced lower in a competitor’s ad flier or online.
Match online price
The opposite was true when I approached Olympia Sports for a discount on footwear. Although my simple request for a lower price was declined, the assistant manager encouraged me to look anywhere online for proof of the same sneakers being sold for less. Rather than buying the shoes online and paying shipping and handling charges, she said, print out the page and bring it into an Olympia store where it’ll match the price.
My experiment yielded better results at The Home Depot. I gravitated toward a vast display of backyard gas grills. The store had many models available with assorted features and in a wide range of prices. A clerk was readily available on the aisle, so I summoned him for assistance.
“I’m wondering if there’s any flexibility in the prices on these grills?” I asked.
I don’t think he expected that to be my first question.
“Um. ... Which one? You mean, can I lower the price?” he answered.
I nodded while pointing to a $799 Charmglow Gourmet Grill. After a brief silence, he offered me a 10 percent discount.
That was a significant savings. Plus, he added free assembly, although he told me that service is normally included.
The Home Depot salesman explained it’s more common for price reductions to be granted on items that are damaged or on floor models.
Most stores will allow for price cuts on imperfect merchandise, including the Tractor Supply store and Pier 1 Imports. After speaking with a store employee at Pier 1, I learned that pointing out a flaw is the only way to get a price break there.
At the new Tractor Supply Co. in Putnam, assistant manager Bob Morelle immediately questioned my reasoning when I made a straightforward request for a lower price on a garden bench swing with a green canopy. It was priced at $229.
“Why?” he countered. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”
When I revealed I was haggling in an experiment for a news story, Morelle informed me that bargaining attempts are not uncommon in his store.
“Farmers try to haggle in here all the time,” he said.
He wouldn’t grant me a discount on the swing — or even on a beautiful piece of Montana Silversmith jewelry — but he did tell me all of the store’s employees have the OK to give price breaks to customers in certain situations.
Those include not only damaged items, but bargaining is encouraged in cases when someone is willing to buy a large quantity of items. Using grass seed as an example, Morelle said he would offer a 5 percent discount for buying multiple bags.
In today’s economy, shopping locally is affected by consumers accustomed to comparing prices online. There’s greater competition with fewer dollars available to spend. As a result, retail stores may be more willing to negotiate to make the sales.
Although haggling may be uncomfortable for those not used to bargaining, the more it’s put into practice, the easier it gets. If you don’t ask for a discount, you’re not going to get one.
A shopper has nothing to lose.
Reach Karen Norman of The Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin at 860-425-4237 or email@example.com. Karen’s blog, “The Auctioneer’s Wife,” covers online and local buying and selling — including auctions, flea markets and tag sales.
LISBON LANDING STORES
The Home Depot: Charmglow Gourmet Series Oven Grill, discounted 10 percent from $799 by simply asking.
Linens -N- Things: Two bronze table lamps; I was able to get 20 percent off the $49.99 sticker price on one lamp -- the highest priced item -- just for asking. Shades were sold separately. I checked their Web site and they offer a 20 percent coupon online for a single item as well.
Wal-Mart: Televisions: No negotiations on flat screen televisions, but older models they plan to discontinue are negotiable.
Olympia Sports: Nike Air sneakers: If you find the same pair the store carries online for a lower price, print out the page from the Internet, and the store will give it to you for that price. You'll save on shipping and handling, too.
Famous Footwear: Anne Klein black leather boots: Original price was $150, but it was on clearance for $50. But no prices are negotiable in the store.
Pier 1 Imports: Dinner plates by the piece: I asked for a discount if I purchased a large quantity of dinnerware, sold separately. No prices are negotiable unless something is damaged.
Sears Essentials: Digital camera: $149; prices are not negotiable, but if you bring in a competitor's flyer or an online printout, the store will match the price.
Tractor Supply Co.: Weston Collection Farm Scene Canopy Swing; $229, marked down already from $268. No deal. But the store will negotiate if an item is damaged or flawed. Also, the store may a 5 percent discount if you buy a large quantity of any item (grass seed, for example) if you ask. All clerks have the OK to negotiate a little bit with good reason.
However, they will not sell an item at a lower price with an online printout showing the same item at a lower price. The reason given was that items are often sold cheaper online because the difference is made up in shipping charges.