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How to Haggle Like a Goddamn Pro

Advice from a pawn shop worker, a vintage car salesman and my Persian mother

I have an endless number of memories of my mom — most, if not all of them, in foreign countries — walking away from the sale of a leather purse unless she got it for the price she wanted.

Refusing to budge always seemed like a solid strategy to me. After all, haggling is a dance. That said, it’s not the foxtrot or the waltz. No, haggling is the tango, or maybe the sort of “freak dancing” that occurs in middle school and specifically at a Bar Mitzvah. Like those dances, anyone can do it: It just takes guts, confidence and a little something extra.

According to Rick Steves’ Europe, an online blog for Americans traveling abroad, the most important thing to note when haggling is to determine whether haggling is even appropriate. “It’s bad shopping etiquette to ‘make an offer’ for a tweed hat in a London department store,” writes Steves. “It’s foolish not to at a Greek flea market. To learn if a price is fixed, show some interest in an item but say, ‘It’s just too much money.’ You’ve put the merchant in a position to make the first offer. If he comes down even 2 percent, there’s nothing sacred about the price tag. Haggle away.”

So how does one actually haggle? Well, I’ll tell you what I recently learned from some expert hagglers, but only if you read every sentence of this article and not just the article sub-heads.

No?

Fine, how about the article subheads and every first sentence of every paragraph?

Deal?

Sweet.

Do Your Research

“It’s all in how you pose the question,” says Jeff A., who works at AAA Pawn and Jewelry Inc., a pawn shop in L.A. “For example, if someone looking for a guitar comes in and asks for the brand, model, year, type of pickups and the type of wood the body is made of, this guy knows what he’s talking about as opposed to someone who comes in looking for ‘a guitar.’ This way, as the seller, I know that the person has done their research and they know what the market value for the guitar is going to be.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Offer Your Price

“Surprisingly, a lot of people are afraid to offer up a price,” explains Jeff. “We have to force it out of them. Don’t be shy! Be honest about how much you’re willing to pay for something — that helps us assess if we’re willing to work with you.”

Be Respectful

“Generally, I like to start very low and hitting them hard without offending them,” says Peter F., a buyer and seller of vintage cars. “It’s very important you don’t offend your seller. If you do, that’s the end of it. In some cases, you may just ask for a 10 percent discount and that may rub the seller the wrong way.”

Stroke the Seller’s Ego

“Once you hit them hard with a low price, give the seller some credit by saying something like, ‘Your item is better quality, or superior to what [you] had in mind,’” explains Peter. “Basically, you need to fluff the seller as you’re bargaining with them.”

Keep the Seller Engaged

“Position your offer so that the seller comes back to you with their counter offer,” says Arezoo, my mom and an expert haggler. “You have to do what you can to keep the seller engaged, which is why you have to be careful not to lowball the seller. Continue to engage without really making that the final, defined counter offer and wait for them to offer you their best price. If things aren’t working out, don’t be afraid to walk away.”

“Leave your contact info so they can think about it,” adds Peter. “That way, you never fully disengage. Instead, even though you’re not haggling, the negotiation continues.”

Put Yourself in The Other Person’s Shoes

“Try to see things from the buyer or the seller’s perspective,” says Peter. “If you’re selling, tell the buyer that you understand that this is their budget, but that your lowest price is your cost and that you can’t be expect to go below your cost. As a salesperson, though, you always side with the buyer and tell them something like, ‘This isn’t my company, I’m just trying to help you get the best deal.’”

Which is exactly the sort of subterfuge you’d expect to hear from a used car salesman, so it’s good to know you can turn the tables.