11 retailers where you can negotiate a lower price
In many parts of the world, haggling is a way of life. You would never think of paying the sticker price, and to be honest, the retailer would be offended if you didn't try to negotiate.
In America, things are a little different. We have become used to just accepting that the price we see is the price we pay, with very few exceptions. Yes, we'll negotiate on a home or car, but after that, we tend to avoid haggling. However, several major retail stores will actually take part in price negotiations, and will usually give you a better deal than the one you were expecting. You just have to know how to play the game. And it goes without saying — be polite and courteous the whole time. Demanding a discount won't get you anywhere.
1. Best Buy
Let's start with the one most people have asked me about. "Can you really haggle at Best Buy?" Yes, you absolutely can, although the results will vary from store to store.
First, you want to go shopping towards the end of the month, between the 29th and the 31st. Like most retail stores, Best Buy gives its floor managers sales goals, and they really want to hit them. By going in when they are down to the wire, you have more haggling power.
Next, follow a few simple rules and you will get the bargain you want.
You will get better discounts on high-end items. A huge $2500 TV or home theater system has a serious markup, and therefore, more wiggle room. If you go big, start negotiating.
Ask for freebies to be thrown in. If you're buying a computer, ask for a pack of blank DVDs. If you get a laptop, ask for a free bag or wireless mouse.
Focus on floor models and open box items. I've had great success buying floor models at massive discounts. The great thing is, you can buy the Geek Squad protection on it, and they'll replace it for a brand new item if they're unable to repair it. Open-box items are also easy to haggle on, and 20%-25% off is fair. And if the packaging on a new item is damaged, ask for a discount. They will often give you 10% off.
Bundle and save. Buying a monitor and a keyboard? Ask for a discount on both. The same goes for a TV and Blu-ray player, or a bunch of DVDs. If you are buying multiples, the store manager has some discretion to give you a deal.
Remember price matching. If you see a lower price anywhere, Best Buy will match it. So before you buy, search for the item on your smartphone and find the lowest price online or locally. Then watch the salesperson crumble.
2 & 3. Home Depot and Lowes
The top two big box DIY stores are both susceptible to the art of negotiation. Just ask Kyle James, a former Home Depot worker whose own post at Rather Be Shopping is full of great tips for negotiating at that store and several others on this list. Both Home Depot and Lowes have very similar policies when it comes to negotiating, and the following guidelines apply.
Scratches, dents, and dings give you great haggling power. On big appliances, most customers want their new items to be pristine. They cost a lot of money, they should be perfect. But who cares about minor dings? After a few months in the house with kids and pets, those dings will soon appear anyway. Seek out scratched and dented items when you want a new appliance, and start haggling. It's damaged goods, and the managers have wiggle room. Even torn packaging can get you a discount.
Get deals on poor quality lumber, roll ends, and off cuts. If you're building a fence and don't mind a few imperfect pickets or posts, grab them from the rack. Then, talk to a store manager and ask for a discount. You should easily get one, since the lumber they can't sell gets junked, anyway. You can also get great deals on roll-ends for carpet and linoleum, as well as off-cut wood and other materials.
Floor models are also great starting points for negotiations. These days, you can get all of your major appliances from the hardware store, and they all have floor models that have been poked, prodded, and generally used and abused by potential customers. However, they work just fine, most of them have never even been plugged in. Ask for a floor model, at a 10%-15% discount. If they are not ready to sell the floor models yet, ask when they are. You may even be able to put one on hold, if you are particularly charming.
Take advantage of stocking errors. This doesn't always work, but if you see something you want and the price looks too good to be true, it could be a product that has been placed in the wrong section. If it's a one off, forget it. But if the whole rack is marked at $10, instead of $20, then it is a legitimate angle for a discount. They priced it incorrectly, it's their mistake, and their loss. This happens a lot at hardware stores, especially in some of the aisles with very similar products at vastly different prices.
Price match. This is always a good option. Now, Home Depot and Lowes seem to be a little tougher on this than other stores, and will require evidence of a product in stock locally for a lower price. Online price matching will be way more difficult to achieve.
4 & 5. Sam's Club and Costco
Wherever you do your bulk buying, there are some strategies you can employ that can help you get better prices. Remember, just because you're already getting a discount, it doesn't mean the prices cannot go lower. Your membership fees and the bulk buying formula are the reason the prices are low. The stores are getting this stuff cheap, they make great profits, and you can negotiate.
Know the store layouts. Clark Howard, a consumer expert, says that the best deals in both of these stores are on aisles five, six, and seven. Knowing this in advance, you can head over to these areas and talk to the manager about buying a lot of these goods for a discount.
Look for items going off that day. Whether it's fruit, meat, bread, cakes, or vegetables, the manager will be very pliable towards the end of the day. They'd rather get a sale from you than throw it all in the dumpster.
Tires should never be bought at sticker price. The warehouse stores rely on you thinking that they will have the cheapest prices around. This is a complete fallacy. With your smartphone at hand, bring up the prices of the same tires at places like Discount Tire or Tire Rack.
6. Furniture Stores
There are big retail chains, and there are local mom-n'-pop businesses. However, they both have one thing in common: They are willing to negotiate on certain items, especially as the markup on furniture is so high. How high, you ask? Try 80%. A lot of the stock is bought overseas, shipped in, and marked up to ridiculous amounts. Here are some negotiation strategies you can use.
First, head to the back of the stores, or the clearance sections. You will find some products marked "as is" or "last one." Well, this is a great place to start haggling. They have discounted the stock because they want it gone, and if you are ready to take it off their hands on that day, you'll be doing them a favor. Don't get greedy, it's already cheap, but drop the price another 20%. If you can, offering cash also helps.
They know many of their products are not as high-quality as they make out. So, start looking over the pieces like they're used cars. Inspect the joints, the finish, point out the flaws. As you make your case for the poor craftsmanship, you are laying the groundwork for a discount.
Buy more, get more of a discount. If you plan on remodeling the bedrooms, see if you can afford to buy everything at one time. If you're dropping a lot of money, the furniture store may work with you.
7 & 8. Walmart and Target
You might think that the country's two largest retailers wouldn't let you haggle. Well, this isn't the case. There are times you can haggle, if you know what you're doing.
Like other stores on this list, Walmart and Target will let you haggle on items that are damaged or dinged. On damaged items, you can get a 13% discount at Target. I checked into this, and it's a standard figure that is often offered, especially if you received a damaged item from Target.com. So, if you are okay with the amount of damage the item has, ask for the discount. They will often apply it right there.
Food is very easy to negotiate on. Just like in the warehouse stores, Walmart and Target managers know that food that has reached its best-before-date is not going to be easy to sell. That's why you'll often see those "manager's special" stickers on meat and seafood. Well, just go and talk to a manager and ask for a discount on the food. They will usually apply a savings sticker right there. It can be anywhere from $3 off, to half price. If it's in questionable shape, or the packaging is beaten up, you can often get it for 75% off.
Discontinued items are another great way to save money. You can find out about them from websites, and armed with that knowledge you can ask for big discounts. You will also see them in bargain bins. The store wants them gone; they will negotiate.
9. Pawn Stores
You've seen Rick on Pawn Stars, so you know the score here. This is one of the few kinds of stores that actively encourages haggling, due to the nature of their "buy low and sell high" model. They want to engage you in negotiations, but this of course works both ways. You can get a deal, if you know how to approach them:
Learn the pawn store discount codes, such as the codes from Pawn America. Once you know the secret, you are instantly given a way to know how much the item can be discounted. Other pawn stores may have similar codes, so do your homework.
If you're selling, make sure you know as much as you can about your item. And then, make sure you make the first offer, knowing that it will be countered by a much lower offer. One of the first rules of negotiation is that the person who sets the price controls the bidding.
Don't over-negotiate. The pawn store owner is running a business, and has to make a profit from the items he or she buys. Yes, they are ready to haggle, but if you offer them half of what the item is worth, they'll laugh you out of the store. When they say "final offer," they mean it.
10. Thrift Stores
As someone who goes to thrift stores often, haggling is a great skill to have. Every thrift store is different, but having worked behind the scenes at Goodwill, I can tell you that the pricing is very loose. Some items are marked too low, and others too high. With that in mind...
Look at the color-coded tags. If a color is on sale that week, it means it has been sitting on the shelf for a long time. Thrift stores have a high turnover, and want to make room for new merchandise constantly. These items are ready to go to something called salvage, and that means you have the ability to haggle the price.
Look carefully at the condition. Is it scratched, dented, or chipped? Does it work correctly? Did you find snags or holes that the pricer may have missed? Simply by pointing those things out, you can get a manager to knock a few bucks off the price.
Use your smartphone to bring up the going rate of the item you want. If they have overpriced it, they'll usually bring it down to the price you show them. After all, they get all of their items for free, so it's all profit for the charity.
Ask for discounts on bulk purchases. I recently bought a set of four plates the same price that three would have cost me, simply because I asked for a discount if I took them all.
11. Department Stores
Despite what you may think, Nordstrom's, Macy's, Kohl's, and Dillard's are definitely open to haggling. Managers are open to a little negotiation, and are even authorized to go 10% below a competitor's price. Here's what you need to do to make sure you are in the discount zone.
Price matching is key. If you find a blouse or a pair of shoes cheaper in another store, bring it up on your smartphone. They want your business, and they have numbers to hit. The price is not going to be much lower anyway, and they'd rather have less profit than no sale.
Sales happen all the time. Ask if the item you're looking for was recently on sale, or if it is coming on sale again soon. The store manager will often give you last week's sale price. You can also come back to a store when the item you bought at full price is now on sale, and ask for the difference as a refund. They will usually honor this.
Once again, scuffs, scratches, and dents are great haggling points.
Use something called "sticker shock." That means you're very interested in the item until the clerk reveals the price. If you are really taken aback, they will look into discounts for you. Sometimes, those discounts can be significant, especially on jewelry and watches.
Ask for extras to be thrown in for free. If you buy a suit, ask for a shirt and tie.
The golden rule with department stores — ask for the manager. They have the authority to offer bigger discounts, and if you are very polite, they often like to show how powerful they are by giving you a big fat discount.
Related: How to save money at Target
Where do you negotiate price?