How to haggle successfully


I’ve already told you how to haggle unsuccessfully. In short:

  • Covet something unique
  • Want it more than the salesperson
  • Not be able to walk away
  • Have nothing with which to bargain

Having learned from my mistakes though, I was determined to find another opportunity to try again. I wanted a situation where there was a standard expectation of haggling, and something large enough that it would make sense to haggle. What could it be?

Well, what have I been thinking about recently?

Of course: I would haggle for my carpet.

My bargaining chips

Carpet would be a much better target than a used acoustic guitar. After all, I could find carpet anywhere and I didn’t need it urgently. So I could walk away if I needed to.

And of course, I could always offer cash.

I did my research at a particular place, found what I wanted, and got a quote. This was great, as it gave me time to go home and figure out a battle plan.

(The specific numbers aren’t all that important here, so to focus on the successes, I’m just going to talk percentages.)

The initial negotiation

By the time I returned with a battle plan, the salesperson knew me well. We had spoken on a number of different occasions, and had developed a kind of rapport.

I began: “I’m interested in moving forward, but I’m having some trouble making the numbers work out. I’m wondering if you have any flexibility in the price.

(First screw up there was the word “if“. I wanted to say “I’m wondering what flexibility there is in the price,” but I guess old deferential habits die hard.)

He made it a little easy for me. Instead of asking me to name a price (which I didn’t want to be the first person to do) he spend what felt like an eternity at his computer, just typing away.

I did something I’m not very good at doing: I shut up. I let the silence be thick and perhaps uncomfortable, and let him sit in it. I actually forced myself to remain very still and low-functioning, almost slowing my brain waves to a kind of meditation. I could have fallen asleep if I wasn’t so anxious.

The salesperson finally printed out a quote and handed to me. “This is the lowest that the carpet company will allow.” The price was 6% lower than the original quote.

I stared at the quote for a while, frowning. “It’s still a bit more than I was hoping for.” “Well, what were you thinking?I quoted him a figure that was 12% lower.I can’t do that.

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I waited a moment and asked what he could do, and he played on his computer for a few eternities longer, eventually coming up with a price that was 8% lower than the original. “If I go any lower than that, my account will get flagged.

Cash, baby

I then played my trump card: I pulled out an envelope with some large bills and put it on the table, fanning them out for him to see. “I have this to offer,” reiterating my target offer. “If you would accept this, we can get started.” “I can’t do that.

How much are your merchant fees?” I continued without a beat. I knew that credit card fees cost the retailer a few percentage points on every sale, which directly affects their bottom line. If this guy would accept cash, he wouldn’t need to eat those fees. A win-win situation.

We get charged 1.5%.” “Okay, so drop the 1.5% and we’ll call it good.” “I can’t, that’ll be below the minimum allowed. I won’t even be able to put that into the computer.

I stared at him. I stared for a long time.

He blinked. “I can drop the price of the pad.” Another quote got printed out, this one 9% lower than the original quote.

More silence. And then I said: “I’m going to need to make a consultation. I’ll be back in a few.


This was my other trump card. I had brought a companion to help with this operation. Having her there was good for me for many reasons, but here specifically it allowed me to pause the negotiation, get some advice on my progress so far, and plan my next move.

I was very close to getting what I wanted, but it didn’t look like I was going to hit my target. So after some discussion, we decided that I would repeat my offer, and if he balked, I’d put away the cash and pay with a card, seeing if I could call his bluff. I then added a bit more cash to my pile, got the thumbs up from my companion, and went back to the negotiating table.

The final negotiation

I offered a round number, equal to 10% off the original quote. I then put some extra cash on the table equal to that amount. And then I waited.

Wordlessly, he went back to his computer and printed out a new quote with that exact amount. I signed. We shook hands.

I won.

I couldn’t tell what I was more excited about: the new carpet or that I had successfully negotiated 10% off the cost of the carpet. Either way it was a success. I had learned from past failures at haggling, and came out with an unabashed win.

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And if I can do this, if I can work past my nausea and aversion and avoidance, and come through to a successful situation for everyone involved, then you surely can as well.

But enough about me. Have you ever had a haggling success?

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