Australians aren’t great hagglers – we rarely negotiate prices, and even when an opportunity arises many shoppers feel uncomfortable about it.
A 2021 Finder survey found most Australians prefer not to haggle and just a third of people negotiate when buying a new car.
Many consumers are also unsure where haggling is allowed, despite big brands like JB Hi-Fi and Officeworks allowing their staff to negotiate.
University of Technology Sydney professor of economics Lionel Page has been researching the behavioural economics of haggling and said there are more chances to negotiate in Australia than shoppers realise.
Retailers don’t advertise it, though, because they prefer charging full price.
So, what can we do to sharpen up our negotiation skills and save money?
Don’t be afraid to ask
Dr Page said Australians can be “afraid” to haggle because it’s not part of our culture, especially when an offical price is provided by retailers.
“You feel like you’re stepping out of line a bit,” he said.
But this “anxiety” isn’t felt by people from other countries and cultures.
Dr Page said it can’t hurt to ask if the price of things like electronics are negotiable – you may be surprised by the discounts on offer if you do.
Stores like JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman allow their workers to negotiate, even if there isn’t a sign on the front door that makes this clear.
Don’t show all your cards
Once you’ve found an opportunity to haggle in store, at an auction, or on Gumtree, it’s important to start off on the right foot.
Dr Page said a good bluff is crucial at the start of any negotiation.
You should know the maximum amount you’re willing to pay as a buyer or the minimum amount you’re willing to accept as a seller.
But sharing these figures upfront could end up losing you money.
“You don’t want to reveal too much,” Dr Page said.
You can’t pretend to have stricter limits once you reveal your minimum or maximum price, which restricts your bargaining power.
Learn to compromise
Hagglers must balance toughness and generosity during negotiations.
Dr Page said being too generous could cost you a better deal while being too tough could alienate the other party.
Compromise is key to find a win-win situation for buyer and seller.
If you try to tip the benefits of a deal too far in your favour, Dr Page said that could “alienate or antagonise” the other person.
“The other person may prefer not to have any deal [rather] than deal with somebody who is not willing to compromise.”
Do your research
Choice consumer advocate Jonathan Brown said consumers should also know what they’re talking about before trying to haggle with staff.
“Know what a reasonable price may be and what their competitors are offering,” he said.
“Also, look for any other reasons that might persuade a seller to offer you a better deal, like whether or not the product is discontinued.
“Look interested, but don’t be over eager, and always be prepared to walk away if necessary.”
Timing is everything
Mr Brown said timing is also important, particularly if you’re shopping at a time of the month when staff are trying to meet their sales targets.
This might make them more likely to cut you a deal to increase their pay.
“Haggle during periods such as end of the financial year, Boxing Day or even the end of the week or month,” Mr Brown said.