Haggling: Is it the latest trend for in-store retailing?

on December 27, 2018

One cold, Midwestern December a few years ago, I told my wife that I was done with putting up our two Christmas trees – I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Putting up the trees was my job and I hated it. I always insisted on having at least one real tree, which would inevitably be toppled by a cat, and the fallen needles would destroy yet another vacuum cleaner. Then there was the year I took a trip to the emergency room for a tetanus shot during a tree installation gone awry (I’ll leave that story for another blog).

It was time to give it a rest. Our kids were older, I am Jewish, and I didn’t want the hassle anymore. To my surprise, my wife agreed. We decided that we would just put up some other holiday decorations instead.

Our closest friends were visiting, so the four of us headed to HomeGoods for decorations to make up for the house’s lack of Christmas trees. Once in the store, we came across a tall, cylindrical pine cone contraption. Just as the words “let’s do this” escaped my lips, our friend scoffed at the $138 price tag and proclaimed that it wasn’t worth a penny more than $100. I chuckled, but as my wife and I discussed this 5-foot, completely assembled pine cone tree, our friend disappeared into the bowels of the store.

What happened next really rocked my world. My friend had found the manager of this large retail store and began negotiating the price of the pine cone tree. She went at it like she was at a bazaar in Marrakesh and got him to agree to $110.

Wait…what just happened? You can do that?!

A few weeks later, I saw a watch I liked in the window of a locally owned men’s clothing store and went inside to check it out. The watch was $120, which I thought was overpriced. It was the perfect opportunity to try my friend’s haggling technique.

I told the shopkeeper that I liked the watch for $100.

“Sold!” she said. “It’s last year’s design, and I want to clear it out to make room for a new model.”

Damn!

Apparently, my friends, retail haggling is a thing, and it’s becoming more commonplace in retail stores. Consumers are savvy and ballsy – a combination that works to capitalize on the fierce competition in retail, from big department stores to mom-and-pop shops.

Retailers are realizing this, so instead of putting their foot down and calling the price, the price, they are leaving some wiggle room. They’re not willing to lose 10% on a sale when the customer will just go get it from their competitor.

I had another interesting experience at a huge retailer that demonstrates this new mood in retail. I needed to buy work-related swag for a client and had a strict budget. I went to Macy’s to purchase 20 blankets with logos, and the price was $75 over my budget. Instead of missing out on the sale, the manager said that if I purchased all 20 blankets, he would take $75 off the final price. I didn’t even ask for the discount. I just told him that the blankets were over my budget by $75, and he offered it. Winning!

These experiences got me thinking. Why is there a stigma attached to negotiating for lower prices? I mean, we do it for houses, cars, and other major purchases. Why not in retail?

Are we programmed not to bargain? Because if that’s the case, we need to be reprogrammed. As consumers, we have power. Brands want our loyalty, so before you cut and run because you think the big retailer that you frequent won’t indulge in a little haggling, try it! You have nothing to lose.

Is bargaining part of the new customer experience? If so, I’m into it! Ain’t no shame in my haggling game!

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