Get Ready to Haggle With Your Retail Customers

Last Updated Apr 2, 2009 11:27 AM EDT

One offshoot of the econ troubles is that shoppers are becoming bolder about asking, "Can you take $10 off the price?"

Yes, haggling has hit mainstream retail, where the price tag is becoming just a starting point for negotiation, according to a great trend-spotting piece in the Boston Globe, "Let's Make a Deal. An excerpt:

"People act like they just got off the cruise ship in Cancun," said Karen Fabbri, owner of the Moxie boutique on Charles Street, who has jousted with customers trying to score discounts on items that are already 70 percent off. "The etiquette of shopping has gone out the window."
Harvard Business School retail expert Nancy Koehn says the Internet has reintroduced shoppers to the concept of bargaining, something that was commonplace until the turn of the century. The rise of railroads and department stores introduced product standardization, all but ending the practice of haggling except in certain areas such as autos, jewelry and antiques, Koehn tells the Globe.

This is a must-read story, especially if you are in retailing. What is your own experience? Are your customers demanding more for less? Are your salespeople on the floor trained to deal with the "Can you do a little better on the price?" questions.

(Dignified Haggling image by Neil T, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.