The Art of Haggling

With the economy teetering on recession, there isn't much for consumers to celebrate these days. But like most dark clouds, this one has a silver lining. That's because when it comes to many discretionary items, it's a buyer's market. Still that doesn't mean retailers are giving things away. You need to know how to negotiate to get the best price. Kelli Grant, consumer reporter, offers some tips on the art of haggling.

First, envision the worst-case scenario. Everyone from big-box retailers to flea market sellers build extra profit into their prices to account for price drops, usually, sales. You have the right to ask for a better price. The worst they can say is "no." So, don't be afraid to ask.

Also, bring cash. When you use plastic, the issuer charges the seller a processing fee. So many stores and companies are willing to offer a discount of up to 20% if you pay with cash. Keep small bills on hand so you can say, "I'm willing to give you $45 for this" and flash the cash.

Be a smart shopper and check out competitors. Businesses would rather give a discount than lose you to a competitor. Most major retail stores have price-matching policies in place to meet or even beat others prices. Print out a few prices you find online, or simply say you've seen similar items cheaper elsewhere.

Don't hesitate to point out the flaws in items. Don't expect to pay full price for a lime green car, last season's sweater or a scratched armoire. Point out anything that makes the item less desirable to buyers, and you in particular. Employees may be willing to let the item go for less.

And finally, ask to speak to management. Whether you're negotiating a lower credit card rate or a better price on a sweater, ask politely to speak with a manager. They have more leeway to offer a discount. Try to catch them during off-peak hours, when they won't be too busy to help.

For more tips on haggling, as well as additional personal financial advice, click here.
by Kelli Grant and Jenn Eaker