Sure you can haggle at a garage sale, everyone knows that. But at a big box retailer? It’s not as crazy as you think. After talking to haggling expert Mary Hunt, for the article “10 Tips for Haggling with A/V Retailers,” I decided to put the tips to use. Could I really get a better price on a TV just by asking for it? Would a salesperson throw in a free cable or maybe even a warranty? As Hunt says ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ Aside from being embarrassed, laughed at, and told to leave—I might just save money. After all, new gadgets, summer vacations and dinners out don’t grow on trees.
The first tip, Do Your Homework, is an easy one. I chose a 46-inch Sony Bravia V-series TV. Online, one big box store has it on sale for $1699 (original $1999) and another store has it for $1709. Both stores offer free shipping. However, the store selling it for $1709 has enticing add-on deals: 25% off Monster HDMI cables, 15% off surge protectors; and many of the TV deals offer 10% off qualifying Bose systems and TV stands. I jot down the details because I can definitely use these deals as bargaining tools.
I then check out the cheaper Sony S series, which is selling at both stores for $1599. It has 3 instead of 4 HDMI ports and a lower contrast ratio. I jot this down, too. It’s 1:00pm on a Tuesday, which is the perfect midday time according to the tip, Shop During Off-hours. Experts say it will increase my odds of getting a deal. I sure hope so.
Did I Mention My Budget?
As I walk into the store I call upon two more tips, Be Confident and Keep Your Cool. I feel confident because I’m armed with a lot of information. I keep my cool by not running directly to the product I want; the theory being that salespeople are always watching. I’m not sure about other stores—or other times of the day—but at 1:00pm on a Tuesday, no one except the security guard is watching, and I’m not sure he sees me.
There isn’t anyone—customers or salespeople—in the TV section. I find the TV I came for and am surprised to see the price: $1754, not the $1699 listed on the Web site. I make a mental note as I spy a salesperson headed my way. She asks if I need help. I explain I’m in the market for my first HDTV; I live in a small rental apartment, and I really like the 46-inch Sony, but it’s out of budget. “What do you think? Is this a good one?” I say, pointing to the Sony V-series TV. She responds: “Look at this.” We walk over to where the big TVs are and she points to a 52-inch Samsung that cost $3000. Hmmm. Did I mention my small apartment and my budget?
“I think that TV is bigger than my apartment” I joke. She launches into an explanation of 120Hz, which this TV has, opposed to 60Hz, which mine has. She’s obviously following a sales guidelines and I let her talk. As she finishes up, I tell her the TV is gorgeous but way too big for my apartment and this time I emphasize that the TV is over my budget. We walk back to the smaller TVs, where she points to a $2400 Samsung. I like it, I tell her, but I don’t want to spend more than $1600. She nods her head and I think I see a slight frown. Looks like she got it. Revealing Your Budget is one of the expert’s haggling tips, but I’m not sure it’s working for me.
I explain that it’s not just the TV I need but I have to get the HDMI cable and maybe a new TV stand. She brightens up and takes off across the store again. I get my second lesson that day. I learn that a 6-ft Monster cable will cost $100. I ask if they come in a shorter length, and she responds by showing me a line filtration box, the cheapest one starts at $199. I smile and say “I’m sorry, I’m on such a tight budget, I need to concentrate on the TV.” Be Polite is the golden rule of haggling and if I get anywhere with this sale it’s because I’m being nice, and not screaming “Hello?? Are you listening??”
Closing the Deal
I choose this opportunity to tell her that her store is offering the same TV online for $1699 instead of the $1754 listed in-store. I then throw in that her competitor’s Web site has great bundle deals on cables and surge protectors with the sale of a TV. I’m surprised she’s not more surprised. I quickly ask “Do you think I can get those same deals?” She says she isn’t authorized, but if I print out the Web pages, her manager would “probably most definitely” match the price. I want to clarify “probably most definitely”, so I repeat everything: “If I had printed out the page, I could get the same online deals, even on the cables that the competitor was offering?” She says yes. Note to self: Print out the proof of online bargains. Okay, I tell her I need to shop around some more. She volunteers that her store has a 60-day sales warranty on their price. She writes down the days/hours she works and hands me her card.
I leave the store feeling good, knowing that if I had printed out the Web sites’ pages, her manager would have honored the competitor’s deals on the Monster cable and I would get the TV for $1699, the online price, instead of the in-store price of $1754. It’s a savings of almost $75 (TV and cable). True, I still wound up paying more than my initial $1600 budget, but for my first haggle, I consider the trip a victory. On to the next store.
Operation Haggle, Take Two
No one notices when I walk into the next store at 2:00pm that same Tuesday. I wander over to the TVs, and find the Sony V-series selling for $1709, the same price that store is offering it online—and ten dollars more than its competitor. My goal is to get this TV for $1600, $109 less than the sale price. I immediately notice the store isn’t offering the bundle deal on Monster cables and surge protectors as it is online.
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