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This article was featured in the August 2009 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

When bargaining pays off

Last reviewed: August 2009
Illustration of a price tag with prices crossed out
Illustration by Robert Neubecker

This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in August 2009 Consumer Reports magazine.

Should you haggle?

Almost always, according to a nationally representative survey we recently conducted. When shopping or paying for goods and services in the previous six months, 66 percent of consumers tried to negotiate for a better deal at least once, and 88 percent of those negotiators scored a better deal at least once.

Men were more likely than women to say they bargained "always or often" (30 percent compared with 25 percent), and people under age 34 were more likely to do so than those 65 and over (37 percent as opposed to 13 percent).

The chart shows the percentages who tried and succeeded in haggling for a variety of products and services.

Thirty-four percent of all respondents said they never try to negotiate. But you can't succeed if you never try. Here's how:

Know before you go

Research prices and store policies, and take evidence of better deals, such as Web printouts, flyers, and ads.

Time your visit

Late in the month, salespeople are trying to meet quotas.

Find fixable flaws

If a product has blemishes, show them to the seller.

Be patient and nice

Demanding a discount rarely works.

Avoid an audience

Clerks don't want everyone else asking for a discount.

Ask a manager

Salespeople might not have the power to offer a discount.

Offer cash

Merchants don't like to pay transaction fees to credit-card companies.

Be willing to walk

The most persuasive tactic you have is an ability to spend someplace else.

Note: This survey of 1,002 adults was conducted in late April and early May 2009. The margin of error is 3.2 percentage points.