I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike bargaining and haggling in any form. Well, a recent incident at a comfortable grocery story on a routine shopping trip showed me how much my outlook has changed … and I think a lot of it has to do with my multicultural marriage.
Jumbo cashews were selling at $3.98 for 10 ounces, and being one of those compulsive shoppers who try as much as possible to compare unit prices and make sure I’m getting the best deal possible (thanks, Mom!), I recognized this as a good buy. So into the shopping cart it went.
I’m extremely grateful that this was a shopping trip where I felt more at leisure than usual, so when it came time to check out I was paying quite close attention to the scanner as it beeped and rang up items. “Beep” went the cashews, and $4.48 flashed up on the screen.
Now I do not have a photographic memory (sigh), but something stirred enough in me to question the $4.48. Surely that seemed a bit high? But I had forgotten the exact price, so I went back into the aisles and peered at the cashews again.
Yes, there it was – $3.98!
Breathing a silent prayer of thanksgiving over the wonders of modern technology, I snapped a picture with my phone and went to the Customer Service section of the grocery store. Although the store representative hemmed and hawed a bit – “Oh, they need to change the label since the price just went up!” – she gave me the refund I was looking for. Victory!
Only later did I realize how much easier it had been for me to go to Customer Service than, say, a few years ago. When I was younger I would have been more uncomfortable and tempted to make excuses – the scanner doesn’t lie, the price must have been the right one, I could just have been confused, the Customer Service section looks way too busy, is it really worth the 50 cents – etc., etc.
So what changed along the way? Here are my thoughts, which also provide some tips about how to bargain for haggling-averse people like myself:
- Cultivate “natural suspicion” as a mindset. I grew up with the unconscious assumption that most people, including sellers, are going to offer me a price that’s reasonable unless proven otherwise. But I’ve learned it’s safer to assume the price you’re seeing is inflated! In some cultures the reasoning is, If you’re stupid enough to be swindled, you deserve to be swindled. And if that nagging suspicion pops up that you’ve seen a cheaper price somewhere else, it’s a good idea to pay attention.
- Gather evidence and reasoning. Just as I took a picture with my phone, a more low-tech way to bargain and haggle is to find reasons why you think the price should be lower. My husband does this so well that I’m always in awe to hear him. “Do you have a discount for repeat customers?” “This [product] has a stain/tear/defect. How much are you willing to take off for that?” and so on.
- Assert yourself politely. I had a big smile on my face when I approached the store representative, and I had a big smile when she handed me the refund as well. There’s no reason to antagonize people. Additionally, I’ve found it helpful never to assign blame about the misplaced product. A world of difference lies between “You guys [or this store] charged me extra for these cashews!” versus “I believe I was charged the wrong price for these cashews” (which is what I said).
- Take your time. I think the key takeaway from this shopping trip was that I wasn’t rushed, which is the way I like to shop. So I caught things that I probably would have missed if I was in a hurry. And keeping silent is also a good stalling tactic when negotiating prices. I’ve noticed this success when negotiating with car dealers in the U.S. and souvenir vendors in Africa. If I kept an unyielding silence for as long as possible, even after it had grown uncomfortable (say 30 seconds or so), the seller started dropping the price, just a little.
Do you like or dislike bargaining? Feel free to join the conversation by adding a comment!