Haggling and Bargaining for Sellers

People haggling over antique silverware at a flea market

Danita Delimont / Gallo Images / Getty Images

There's no reason to get made when shoppers try to haggle. It's your merchandise and they can't make you sell it for less. Just remember that you have all the power.

If you can't help getting mad, especially with rude hagglers, make sure you don't show it. Sure, you'll get temporary satisfaction from telling them off, but you're the one who loses in the end. You've raised your blood pressure and offended other shoppers who overhear. Plus the customer is probably trashing you to all of his friends. 

Don't Be a Hypocrite

This particular piece of advice isn't for all sellers, just those who find the following uncomfortably familiar.

Do you know those yard and estate sales where you buy merchandise to resell? Some of your hagglers shop there too. And, if they're regulars, they can spot a dealer a mile away and they remember your face.

Why does that matter? It doesn't—unless you're getting mad about them haggling when they've seen you do it too. Your haggling isn't a problem. The double standard is. The dealers I know who gripe the most about hagglers are often the biggest sharks when they're shopping for a sale.

I'm not saying you have to discount, or even haggle at all. I'm pointing out that your hagglers are just trying to get the best price they can—just like you do. 

Mark It Up So You Can Come Down

The easiest way to make the hagglers happy and keep your profit margin safe is to build some negotiating room into your prices. Add an extra 15 to 20 percent to the prices. If shoppers pay it without haggling, hooray for you. If they haggle and you come down, you still win.

Know-How Low You'll Go Before You Open

Don't wait until a customer makes an offer to decide on the minimum you're willing to take. You need to know your floor in advance. Otherwise, you'll feel flustered while the customer waits for you to decide—and you may accept an offer you later regret.

Have Some Phrases Ready in Advance

I always advise timid negotiators to practice some haggling phrases in advance. That technique works well for sellers too, especially if haggling doesn't come naturally to you. Having a phrase ready on your tongue takes a lot of the unease out of the process.

Here are some haggling phrases to consider:

"Come back at the end of the day. If it's still here, we can talk."
"I can't do that. I paid more than that."
"I'd lose money at that price."
"That's just too low. I might take x amount."
"No, I can't do that."

Handle the Hesitant Haggler Gently

If you have a haggler who seems nervous about even asking, handle him gently. A flat "no" may make him flee, even if he has a pocket full of cash and wants your stuff.

It's easy. Just add "sorry, but" to the beginning of whatever haggling phrase you use. If you give him a reason and express regret, he'll feel less rebuffed.

With the hesitant haggler, it's also good to make a specific counteroffer. He'll probably be so relieved that you offered something that he'll be thrilled to agree. If you wait for him to do it, he may not have the nerve.