How Not to Haggle: 14 Haggling Don'ts

Stop Making These Haggling Mistakes

Woman buying items at flea market
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Flea market and yard sale shoppers haggle, so sellers set prices high enough to come down. Since sellers mark the prices up, shoppers feel like they have to haggle. Make it fun for all parties by avoiding the worst haggling mistakes. Here's how not to haggle: 

1. Don't ignore the seller until it's time to haggle. It's offensive to acknowledge someone only when you want something. Offer a greeting as you arrive. If the seller is busy with someone else but catches your eye, smile and nod or raise your hand in a casual wave. It costs you nothing, but you gain the seller's goodwill.

2. Don't be stingy. Unless you're offering to take a huge lot off of the seller's hands, don't haggle when the prices are already dirt cheap. When the blue jeans, books, etc. are marked at 25 cents a pop, trying to haggle them down to a dime is unnecessary and obnoxious. 

3. Don't haggle over individual items the entire time you shop. If the seller hears "Will you take x?" every single time you pick something up, he may get fed up before you finish looking. Then, you'll be out of luck when you spot that pricey thing you just have to have. Instead, try one of these methods:

  • Gather the things you want and offer a group price. 
  • Pay the asking price for a few inexpensive things to establish goodwill -- and then haggle on the higher-priced items.

4. Don't walk away after the seller accepts your offer. It's just bad form to pass after you've taken up the seller's time and he's lowered the price to suit you. Agreeing on a price is agreeing to buy.

5. Don't ask for a discount if the price tag says "firm." Firm means the price is not negotiable. There is an upside. When you see tags marked firm, it means the seller is willing to haggle on the other stuff.

6. Don't dis the goods. Insulting the merchandise is the same as insulting the seller, and that's not an effective way to haggle. If you can really buy it cheaper elsewhere or make a better one yourself, go do that. 

7. Ask instead of demand. Some sellers (though not all) just see red when they hear "I'll pay x" or "I'll give you x" from a shopper. They think the customer is telling them what to do. That's probably true with a handful of aggressive shoppers. For most, it's just a way of communicating what they're willing to pay.

If you do this, switch to an actual question just so there is no question of your intent. There's no reason to alienate a group of sellers when there are so many other haggling phrases you can use.

8. Don't talk too much. Whether they're shoppers or sellers, hagglers who don't know when to hush usually get the short end of the deal. Make your offer, then hush until the seller responds.

9. Don't horn in on another shopper's haggle. If another shopper is haggling with the seller, don't interfere. Don't butt in and offer to pay the tag price or more. Don't yell sold while the shopper considers the seller's counteroffer. It's unethical. Sure, you might score this time if the seller is unscrupulous. But, if this becomes an acceptable practice, other shoppers are going to start doing it to you.

10. Don't make an offer until the seller sets a price. Untagged merchandise is one of the things shoppers hate at flea markets and yard sales. Even worse is when a seller won't give you a price when you ask; he demands that you make an offer. Don't, not if you can avoid it. If you make the first offer, you may suggest $10 if you've seen similar pieces sell at auction for $20. But the seller may only be hoping to make a buck or two.

11. Don't make lowball offers. Haggling is all about offering less than the asking price. But, it insults the seller if your offer is too low, even when that's just your first offer. Never offer less than half, and only do that if the price seems outrageously high. Asking for 35 to 40 percent off is a better starting point for your negotiation.

12. Don't offer your maximum to start. If offering too little is a mistake, so is offering too much. Offering the max you're willing to pay as your first offer is definitely offering too much. If the seller counters, you're out of the game.

13. Don't pass without making an offer. Don't walk away when an item you want costs more than you want to spend. At least ask. The seller may say no to your offer, but she could just as easily say yes. The worst haggling mistake you can make is not haggling. 

14. Don't leave without saying thank you. Say it whether or not you were able to agree on a price. The seller offered her items and gave you her time.