September 29th, 2011

The Nice Guy’s Guide to Haggling

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Haggle is such an ugly word. It dates back to the 1570s, when the word meant “to cut unevenly.” When we hack away at prices there’s something decidedly unpleasant about the process.

No one likes looking cheap or greedy. On the other hand, people don’t want to get taken advantage of either. Haggling has the potential to bring out the worst in us: bombastic shouting, insulting someone’s work, and lying about what we’re willing to spend.

I don’t know if there’s a good way to haggle, but here are my best tips on how to negotiate prices and still feel good about yourself.

1. Knowledge is power.

Many haggling situations (street markets, used car dealerships, and salary negotiations) revolve around asymetrical knowledge. The Russian nesting doll seller knows how much the dolls are worth, how low she’ll sell them for, and how soon after taking them home they’ll break. Your boss knows how much the other employees are making and what the company can afford to pay you.

If you do your research before hand, you can avoid any ugly dishonesty and stick to the truth. Thanks to the comprehensive car website, Kelley Blue Book, and salary websites like The Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Payscale, you can get a fair price. (Sadly, there’s no Russian nesting doll database yet, but it can’t be far behind.)

2. Be nice.

Being friendly in a negotiation is pretty helpful in getting what you want. When my credit card started charging me an annual fee, I called up customer service, made sure to mention the representative’s name several times, and said I would unfortunately have to cancel because of the fee. She happily removed the fee.

Here are more tips from My Money Blog for dealing with customer service representatives nicely and effectively, including my favorite tip to get a free replacement of almost anything: say ”it smells like burning.”

3. Use your bargaining chips strategically.

You have a lot things you can say and do to get the price you want– offer to pay in cash, offer to buy two items together, give up a perk you don’t need to get a better deal–but one of your best options is being able to walk away.

Assuming it’s actually an option, that is. Sometimes you do need that job, nesting doll, or vintage Ford Pinto (Sometimes you want to live dangerously). But most of the time, you’ll survive if you walk away, and might find a better deal later. In Mexico, I inadvertently bargained with a seller by looking at a blanket then trying to leave. He kept on lowering the price every time I tried to go. I really didn’t want the blanket, so I didn’t buy it, but I was struck by how easy it was to bargain when you didn’t actually want the thing you were bargaining for.

4. Make a friend.

In negotiations, chumps get taken advantage of. Jerks get what they want by any means necessary.

Nice guys make friends.

If you can shift the nature of the relationship from transactional to friendship, the negotiation becomes collaborative.

For example, in a customer service negotiation, one of the most effect things you can say is simply, “What would you do if you were in my situation?” (Thanks to Frank Scalpone of Antioch, California for that tip.)

It feels good to get what you want and it feels even better if you can get through the whole thing without having to be a jerk or a chump. Follow these tips and you’ll make friends with customer service reps, stock up on Russian nesting dolls at regular doll prices, and finally get that printer replaced when it smells like burning.

Good luck, my friends. Haggle with honor.

A bird in the hand is worth… I don’t know. How much if I pay in cash?

Ezra Fox, Credit Karma Contributor

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


  1. Hi,

    I see that you’ve written several great posts about haggling. I’m trying to start a conversation about haggling over at, and wanted to invite you to drop in and share a few tips with our readers if you’re so inclined. Thanks for considering the invite!


    Lisa M. at 8:29 pm on November 28, 2011
  2. Hi Lisa! Ezra left a comment over on Thanks for reaching out. We’d love to partner with in other ways in the future. Let us know if there are any other ways we can help support you.

    bethy at 4:17 pm on December 1, 2011

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