As God is My Witness, I Will Never Haggle Again.

by Marinka on December 1, 2008

This is the Breaking News email that I got from CNN yesterday:

— The Dow closes down about 680 points, as manufacturing hits a 26-year low and the U.S. is declared to be in a recession.

Unpleasant, right? And yet it doesn’t terrorize me the way that an article that I read in New York Magazine over the weekend did. It was an article about how to save money and one of the tips was to haggle. At the department store. 

Remember those PETA ads with some seminaked beauty proclaiming, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”? Well, I’d rather go naked than haggle at Saks and believe me, I’m no supermodel so my threat has some actual power behind it. My favorite part about the New York article was that the writer actually tried haggling at, I think, Saks. This is my paraphrase of the article so that I don’t have to exhaust myself with cutting and pasting and linking:

“I like these shoes,” she said, “are they going on sale?”
“Is there any way that I can get a discount?”
“Could I pay less for them?”

Perfect. So you go through the humiliation and still don’t get the discount? Well, I suppose some people pay extra to be humiliated, so this can be considered a real bargain.

* * *
I am a survivor of childhood haggling.  My parents were big believers. When  I was nine years old, we immigrated from the Soviet Union and lived in Italy for six months.  You may think of Italy as the gastronomic and art capital of the world, but that’s because you never lived there with papa. For him, it was Haggling Central.

For example–we would enter the store to buy me a coat. The selection was made, a price was quoted.
“This is not price,” my father breathed. “This is anti-semitism in Lire.”
I would immediately start praying for a quick death.
“No!” he told the Nazi coat seller, before turning to me: “Walk out of the store as though you are not interested,” he commanded in Russian.
“But papa, I need a coat, for I am so cold,” I muttered. (This is a complete lie, but I had gelato to eat and I wanted to get the fucking coat and get on with my life already.  Besides what blogger can resist “The Little Matchbook Girl” as we get into the holiday spirit?)

This was repeated many times, because my father was convinced that haggling was part of the Italian culture and that we would be insulting our host country by agreeing the price asked.

You would think that things would have changed once we entered the United States, but you would be wrong. I learned English faster than my parents did so grocery shopping was filled with peril.

“This says that the suggested manufacturer’s retail price is $2.99,” my mother shoved a gallon of Bryer’s ice cream at me. “Go find out how much they want to charge us.” And despite my protests, I would have to eventually approach the stereotypically-acned grocery store clerk and ask him. Why not try this fun activity the next time you’re at the supermarket? Because the clerk’s facial expression is truly priceless when he thinks that you’re haggling.  Really, no manufacturer will suggest a retail price for that look.

I’m not done yet!  This is how New York Magazine suggests you go about haggling, and I’m throwing in my annotations, absolutely free of charge!
1. Don’t be ashamed. You can haggle anywhere, anytime—even at the doctor’s office.

I especially recommend haggling right before surgery.  Or right in the middle of it, since you most likely will not be getting anesthesia.
2. Stay cool.
Haggling is about bluffing; if you show weakness or nerves, the salesperson will know you’re going to fold.

Is it me, or do you have to be an Academy-Award caliber actor to pull this shit off?  “I will give you $1 for this bread and not a penny more.  My children are well fed and certainly do not need this loaf for nourishment.  I spit on this bread.”
3. Be prepared to leave empty-handed.
If you must have an item, you’ll accept a higher price. Often, walking away will get the absolute lowest offer.

Yes, papa was a big believer in this one.  I’m celebrating thirty years of coatlessness.

4. Use charm.
Haggling is a personal interaction. If you make the sales clerk complicit in the game, he’ll be more willing to play.

“Is that your absolute lowest price?  Because you are so handsome.  And very smart.  I am carrying your child.”

5. Pay cash.
The seller will usually knock off the sales tax, or more. But carry small bills.

I think this is called “tax evasion”.  Stay tuned for New York Magazine‘s next feature– “Plea Bargaining Tips”.

6. Do market research.
Almost everyone price-matches these days.

I’m exhausted already.  Isn’t it easier to steal this crap?

7. Read the sales tags.
Brazen hagglers will rifle through a rack in search of the one item that’s mispriced low, then demand the store honor the tag.

Also brazen hagglers will work the word “rifle” frequently into conversations with the sales person.

8. Ask when it goes on sale.
The clerk might offer to put it aside for you. Or, if you ask to be called come sale time, it could be marked down then and there, just for you.

At this point, the clerk will do just about anything to get rid of you, I’m guessing.
I don’t know, this whole haggling thing is not for me.  Please send cash so that I don’t have to do it.  You look nice, by the way.

One year ago ...

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Braja December 2, 2008 at 12:44 am

I only need to say this: I live in India. Capishe?


jon December 2, 2008 at 1:21 am

I would imagine if you went to the New York Magazine office to haggle the price of your subscription, they’d call the police. LMAO at “thirty years of coatlessness” and “I think this is called tax evasion”


Kylie w Warszawie December 2, 2008 at 1:34 am

OH MY GOSH! Yes! This is everywhere I have ever lived. I have a billion rugs that my husband “walked away from” only to be offered a ridiculously low price at which point he HAD to buy it.

Yes, my husband likes to haggle. Me, just shoot me. I’ll find a real store with prices and everything. I will. Even in Ghana.


Smart A$$ Mom December 2, 2008 at 5:22 am

Under no circumstances can I haggle. Not a Duane Reade, not in Chinatown with an awesomely authentic looking Fendi in my hands, and my DEF not at Saks. I would think they would toss me out and cancel my color consultation which God knows I need.


mo.stoneskin December 2, 2008 at 5:42 am

Crumbs I have a lot to learn. I hate haggling, normally prepared to pay by re-mortgaging than go through the hastle…


Ann's Rants December 2, 2008 at 5:47 am

LOL so hard, my two year old is laughing too. Did I say that yesterday, too? B/c the same thing happened. I have one response for these type of articles…TIME is money, too.


Melissa December 2, 2008 at 6:18 am

In high school, I worked in a discount shoe store that was very near “Asia town” in Houston and customers always tried to haggle. When I told one fellow that the price was the price, he THREW THE SHOE AT MY HEAD and walked off. Still didn’t give him the price. Just the finger.


Kristine December 2, 2008 at 6:26 am

One time in Mexico I haggled for a wrap thingy. I saved a whopping $2 I think and felt kind of ashamed of myself. Haggling is not my forte – in fact when I buy a new car, I call my car salesman friend to go with me to haggle in my place.


Cindy December 2, 2008 at 6:29 am

Haggle, no way…I’m not buying anything…I can no longer afford anything now that my retirement went down the “potty”


Heinous December 2, 2008 at 7:12 am

Lol. Yes, let’s haggle with the sales clerk who has no authority to mess with the displays. I’m sure they can slash prices on their own recognizance.


Comedy Goddess December 2, 2008 at 7:22 am

My philosophy is spend it now before the market crashes. At least we will look good on the bread line.


Andy December 2, 2008 at 7:52 am

That was hilarious, and yet somber, as I recall my last haggling experience: I saw the guy in front of me in a shoe store get a sweet deal, like 40 percent off. He clearly haggled. So, I tried the same thing. Not only did I not get a discount, the clerk was irritated that I was trying to be cheap. I’m still confused. And shoeless.


K and/or K December 2, 2008 at 8:19 am

I’ve haggled at Target and won the good fight!


Sophie, Inzaburbs December 2, 2008 at 8:39 am

This is how bad my husband and I used to be at haggling: for years we paid the full sticker price for cars. That’s right, that overblown price in the window that they fully expect you to knock down. Once, a Honda dealer felt so sorry for us that he threw in a million extras which we should have known to haggle for anyway, and gave us a great trade-in price on a car blowing blue smoke. We still got ripped off but I’m sure he slept well that night.


Rachel December 2, 2008 at 8:40 am

I must admit to brazenly demanding a retail store honor an obvioulsy mispriced item, but I generally don’t haggle. Except at garage sales (we have these in the midwest, see). Even then, I usually leave empty-handed and infuriated when the seller won’t agree to my offer. I am not a good haggler, but I loved this post!


Heather December 2, 2008 at 8:51 am

I hate haggling and will not do it. My parents used to do it at Antique stores when I was younger and I would walk away with embarrassment. I have to say if the stores can afford to sell things on Black Friday at hugely discounted prices why can’t they do that every day?


Lianne December 2, 2008 at 9:08 am

Very funny blog. Thanks for the PETA shoutout! Did you mean these PETA ads?:


Temple December 2, 2008 at 10:33 am

As a former “chick behind the counter” in a large retail establishment (recently purchased by Saks, actually…) I have to say…haggling sucks. It basically results on only three things: (1) the haggler not getting what they wanted, (2) security being called and the haggler being placed on the permanent “risk” list of the store, and (3) the sales clerk having a GREAT story to tell to various other mall employees during their smoke breaks.


Domestic Goddess (In Training) December 2, 2008 at 11:02 am

I read a similar article and had similar thoughts. Picturing myself making a lower offer on the Chanel perfume at Nordstrom that I probably shouldn’t be buying anyway is on par with setting myself on fire and posing as yule log. No thanks.


Magpie December 2, 2008 at 11:11 am

I’m going to the dentist later. I’m sure they’ll be happy to knock down the price of my crown. I’ll report back. Or not.


Miss Britt December 2, 2008 at 1:00 pm

These tips are all crap.

I like to throw stuff on the ground, bust it up, and then announce “I’m not paying full price for that!”


heartatpreschool December 2, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Ok, I’m laughing out loud at my desk reading this, and I work in the financial industry, so work is not that funny – I think people might be on to me…

I once tried to haggle for a little Christmas ornament at a Mexican Flea Market. They were asking $5 USD. After haggling, leaving, coming back and haggling some more; I ended up paying $5 USD. My husband will never let me forget it, and the best part is…this was during a trip we took in March and now I can’t find the damn thing to hang it on our tree. Shit!


wfbdoglover December 2, 2008 at 2:17 pm

As a hobby haggler I can totally relate. Your blog made me immediately call my mother to save her GAP receipts for my son’s holiday purchase so we could go back in two weeks to see if the price is reduced. They will give you their money back.



Jennifer, Playgroups Are No Place For Children December 2, 2008 at 2:19 pm

I’d never make it in a country where haggling is the norm. I get so nervous. In the Bahamas, you were supposed to haggle for the crap they sell in those open air markets, but I just wanted to pay $79 for the “My sister went to the Bahamas and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”


WA December 2, 2008 at 3:20 pm

How can you write so well EVERY DAMN DAY?? You make me ashamed of myself.

And did the article mention showing your boobs? Because that helped my friend Jane get a lower price on an oil change once.


Heinous December 2, 2008 at 4:18 pm

There’s an award for you over @ my blog. You don’t even have to haggle for it.


Anna See December 2, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I am sooo not a haggler. I hope the little match girl finds at least a poncho for herself– I hear it’s going to be a cold winter in NYC.


Heather, Queen of Shake Shake December 2, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Shhh, here’s a dirty secret between you and me. And my BFF Jennifer, Playgroupes are no place for children.

Remember how my kids broke our recliner? WELL! Jennifer informed me that I could HAGGLE with Havertys over the price of the sectional couch we had our eye on. Of course, I think she used the word’ negotiate’ and not ‘haggle,’ but is there a difference?

Jennifer is a closet haggler.


Feener December 2, 2008 at 6:32 pm

who the f will haggle at saks ?


Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy December 2, 2008 at 6:52 pm

ROFL. that was freakin’ hilarious. And I am so in the same boat because my dad used to embarrass me EVERYWHERE we went because he would either try to haggle or he would give someone a hard time about something that was not properly marked or displayed. Not fun during adolescence when the mere thought of people looking at you make you break out into a cold sweat.


Frogs in my formula December 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm

So fricken funny! Soooooo!! The only time I ever tried haggling was when I bought a mattress. I brought my female friend with me and we could tell the clerk was googling us trying out the mattresses. I started to feel ballsy so I haggled and it actually worked. But the mattress totally sucks. Still, I saved almost $100.


Vodka Mom December 2, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Wait, let me get my sister. She is the QUEEN of haggling. Be right back!!!


Pseudonymous High School Teacher December 2, 2008 at 9:02 pm

My college room mate and I used to go to Waikiki when we got bored and restless studying. Duke’s Lane and The International Market Place have little booths run mostly by Koreans. They are known for their haggling. My roommate was an awesomely frugal hawaiian chinese girl who would wittle down prices just to take the edge off studying. She gave me my haggling training steps.


heytheredearheart December 2, 2008 at 9:16 pm

Funny! I especially like how the right to bear arms and haggling go hand in hand!


Janie December 2, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I try and haggle and then end up paying more, I promise. They always make me feel sorry for them.

So, no haggling for this girl!

Thanks for dropping by my lowly blog. Come back and visit!


phd in yogurtry December 2, 2008 at 9:55 pm

The closest I come to haggling is walking away when I truly am not interested in an item I have just fondled .. and the salesperson chases me with a cheaper price and I buy it because I feel guilty that they chased me and sorry for them that they have to degrade themselves in order to earn a living. So yeah, no haggler, I, either.


Susan December 2, 2008 at 11:17 pm

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Anna Lefler December 2, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Oh,I’m way too much of an uptight white girl to haggle.

In fact, I often pay more than the asking price just, you know, to make a good impression.

~ Anna


All Adither December 3, 2008 at 8:00 am

All I can say is…it built character and gave you great blog fodder. Hilarious post.


Renée aka Mekhismom December 3, 2008 at 9:40 am

I don’t believe that haggling thing works. I just don’t that. although I will haggle at flea markets and garage sales – anything goes there! But a department store? Not.


Liz December 3, 2008 at 9:54 am

Oh my gosh I love this post. I laughed out loud. My mother-in-law is the sweetest little thing, and I get a huge kick out of shopping with her. She looks at the salesman and blinks her eyes and plays with the price tag while she says, “Um, how about less?”


Z December 3, 2008 at 11:28 am

Yes, yes, yes. Haggling scares me. Only time I have done it successfully is in China, and that was because I didnt speak the language, and my interpreter (read: MIL) did it for me, without my knowledge.


ingrid December 3, 2008 at 12:55 pm

my grandmother, who was from hungary, used to successfully haggle in sears. it used to mortify me, but she would leave with a bargain. 🙂

she used to use a mixture of flattery and guilt. “i’m sure you, you who are so talented, will have many customers willing to pay more than full price. i am but a lonely old woman. this stereo will fill the gap in my heart. you! you can do this for me.”



Roadchick December 3, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Um, no. I don’t think so.

I will haggle for a car.
I will haggle at a yard sale.
I am willing to walk away at either of these ventures should I not get a discount or exactly what I want.

The day I haggle at Macy’s is the day I stop shopping.

People claim it works (at Macy’s) but I’ve never seen it actually happen. The person running the register has no authority to do anything except scan the tag with the little gun and stick crap in a bag.


Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub December 3, 2008 at 1:24 pm

I laughed through that entire post- so funny to imagine trying to haggle at Saks!! I am a terrible haggler….I went to Mexico with a girlfriend who is a Queen Haggler and I felt so bad for the poor family she haggled with that, after she left with most of their inventory for the ridiculously low price of $10, I ran back to give them a five more dollars. Guilt at it’s finest!


bernthis December 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I think this one is one of my top three favorites and I have no idea what the other two are I just have a gut feeling I’ve laughed this loud before when reading your stuff (at least 3x’s, I should say)


King of New York Hacks December 3, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Can’t believe this is the first time I read your blog, and this was a classic!! I love haggling , especially in NYC where everything is negotiable. Remember, we “always make an offer they can’t refuse” !!


the mama bird diaries December 3, 2008 at 8:32 pm

How did I miss this New York magazine article?

I loathe haggling. I still remember my mother forcing me to do it on a trip to Malasia.

I think I’ll make my girls haggle at Saks when they get a little older.


MommyTime December 5, 2008 at 9:28 am

This is one of the funniest posts I have ever read! Thanks for the awesome laughs.

The only time I’ve ever tried to haggle was when buying a used car. It didn’t work too well, though the one we walked away from completely did induce a salesman to run after us; he was actually shouting consecutively lower prices as we were driving away! I wanted to try in Mexico, since it was clearly expected based on what I saw around me in the market, but it’s hard to feel okay haggling to spend $5 instead of $7 to someone who probably makes 1/25 of what you make in a year. So I couldn’t do it.


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