How to Haggle Even if You Hate Haggling

by Michael on Apr 26, 2013 · 11 comments

Photo of Definition of Negotiate

Do you hate haggling? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, many consumers are so reluctant to haggle that they take whatever deal they’re offered.

If that sounds familiar, then this post may be just what the doctor ordered…

A few years ago, I ran across one of the best (and easiest) price negotiation tips that I’ve ever encountered. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s painless. And it works great even if you’re otherwise averse to haggling. Without further ado, here it is…

Seven magical words

Whenever you’re faced with a financial negotiation, simply ask the following:

“Is that the best you can do?”

And then wait for a response. More often than not, those seven magical words will score you a better deal — sometimes a significantly better deal. And even if they don’t, there’s almost zero chance that you’ll scuttle the deal.

When and where?

The beauty of this strategy, aside from the fact that it hardly even feels like you’re negotiating, is that it can be used in nearly any circumstance. Think yard sales, major purchases, salary negotiations, etc.

In fact, it even works in situations where you might not otherwise have considered negotiating. For example, while standing at the front desk of a hotel or when making a last minute deal at the car rental counter.

Of course, this also works if you love to negotiate. In that case, hold it back until the end stages when you think you’ve very nearly reached the bottom line. Then trot out the seven magical words in an attempt to squeeze out a few more bucks.

Bottom line: Do yourself a favor and try this out. Seriously. Do it the next time you have an opportunity to negotiate. You won’t be disappointed.

1 jim April 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm

“Is that the best you can do?” – BRILLIANT!!!

2 mike May 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

I am not sure this is good advice outside the flea market “anything goes” world. The moment I hear THOSE words, or a variant of them, the price locks in, goes up, or the deal may be off entirely. Know why? Because you just telegraphed to me that you know or care less than I do about the actual value of the item, and are trying to deal through misdirection/intimidation instead. More than once I’ve replied, “You know what? I’m going to hang onto this. Thanks anyway.” My leverage is that I can always find another buyer who is willing to meet my price without trying to tell me which droids I’m looking for.

“What’s the lowest price you’ll take?” “What’s your bottom line?” Fingernails on a chalkboard. The answers to those questions are not for the buyer to know. I’ve made my offer… it’s on the price tag or CL post. You want to counteroffer, then do so, and I’m sure we can find a number we both can live with. But I’m not going to bargain against myself FOR you.

3 Wallawhitz May 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Don’t listen to mike. He couldn’t make a deal at a yard sale.
I have found it fun to barter at places not usually thought of for that.
I have shopped with my wife and bought a dress for $40 off. First you say you wont’ pay for the item at the indicated price but say the price you will pay for it, and tell them why. Another favorite was McDonalds, at the drive through. Tell them “I thought I had enough, I am 5¢ short” and frantically search the ash tray and under the floor mats. They will say “nevermind” and give you the food, then you have won.

4 Anna May 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Regarding Wallawhitz comment about shorting McDoalds…I don’t consider faking that you are short the correct amount to have any bearing on negotiating for the best deal. That behavior would be what I taught my children to call stealing. Other examples include– going to the grocery store and feeding your kids/ yourself from the bulkfoods aisle or, as you pass through, sampling the berries, cherry tomatoes, or anything you will not be paying for. Negotiating for a better price is not the same thing.

5 Alison May 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

Here from the Consumerist and–

What Mike said. I’d probably cancel the deal. That sentence *is* offensive. I’m surprised the OP doesn’t realize many people think so!

He probably uses a neutral or positive tone of voice. That would help. But when reading those words, it’s hard to imagine them said in anything but a sneering tone, because the words themselves telegraph contempt.

That sentence would also probably work far, far, FAR better on someone who’s not negotiating for themselves. Like a car rental counter person. Rather than a flea market or eBay seller.

The thing is that “Is that the best you can do?” basically recruits the hearer as a partner in getting the speaker a good deal. And as Mike said: “I’m not going to bargain against myself FOR you.”

But someone might bargain for you against an employer they don’t care about.

6 Alison May 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

My guy just walked in. I asked him, “If you were selling someone an item and they asked, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ how would you react?” I didn’t want to bias him, so that’s all I said, and I used a neutral tone of voice.

He replied, “Yes. :pause: I mean if you really want, I could go higher.”


Like I said. *Many* people find this phrase offensive/insulting and react badly to it.

7 Michael May 17, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Hmmm. I figured that it would go without saying that any interaction of this sort would take place in a polite and professional manner. I guess I was mistaken. So, for clarity and completeness:

Don’t sneer.

While I appreciate that you might not be willing to reduce your price any further, if you respond with a smartass comment threatening to raise the price, then you are the one with the attitude and I will take my business elsewhere. There are plenty of sellers in the sea.

Bottom line: I do this. Not always, but often. And I’ve never had anyone react as if I’ve offended them. I dunno…. Maybe they’re good at hiding their horror. Or perhaps I’m just uber-suave in the delivery. But it often works. Once again, not always. But often.

8 Newt May 28, 2013 at 10:43 am

I think “Is that the best offer you have” would be less offensive, except it might make him stay with his pricing.
My parents are super hagglers, if you find salesmen amusing, trying to lure people to buy stuff and stuff, well my parents are the consumer version of these salesmen. When they don’t like the price, they start joking with the vendor, say how good their product is etc. until the price plummets. Me, being raised a middle class , my parents have always showed disappointment with my haggling skills. Eventually I found out vendors are more disappointed than a customer if nothing is sold. My friends find it funny that the introvert that I am turns into a master debater when it comes to haggling . 🙂

9 J$ October 9, 2013 at 8:32 pm

HAH! I literally did that for the first time at a coin show I recently attended 🙂 Only by accident… I’m usually pretty good at haggling, and find that when I offer a price *myself* that’s lower, but not TOO low, they often accept it. But when I’m not sure what price to offer and/or I’m nervous for whatever reason (like, during this particular transaction at the coin show), I tend to leave it open for them to answer. And it just so happened that this time around I used the “What’s the best you can do?” line! For the first time in probably 5+ years, haha… so, pretty funny timing in reading this, but definitely a good reminder. Thx man.

10 Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life October 17, 2013 at 9:57 am

Seems like a polite way to go about it. I always have trouble negotiating for fear of confrontation. Sounds like this phrase is just what I need.

11 save. spend. splurge. October 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I use that line all the time. Works 50% of the time…

Once I even got 30% off the last pair of sneakers on the table because I asked “Is that the best discount you can give me?”

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