Haggling 101: Finding Hidden Deals

At open air markets in Turkey, they call it "pazarlik." In Mexico, they call it "regatear." Speaking in Yiddish, my grandmother called it "handel." Here in America, we call it haggling. And most of us don't like to do it unless we're forced to -- like when we buy a new home or car.

In fact, haggling makes some people so uncomfortable they'll hire professional hagglers such as car shopper Phil Landers of NoMoreHaggling.com or jewelry shopper Nina Johansson of Shangby.com, to do the dirty work for them.

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That's because American consumers tend to assume most prices are non-negotiable. Right? "Wrong," said Teri Gault.

Gault, a self-admitted haggling expert, said there's never been a better time to haggle, given our weak economy.

"I've always gone in and asked for discounts," she said. "But possibly they would expect it even more now. If you're worried about making your bills get paid or making ends meet, this is a good way to start saving some money."

And Gault knows. She came up with a couple of consumer Web sites: TheGroceryGame and TeriToday to save consumers money. Now she's rich and doesn't need to haggle, but she just can't help herself.

"I get an endorphin rush from saving money," she said. "It literally is like a runner's high."

Most of us, though, don't have the gumption to bargain down a price with shopkeepers. In fact, lots of people find haggling embarrassing. Up until working on this piece, I know I did. But Gault told me that once you start doing it, you'll probably change your mind.

"Salespeople actually enjoy making you happy," she told me. "And you're just asking them to help you get a better price."

Assume It's Negotiable

According to Gault, most prices are negotiable -- even at chain stores like Best Buy and Macy's. To show ABC News how she haggles, Gault spent a day shopping in New York City wearing a hidden camera.

A good place to start haggling, she said, is on big ticket items, like furniture. Gault went into Sam Flax, a design store in New York City, to buy a kitchen stool. At first, she was not successful.

"Can you give me anything off of it, like say 20 percent off?" Gault asked a clerk. He responded, "No!"

She then asked another clerk who also told her no. But if at first you don't succeed, try Haggling Tip #1: Ask for the store manager or owner. They have the authority to give you a discount.

Gault finally asked the manager at Sam Flax about getting a discount on the stool. "It's $169," she said. " I was wondering if you could give me a sale price on it?"

Right away, the manager agreed. "Our sale price is $129," he said.

I asked Gault where the store manager came up with that number.

"They have a certain margin and they know what they have and he just took $40 off," she said. "Even some of the salespeople were surprised. I was happy."

Haggling at Chain Stores

Next stop: Macy's department store. Gault zeroed in on a $128 sweater, but noticed it was missing a sash.

I was surprised you can bargain at Macy's, but Gault told me, "There are different ways to do it. Now this is one of them -- I found this sweater and I liked it and it didn't have the belt to go with it. And so [the saleswoman] gave me 10 percent off."

The Macy's saleswoman told us they had a standard policy: "10 percent off is when we have any damage or something is missing something like this."

And that leads to Haggling Tip #2: Look for imperfect items. You can usually get 10 percent to 20 percent off.

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