Haggling 101: Finding Hidden Deals

Still at Macy's, Gault haggled for a discount on a $31 T-shirt. She was hoping the salespeople behind the counter might have some private store coupons to offer her, but that didn't pan out. Upon further pressing, Gault learned about a different way to get a discount. The saleswoman asked Gault whether she was from out of town and Gault told her she lived in Los Angeles.

"I said, 'Is there anything you can think of that we can do to get the price down?' and she says, 'are you a visitor?' And I said, 'yes.' And she said, 'You can get 11 percent off. Go to the visitor center, come back with a card, we'll give you 11 percent off.' Now that was a first for me! Even I had never heard of a visitor discount."

Macy's visitor discount card offers customers 11 percent off almost everything in the store, good for five days provided you can prove with identification that you're from out of town.

"Haggling makes me feel good," Gault said. "It's like winning at Vegas."

Veteran haggler Rick Doble has his own Vegas analogy.

"Haggling is to some extent a crap shoot," he said. "But that's part of the fun of it!"

Doble, who lives in North Carolina, is editor of the newsletter Savvy-Discounts.com. He told us he saves about $9,000 a year by haggling.

He recently bought a close-out model phone for 25 percent off and an amplifier for 75 percent off (because the logo was upside down). About a week ago he went to Kmart and found a camera that was listed for $109. He brought that cost down to $50. He haggled over a Brooks Brothers shirt, and got it for $2.

When Doble shops, he hunts for close-outs, which are good bait for haggling. And that's Haggling Tip # 4: Don't think you can't haggle on already discounted items and get an even better deal.

Groceries, Electronics and Jewelry

And Doble doesn't stop there: Groceries, he says, are fair game. He asked a salesperson at the market about getting a break.

"What kind of deal if we bought, say, all the asparagus, and the avocados and the yogurt?" he asked.

"I'd give you 20 percent off if you bought all that," the saleswoman said. "We'd be glad to get rid of it actually."

And that's Haggling Tip #5: The more you buy, the more you should ask for a discount. That's what Gault did back in New York at a salon: 10 percent off for a manicure, pedicure and waxing. Yes, services are negotiable, too.

Haggling Tip # 6: Do your research: Compare prices before shopping. Gault used her own site, TeriToday.com, to check the lowest price on a digital Sony camera. Then she went to Best Buy.

She told the Best Buy manager, "I can buy it on the Internet for $238 for tax and no shipping. Can you give me any kind of discount off of this?"

The manager responded, "The best I can give it to you is $269.99." But he also agreed to a camera case for half price and 15 percent off a camera memory stick. She bought all three items, saving $25 in total.

I asked Gault, "How do you look at the rest of us? Fools paying retail and full price, right?" "No," she responded, saying that she just wanted to take me shopping, and show me how to do it.

So I agreed to it and Gault accompanied me on my maiden haggling voyage. I walked into a jewelry store somewhat in disguise and wearing a hidden camera. I was looking for some earrings for my daughter's 16th birthday and immediately fell hard for a pair of $385 tanzanite earrings.

I asked the saleswoman, "How much of a discount could I get on this? On $385?"

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