Don't Like the Price? Try Haggling

Slumping economy has some retailers ready to make a deal to make the sale.

March 23, 2008— -- As Americans face some tough financial times, an age-old shopping technique is making a startling comeback, even at malls and chain stores -- haggling.

In Manhattan, divorce attorney Bob Zeif says he got 20 percent off an expensive watch this week, just by asking.

"I went into a very high end store," he said. "As soon as you say I'm not interested, they go back and say they can bargain."

Zeiff said he tried to bargain for the watch, not expecting the clerk at the expensive retail shop would acquiesce.

"It just goes to show -- if you don't ask, you won't get," he said. "It seems in this economy, they want the sale."

Consumers like Zeif are finding a potential silver lining in the sagging economy. Stores are increasingly offering breaks on prices.

"I think for particular items I would think about doing it," Manhattan shopper Jennifer Unter said. "Especially for the bigger ticket items."

Retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City and Home Depot are all offering wiggle room on everything from big ticket items like plasma TVs to lower cost goods like carmeras.

"This is a consumer-oriented economy," said Robert Spector, a retail historian and author of several books on the industry including, "The Nordstrom Way."

"Retailers need to get the consumers in and start spending money and if they need to take a couple dollars off the price, why not," he said.

But Spector thinks this trend in which more retailers allow customers to bargain is temporary, and will die down as soon as the economy picks up again.

Haggling in retail stores was once common practice, but that changed in the 1850s when department stores started setting fixed prices.

While no stores are making big announcements about it, some are quietly telling their employees it's OK to give in sometimes.

ABC News went with Manhattan shoppers Mark and Vivian Newman when they were looking for a lamp at a store called Gracious Home to see what kind of magic they could make happen.

"It's embarrassing," Vivian Newman said. "And when they offer you something like 15 percent you're embarrassed to ask for more, but I think the rule is ask at least twice."

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