Tips: To haggle or not to haggle?

I touched briefly on haggling in a previous post and realised there is quite a lot to be said for this subtle but fairly strenuous activity.

Having been a trader, I’ve seen it from both sides and have my own disaster stories to reflect on. When I first set up my vintage fashion stall I had a small but very impressive collection of pristine mid-century evening bags. I priced them at the lowest I was willing to go, around €25 – €25!! – and was approached by a lady who admired one or two and then told me she would be back shortly to buy some. She returned, but with her husband in tow who immediately, and aggressively, began demanding a substantial discount for a multiple purchase. In the end I let four of them go for around €17 each and spent the rest of the evening crying and adding 10% to all my prices so this would never happen again.

It’s disheartening as I had spent weeks cleaning and repairing bags, designing price tags and display, plus I was up at dawn to pack the car, unload and set up for the day.

Ultimately I should have stood my ground. I believed they were worth more. But value is very much determined by demand and if the trader wants something moved they will reduce the price. So haggle, haggle to your hearts content, but understand it is a two way process and that the trader will have his or her bottom line, while you’ll have your limit – it’s about finding a happy medium.

In saying this there can be some unscrupulous traders out there who would like to get as much from you as possible so with this in mind I do have a few tactics to avoid being quoted an unreasonable sum.

My tips for happy haggling:

  • Don’t spend too long hovering over or checking out an item. Pick something up and then put it down and look at other items. The longer you look at something, the higher the price is going in the traders head!
  • Try and multiple buy. Offer to buy more than one item in exchange for discount, a handy tactic as the trader’s profit margin is less compromised and he/she is also bringing less stuff home in the car boot.
  • Know your limit and learn to walk away. If you really want something you will have to pay the price, traders are relying on your impulse, considering the item might sell while your thinking about it. A handy question I often ask myself ‘if this was in a high street shop would I still buy it at that price?’. If the answer is no, walk away and come back with a price that you are willing to spend.
  • Have the right change. There is nothing worse than haggling someone down to less than a fiver and handing them a €50 note! Very embarrassing.

Good luck!

Photo: Alexia McInerney



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