How to haggle yourself a bargain

how to haggle

Think haggling a bargain is confined to car boot sales and Middle Eastern markets? Think again. The art of haggling is alive and well on the British high street – but most people aren’t aware of this fact! Learn how to haggle, and where you can land a bargain.

Haggling doesn’t really fit in with the British stereotype. Some people think that if they haggle they’ll appear rude or pushy. But as long as you’re friendly and polite, this isn’t the case at all.

Haggling is alive and well on the British high street

The odd thing is, most Brits will happily haggle abroad when everybody else is doing it. But the moment we get back home, we tend to revert back to our old ways and meekly accept whatever price we’re given by shops.

Why don’t we haggle?

  • It’s somehow seen as “not British”
  • People think “the price isn’t open to negotiation” in high street shops

haggling in the ukNone of the above is true – or at least, not in many cases. Plenty of shops are flexible on pricing (after all, John Lewis’ motto is “Never Knowingly Undersold” – while a friend of mine who works for a well-known high street chain was told to automatically give 10% off to anyone who requested a discount!)

Household names such as B&Q, Asda, Currys, Debenhams and John Lewis are all known to be open to haggling. Of course, sometimes a shop won’t haggle (even those stores just mentioned) – but it’s a classic case of “you don’t ask, you don’t get”.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

You’ve got nothing to lose – the worst that can happen is that they say “No”.

Our haggling guide is split in two parts:

1)      How to haggle – general tips every haggler should know

2)      The types of product which are most promising for hagglers trying their luck.

(For example, you probably won’t have much luck haggling with Tesco’s over the price of your groceries – but if you are buying things like electronics, furniture, phones or holidays on the high street, it’s a different story).

How to haggle in 12 simple steps

Follow these 12 simple haggling steps and you can end up saving a packet.

1. Research always pays

You can always try an off the cuff blag, like asking a shop if they can chuck in something extra for free (such as free airport transfers for a holiday, more texts for a phone, or cables with a PC).

But for a proper bargain, you’ll need to research what you’re buying – the prices, extras and offers that other retailers have. This will give you an idea of what constitutes a good bargain (make sure you have your ideal price in mind before you haggle).

If you can quote other deals you’ve seen elsewhere, you can ask them to match or beat it – which is a hugely powerful bargaining tool. Forewarned is forearmed!

2. Don’t be too keen

Play it cool. If you see a holiday/piece of jewellery/car that’s perfect for you, don’t make the salesperson aware that you love it – or they’ll have you over a barrel.

Act like you’re lukewarm towards it, but could be persuaded. In other words, don’t say that you “adore this necklace” or that “this is the perfect holiday for us”.  Rather, you’re “considering” buying it, but you’ve seen similar deals that were perhaps better value…

To really whet a saleperson’s appetite, casually mention that you’d like to “buy it today” (providing you can find the right price, of course).

3. Be polite

Be firm but not pushy. Remember you’re the one asking for a favour – but also remember a little charm goes a long way. There’s nothing wrong with using a bit of flattery, either (“You’re obviously honest and know your stuff…” “I really appreciate you giving up your time…” )

Anyone can learn how to haggle

If you can make a personal connection with the seller they’re far more likely to cut you a good deal.

4. Identify the right person to haggle with…

Many salespersons will naturally be open to haggling – especially when they’ve got monthly or quarterly sales targets to hit. It’s often a good bet to talk to a senior salesperson or manager, as they have considerable discretion in setting prices. But don’t select someone too senior who’s rushed off their feet – they won’t have time to haggle over one sale and will likely fob you off.

5. …at the right time

It’s not usually worth haggling when a store’s heaving with customers – you’ve got a far better chance when the shop floor’s quieter. Also try and find out when the firm’s sale targets are set. Many retailers have targets set for the end of each calendar month, so if you go towards the end of the month or financial quarter, many shops will be more eager to cut you a deal in order to meet their sale targets.

6. ‘Checking with the manager’

A standard sales technique is for the salesperson to say they need to ‘check with the manager’ or ‘talk to my supervisor’ before they can offer you the type of discount you’re asking for.

This is often a psychological ploy to get you to settle for less. It works by creating the impression that they’re going to a lot of trouble and that this is the best possible deal they can offer.

You might hear something like: “If I could possibly do it for less I would, but my manager would fire me! My hands are tied. I’m already in trouble for going down this low…”

Creating a break in negotiations and coming back fools many people into thinking that the shop has gone as far as they can.

If they come back to you with a genuinely good offer after they’ve ‘checked with the manager’ – great! But if not, don’t be tricked into settling for a disappointing deal. Make them go back to the manager with a revised offer, or ask the salesperson to bring the manager to you. Failing that, just walk away rather than settling.

7. Demonstrate a limit to your spending

If you sense you’re near to making a deal, you can often get them to meet your price by showing how your spending is ‘limited’.

The best time to haggle is when the shop’s not too busy

For example: “I’d love to take this laptop away with me today, but I can only pay by credit card. But the price you’re asking is £___ over the limit on my card – can you knock it down to £___?”

Or: “I like this music system, but my wife/husband will go ballistic if I spend more than £___. I also saw a similar music system at ____ for a bit less, which also offered a free warranty. But I’m happy to go without that and take it from you today if you could do it for £___.

Of course, your spending ‘limit’ isn’t your real maximum budget – it’s just the price you want to try and get the product for. Don’t play your ‘spending limit’ card too soon – it’s best to use it when you’re very near (but not quite at) your ideal price.

If the shop calls your bluff and refuses to go down to your ‘limit’ (but you still want to get the product from them) you can always get a friend to ‘lend’ you the money you need!

8. Pretend you’re considering a warranty

Many salespersons have warranty sale targets to hit – so if you hint that you’re interested in taking one out, the salesperson is more likely to meet your price for the product. Once you’ve agreed the price, you’re well within your rights to say that, on reflection, you don’t wish to take out a warranty.

Alternatively, you can always take out a warranty and cancel it later. If the warranty’s over a year’s duration and you cancel it within 45 days, you won’t pay a penny.

9. Pretend you’re considering their store financing option

Sellers often make good commission if a customer spreads the cost on a store finance plan. (This is because store finance is generally expensive – they make a hefty profit from the extra interest you pay).

Again, you could drop hints that you might be interested in taking out a store finance plan to grease the wheels of the deal. (Don’t actually opt for this in the end though, as it’ll cost you more in the long run through hefty interest charges). 

10. Shop out of season

It’s not just holidays that are cheaper at certain times of year. Go into a surf shop in winter and you’re more likely get a cheaper surfboard. That’s common sense, but it applies to everything. Clothes shops will be clearing their summer stock as autumn draws near, and will want to sell off their winter clothing lines as spring approaches. Likewise insurance firms find business quiet in November and December, but still have targets to hit and sales to make. Shop smart and you can save big bucks.

11. Buy in bulk

This works for all sorts of things – from holidays to electronics. For example, say you’re buying a games console for the kids. If you know a couple of other families who are also looking to buy one, go to your local electronics shop and see if they can do you a multi-buy discount.

12. Spotted a flaw? Get a discount

If an item has a flaw – whether it’s a mark on a piece of clothing, a scuffed book, or a scratch on a piece of furniture – ask for a discount. Items with flaws are much harder for retailers to sell, so they are usually more than prepared to give you a discount in these cases.

TOP TIP: Independent shops are a good place to haggle. If you’re buying a ‘big ticket’ item (like a music system, computer, holiday, phone, jewellery etc.) then many household high street names are open to haggling – especially if you follow the tips above.

Don’t forget independent shops

However, don’t forget independent shops. If you can talk to the owner, they will have complete control over the prices they set so can be a good bet. (This is especially the case if you can buy in bulk or are a regular customer).

The types of product worth haggling for

  • How to haggle for clothes

Almost all stores will give a discount if you spot a mark or imperfection, but some high street stores will give you a discount just for asking. No guarantees, but certainly worth a go!

  • How to haggle for digital TV

If you’re on Sky and find a better deal on BT or Virgin (or vice versa), use that as a bargaining chip. Alternatively just threaten to go to Freeview – after all, it’s free!

If you ring up threatening to end your deal you’ll be put through to a ‘customer retention’ team – and they have considerable discretion to offer you sweeteners in order to keep you. So don’t be afraid to haggle for extra free channels or a lower monthly cost.

Customer retention call centres are basically haggling centres

  • How to haggle for electronics

Electronic goods are a decent bet for haggling – use the tips outlined above (particularly the warranty tip, as most electronic stores have warranty sale targets to hit).  It’s often worth asking for freebies too (such as free delivery or leads).

  • How to haggle for furniture

If you’re buying multiple items, always try asking for a discount (and if they’re bulky, try asking for free delivery too). Some furniture stores sell display stock at discounted prices which can lead to real bargains.

Many chain department stores will be open to negotiating furniture prices (John Lewis is a good bet). It’s worth your while politely collaring a friendly shop assistant on a quiet day and putting into practice the haggling tips above.

  • How to haggle for gyms

The gym market is incredibly competitive, so use that to your advantage.

Use competitive markets to your advantage

Don’t accept the initial price a gym offers you. Go for a tour but don’t sign up there and then – leave your contact details and tell them you’ll think about it. Very often they’ll get in touch with a discount or better offer to lure you in.

If you can, mention the deal a nearby gym is offering – “I like your gym, but gym X down the road only costs £2 more and has a sauna/swimming pool/bar/whatever in it.” Or: “gym Y is a bit cheaper, so I’ll have to think about it”. Throw in lines like that and there’s a good chance they’ll lower their price or throw in some extras.

  • How to haggle for mobiles

If you’re coming to the end of a contract, mobile phone companies are desperate to keep you. This is because almost everyone in the UK already has a mobile phone, so there aren’t many ‘new’ customers to snare – they’ve got to keep who they’ve got!

smartphone haggleWhen your contract’s up, get BillMonitor’s mobile bill calculator to do your research for you. Enter the amount of minutes, texts and data you use, and it will automatically find you the best value contract for you. Then you can take this deal to your mobile phone provider and see if they can match or beat it.

If you threaten to switch, you will be put through to a ‘disconnections’ or ‘customer retention’ call centre. These salespeople have considerable discretion to offer customers what they want (within reason) in order to try and keep them, so don’t be afraid to bargain hard!

If they call your bluff and don’t give you what you want (and you genuinely don’t want to change to a new provider) you can back out. When they say that they’ll disconnect you,  just say you need to think about their revised offer first and will call them back.

TOP TIP: If your mobile network says to you: “X network may offer you more minutes, but their signal/customer service/extras/you name it aren’t as good as ours”, simply say “I have a friend on that network and that’s not his experience. I’m seriously considering joining him, what can you offer me to stay with you?”


This list above is by no means exhaustive – these are just types of products where haggling often works, and are therefore good places to start.

Whenever you’re buying something – particularly something expensive – there’s never any harm in trying your luck.

Have you had a haggling success story? Let us know below!