How Haggling Taught Me About Life
I used to be afraid of bargaining. The thought of haggling over a price, or even asking for a discount, was embarrassing. Then I began visiting countries in which haggling is expected. I was forced to adapt. At first it was frustrating, then tiresome, but eventually I learned to embrace the process of bargaining. Once I did, I realized that haggling had taught me a lot.
Here are six of my favorite lessons:
It Never Hurts to Ask
When I first began bargaining, I was very timid about suggesting a discount. After several very unsuccessful attempts I realized there is no harm in simply asking for what you want. The more I asked, the easier it became. Now I ask questions all the time. I find that it helps establish my terms and clear up misunderstandings before they happen.
Shop Around and Learn the Market
A bargaining situation is not something you want to jump into blindly. Before you can recognize a reasonable price, you must know what other people are paying and what the nature of the market is. This, of course, is not the only time in which a little research leads to a big payoff. I always try to understand the established terms of my problem before I attempt to evaluate it. This is the first step towards what I think is the most important lesson...
Know Your Price
Expert hagglers will tell you that the key to feeling satisfied with a negotiation's outcome is to know exactly what you expect from it. This is relevant to almost any situation, whether bargaining is involved or not. Before I buy something, I try to establish how much it is truly worth to me. If my price is less than the marked one, and there is no room for negotiation, I probably won't buy it. But this doesn't only relate to money. Time, energy, ethical, and moral values are all things to consider when evaluating the cost of an item, activity, new responsibility, or anything.
A heated negotiation is an exciting event but, to be successful, you cannot get caught up in it. The best hagglers sit back with a calm, almost aloof, confidence and let the situation play out on its own. This patience is a skill that can take a lifetime to develop. I am still working on it, but a more relaxed attitude has already helped me in all aspects of my life.
I think the greatest misconception I had about bargaining before I did a lot of it was that it involved an argument. This couldn't be farther from the truth. If you smile when making an offer, people are much more likely to accept it. If you can laugh at yourself, everyone opens up a bit. Haggling, and life, require a sense of humor.
Don't Be Afraid To Walk Away
The final revelation that comes when learning to bargain is that the lowest price will be shouted after you have walked away. Still, sometimes you just have to accept that your price is too low. Other times, you have to realize that you didn't really want the item that much in the first place. Then there are times when you begin to put distance between yourself and a situation, and it comes running back, begging to make a deal.
There are a lot of great guides to haggling and bargaining out there. Here are some that I enjoyed:
- Get Rich Slowly: How to Haggle
- MetaFilter: How low can you go?
- REI: Travel Expert Advice: Bargaining
- Reader's Digest: Haggle Like a Pro: 5 Lines That Work
- New York Magazine: Tips on How to Haggle
- Beijing Travel Tips: Bargaining
- Wikitravel: How to Haggle
Do you have any great bargaining tips or stories? What has haggling taught you? Share it in the comments!