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How to Haggle

A man and a merchant holding a price tag
Photo caption
A man and a merchant holding a price tag

The dirty little secret is that many merchants expect some haggling," says Max Edison, a pawnshop operator and author of the book How to Haggle: Professional Tricks for Saving Money on Just About Anything. "They build that into the initial price." Haggling, Edison says, is a game. You just have to play by a few rules.

  • PICK THE RIGHT PLACE Who knows when you'll next get to a Moroccan bazaar? In the meantime you can practice wherever you roam. Flea markets, moving sales, antiques collectives, art galleries, small jewelers—owner-run places of all kinds are your best bets.
  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK Whatever you hope to buy, Web surf and windowshop so you're up on the going prices.
  • BRING CASH Even if merchants will accept Master Card, they'd rather take your greenbacks. You'll spare them credit card transaction fees—savings that could get passed on to you.
  • DON'T SHOW YOUR HAND The velvet Elvis tapestry is calling your name, but wait—you might offer too much. Let the merchant name a price first. You could end up pleasantly surprised.
  • BE POLITE Instead of blurting, "You want how much for this old thing?" try a sweet-toned "Will $25 buy this?"
  • BARGAIN IN EARNEST If the seller meets your price, pony up. You won't get the same deal twice.

Illustration by Michael Klein

This article was first published in January 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.