The Car Boot Journal Coffee Break: To haggle or not to haggle

To haggle or not to haggle that is the question being asked at the Car Boot Journal today.

To be honest I’m rather sitting on the fence on the matter. If I am out at a car boot fair buying then my policy is if the price being asked is below what I wanted to pay then I don’t bother haggling.  I work on the principle that the five or ten minutes you waste arguing over 20p is giving another buyer the chance to snap up the bargains on the next stall, plus if both parties are happy then surely that is what matters.  On the other hand if the price is close to what I am willing to pay I switch off my natural British reserve and have a go.  If the item is way over my budget then I go back to my original principle and move on to the next stall, save yourself the time and a potential bargain being missed.

When I’m selling I work on the principle that if I have marked a price on an item then that is what I want for it and there is very little wriggle room on the price.  However, if I haven’t priced it up then I’m quite open to a friendly haggle.

Friendly is the operative word.  We all agree here at the Car Boot Journal that there are a lot of people out there that believe that haggling is the same being rude about an item to lower its price.  It is not and in my case it will increase the price of an item.  An example of this was at recent clear out sale I did. Everything on the stall was 50p.  The idea was not to make a fortune, just to discover whether there was still carpet on the floor of the children’s bedroom. It was first thing in the morning and another trader who buys for their ‘grandchildren’ demanded I sell them one of the better items I had just put out for 20p on the grounds it was not much good and they were doing me a favour by taking it away.  I used my favourite tactic a polite decline of the offer and then restate the price.  Now  this seemed to make them even more determined to buy it pointing out all the flaws in the item both real and imagined and ending with that famous phrase you hear time and again at boot fairs across the land; ‘You won’t ever sell it at that price.’  Now at this stage I knew I’d won.

Saying that is the same as a toddler threatening to scream unless you buy them some sweets.  I ignored it and gave another polite restatement of the price I was prepared to sell at.  This time it resulted in a 50p being shoved at me. It was the next bit in which they did something very strange (proving that when you are angry you stop thinking straight).  Grabbing another object on the stall they shouted "I won’t give you more than a £1 for this.”  I gratefully accepted the pound and they went away happy to have paid a pound for something on a 50p stall.

My point is that haggling at its best is a piece of street theatre not an argument.  People from many other countries seem to understand this to a far great extent than the British do.  My second example was played out at a boot sale a couple of years ago when I was selling a toy rhino that moved and made sounds.  A foreign gentleman expressed an interest in the toy but not at the price I had stated.  I dropped my price a little stating that I had replaced the batteries in the toy.  He countered with the statement that he was buying it for his little boy back home and would have to post it to him.  This went back and forth for several minutes with declarations on his part how his child would die of a broken heart if he didn’t have the rhino and on my part of how my children would be heartbroken if couldn’t afford to take them out as I had promised and wouldn’t be able to do that if I couldn’t make enough money that day.  This was all done with a smile on our faces and ended with a handshake and with us both being happy with the price agreed.  It also delighted his friends to find someone who knew how to play the game and it gave me a chance to sell to them and the other people who had stopped to watch.

So my tips for haggling are:
  • When selling work out what you need to sell the item for and then give yourself some room to manoeuvre
  • Don’t panic if you don’t sell the item.  Most boot sales attract hundreds of buyers, if one person won’t pay what you want someone else might.
  • Be polite and friendly.  It’s harder to argue with someone who won’t argue back.
  • Remember you don’t have to sell an item no more that some has to buy it.
  • When buying stay focused on the price you want to pay and don’t let your heart run away with your head.
  • A realistic price is more likely to get a result than offering something silly.  We all want the solid gold watch for 20p but in reality it’s not going to happen.
  • Be polite, there is no harm in pointing out a flaw in an item but do it nicely.
  • Be ready to walk away if you can’t agree a price.
  • Being friendly to a stallholder especially straight after a rude customer is a good way of getting a reasonable price.

And finally the best reply to a silly offer we at Car Boot Journal once heard was when a person complained that the jumper they wanted to buy wasn't made of pure wool;  “You find me a sheep for a pound and I’ll give you the jumper”. 


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