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"Secrets of Successful "Hondlers"
by Marc Eisenson

One of our favorite local reporters, Larry Hughes from the Poughkeepsie Journal, recently called to ask for my best negotiating tips. I'd been caught. There was nothing to do but admit that I rarely dicker with anyone about anything ... primarily because I hardly ever buy anything. But in truth, I hate to bargain -- which is not to say that I don't love to get bargains. I just hate "confrontations."

Sure, I'll participate in a little friendly give and take at a garage sale, but I'm no haggler -- at best, I "hondle" (a Yiddish word that Nancy and I think suggests a gentler, kinder, more humorous approach).

Fortunately, the world class bargainers who surround me bubbled forth with lots of ideas geared to making even the most timid into stress-free super-savers. Here's the collective "hondling" wisdom of The Banker's Secret staff:

First, Ask Yourself Some Questions

Do I really need or want this widget? Buying something at a much lower price is no bargain if you didn't really need or want it in the first place. Let it go if you can.

What am I willing to pay for this thingamabob? What do you really think it's worth? Don't pay more!

Can I use the lousy economy to my advantage? Point out that since business is slow, you figure there's some extra flex in the price -- right? Say it with a smile.

Or you could say, "Money's so tight these days, can you help me out on the price?" Ask for help any way you can. It usually keeps things friendly.

Do I feel comfortable dickering with this person? If so, ask good naturedly: "Can you do better on the price?" If the answer's "No," see if there's someone else you can speak to, preferably the owner. Ask! Smile.

If the answer's "Yes," ask how much better. Grin, and keep the tone light. You'll get a quick cut in price. For a better buy, offer even less, and then split the difference.

"Do Your Homework -- It Pays!

Find out what discounts you can expect, that is, the typical difference between the asking and selling price. Car dealers and home sellers, for example, expect some animated bargaining. They know that people who pay list price are rarer than 3-piece suits in my closet.

Discounts on new cars can range anywhere from 8% to 20% off the sticker price. And real estate usually goes for 10% less than the asking price ... in these here parts at least. In a real estate slump, the spread can be a lot greater.

Wanna find out what it is where you are? See "What's the Difference?" in the next column.

Low ball it -- based on what the bottom line is likely to be.That way, there'll be room for some healthy give and take. But watch out, especially if you've fallen in love with the blasted thing. Someone else may take your potential score home, while you're cleverly positioning yourself out of the ball park.

Comparison shop -- and then snitch. Whether you're in the market for a computer, refrigerator, insurance policy, or lawn chair, if you know that a mail order house or Shopkeeper Jones offers the very same item for less -- ask Shopkeeper Smith, "How about keeping up with the Joneses? That is, will you beat the best price I can find?"

Tell it like it is. Let 'em know you're a penny pincher, a tough (but friendly) bargainer -- someone who'd drive way out of the way to get the best deal. Nancy will often (laughingly) warn a merchant right away, that I'm as cheap as they come. She says it sets the right tone.

Spend some quality time with those vendors you regularly patronize. You want them on your side for all sorts of reasons, including to sweeten the pot when there's not enough flex on a price. If you're pleasant, and your desires reasonable, chances are you'll get an occasional extra thrown in -- maybe free delivery and set-up.

If you're already a customer, you're a source of valuable future business. Smart storekeepers know there's more at stake than one sale. Feel free to gently remind 'em.

Look the item over very carefully. Pointing out even slight imperfections, especially if you're nice about it, may help you get it for less.

Be non-committal. If it's clear that you love the gizmo, and "must" have it, you won't be offered a rock bottom price. Often, the best bet is to hang out, and joke around with the merchant, who'll probably steer the conversation back toward the sale ... with a lower offer.

Know when to walk. Not sure you want it at the current price, but can't seem to get it at a lower one? Take a hike. Maybe the salesperson will follow ... and meet your price. If not, think of all the money I just saved you.

Have patience for the process. You won't get the best deal if you're in a hurry. "Hondling" takes time.

Pick your moment. Conventional wisdom says, shop early for the best selections. Sometimes though, you can get a much better buy if you shop late. In our "former life," Nancy and I once sold comic books. By the boxful, they are very heavy, so during the last hour of a convention, we were easy marks for bulk buyers. (Have I told you that we still have 12,000 that I'd gladly trade for almost anything?)

Put something else on the table. Can you trade or barter for some or all of the cost? We once brought our comic books to the Dutchess County Fair, where Nancy happily went off to pick out some mugs made by a potter with a penchant for old Mad Magazines.

Play:"Let's Make a Deal!" Nancy often gets a chuckle, if not a special combo price, by saying, "Let's make a deal," when she's buying a few items at once (usually at a tag sale).

Avoid temptation. Stay home and read a book. Daydream. Take a walk. Visit a friend. Write to us with your best money saving ideas. Have a tag sale of your own. Help out at the local soup kitchen ... .

The Pocket Change Investor
The Secrets to Getting Ahead -- Even If You Have a Pile of Credit Card Bills, Hefty Mortgage Payments,
Loans Out on a Clunker or Two, & a Bad Case of the "I'm Tired of Living Payday to Payday" Blues.

As of Issue #35 (Fall, 2003), The Pocket Change Investor, our quarterly newsletter on how to save money, get out of debt, and live better on less, will be available online, only -- for free! To get future issues right into your inbox, send your email address to us at newsletter@goodadvicepress.com, putting the word "subscribe" on the subject line.

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Reprinted from The Pocket Change Investor © 1992, Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman

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