The salesman rolled his eyes and nodded "yes", as I asked him for one final request before he closed the sale. I needed him to give me a lift home with my brand new stereo. He was flabbergasted at this sixteen-year-old kid's audacity to make such a request (on top of the other ones).
I was reminded of this tale of haggling as I read, "I Will Teach You To Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi. In it, he shared a cliche how Indian men (including his father) always drive inexpensive cars and are masters of haggling their way to the best price. I can't comment on this cliche, the only Indian cliche I have is (like Newfoundlanders), they are always super nice people. Honestly, I've never met an Indian person I didn't instantly like.
Sethi cracked me up as he shared his embarrassment by his father's attempts to hammer down the price to the last penny. This made me laugh because I was reminded of how my own dad taught me to haggle through witnessing many of his cringe-worthy encounters with sales people.
Haggling is part of commerce with few exceptions. You always have to ask what the sale person's best price is. Take it a step further if he or she won't budge on the price by adding, "Okay, I guess you don't have the power to negotiate." See what happens when you put their authority on the line.
When I was sixteen, I was working a full-time job, saving money for a sweet Sony stereo. My dream setup included a six-pack CD changing player, woofer, speakers and double tape deck for making mixtapes. I finally had enough in the bank to make my purchase.
It was a humid, summer day in 1988 when I locked up my Redline RL-22 BMX bike to the post outside of the stereo store. A young sales guy approached and asked me what I was looking for. He didn't expect to make a sale at first because of my combat boots, army pants and Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt. I assured him I had the money and was dying to buy my dream stereo today. Somehow he was convinced that I was legitimate and not needing to be institutionalized.
The sale price was around $799. I was able to talk him down to $700. I revealed $700 cash and his eyes grew larger as he envisioned his commission. As he was about to ring me up, he added that I would need to purchase $80 worth of cables that were sold separately. I told him I couldn't afford those and that he would have to include them. He pushed me to purchase them and I stood my ground (just like my dad taught me). The man went to speak with his supervisor and returned soon after agreeing to include the cables at no extra cost.
I felt annoyed that he tried to upsell me the cables that would be needed to operate the stereo. I glanced over at a set of three blank tapes on the endcap and added them to the box. I said that I would like the tapes to be included in the purchase too. Miffed, he agreed to add them since he knew the store cost for the cassettes wasn't that much.
He rang up the sale in his till and I counted seven hundred dollars cash. That's when I sprang my final request. The truth was, I never considered how I would get my bike home with so many heavy boxes. He smiled and shook his head as he agreed to give me and my bike a lift home.
Haggling may feel icky to some but it is important if you want to get the best possible deal. Don't be afraid to ask for the best price or for other things in your life. The ask can lead you to a new job, a new client, a new relationship or even a new stereo.
You can bet I got home and cranked it to eleven!