James Walker: Don't discount haggling if you want to save cash

It might seem at first that it's much harder to haggle for a decent discount today than it was in previous years. But have no doubt about it, there's a war going on between the high street and their new online competitors, and it's becoming increasingly brutal. Shops know they have to fight for your custom and loyalty, so be clear and upfront about asking them what they can do to match an online prince '“ and listen to their advice about your rights if something goes wrong.
Before you click to buy online, speak to your local shops. Photograph: GettyBefore you click to buy online, speak to your local shops. Photograph: Getty
Before you click to buy online, speak to your local shops. Photograph: Getty

Ultimately, though bagging a bargain is great, there’s often little substitute for honest, face-to-face service. So before you click to buy online, speak to your local shops and where possible, give your cash to the independents so they can stay trading in the digital age.

Don’t give up

Being less British and more bolshie might not come naturally at first – and you’ll probably slip up. But don’t walk off in shame. Once you’ve got over being turned down, it’s much easier to try again. After all, you’re never going to see the sales assistant again.

Think about your plan

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The big department stores and “brand” boutiques often have a no discount policy – and it’s pre-programmed in to the tills. Discounts are possible, but don’t waste too much time talking to the sales assistants. They don’t have the power to deliver the reductions. Look for the floor managers and target them.

Don’t overdo it

Having a cover story to explain why you want a discount is fine, but don’t waffle on. Explain that you’re pushed for time and you need a quick decision.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

Point out you’ve seen a reduction in a rival shop and if they turn you down, politely say you’re disappointed but you understand. Swing by 15 minutes later and browse. The assistant may have spoken to a senior colleague and could offer you a deal.

Go independent

You’re more likely to get a discount from an independent shop or one that provides goods from a range of brands. Point out similar shops and mention they’ve offered to meet your ideal price.

Be a shop tease

If you’re after a big discount, be enthusiastic about the product when you first go in – then explain you need to think about it. Shop assistants know that you’re less likely to make a purchase when you’re out of the shop and weighing things up. So, if you pop back in shortly after they’ll be more willing to drop their prices to get a sale. Make sure you check online to find a retailer with a better offer.

Word it well

Make it clear you’re willing to spend, but only if the shop can offer you what you want. Ask “closed” questions. “You can give me 5 per cent off that” is harder to say no to than “can you give me a discount”. Leave a pause after you’ve asked for a discount. It may feel uncomfortable, but it’s harder for the other person to say something that isn’t positive.

Getting cash knocked off the sale price doesn’t mean you lose your consumer rights. Last year, Resolver helped sort out 30,000 complaints about shopping and 26,000 about online shopping.