Stevie Martin | Staff Writer | Monday, 30 March 2015

how to haggle

A Beginners Guide To Haggling

The Debrief: Apparently we're becoming a nation of hagglers - but does this extend to the high street, or is it just for vintage markets?

Apparently we're becoming a nation of hagglers, with almost half of those who bought something worth more than £100 in the past two years giving it a go. It's according to a study, carried out for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and surveying around 6000 people - they found that the success depended on what you're trying to buy. Cars, vans, motorbikes or bicycles had a higher success rate, probably because over two thirds of us feel confident enough to give it a go, but people booking holidays were just way too scared. 

'Over the years, we’ve somehow come to see haggling as rude or impolite,' Steve Nowottny,'s features editor, told The Independent. 'This misconception has often left companies with their profits intact and only the knowing few with big bargains. Yet negotiating can be hugely effective, with the vast majority of those who try it ending up with a better deal. It’s worth a go – the worst they can say is no.'

Websites like are adamant that many high street shops are willing to knock a few quid off if you’re brash enough to ask for it. Haggling is back, guys, but how are you supposed to jump on the bandwagon? I once went shopping with my friend who proceeded to haggle for every item of clothing he bought, much to my horror (I can't deal with the awkwardness) so, together, we put together some lessons to take away from his varying success rate. 

To retain anonymity, subject will be referred to as MATT. He is a 26 year old male and his name has not been changed.

Lesson 1: There is no such thing as over-confidence

MATT: I was wondering if I could get these for £20? (presents a pair of £35 shoes)


MATT: No, no it’s fine it’s just quite interesting [lingering pause]

SALES ASSISTANT: What’s interesting?

MATT: My friend came in last week and bought an identical pair for £20 [he is lying]

SALES ASSISTANT: Oh, yes, I remember him but that was because they were faulty [she is lying]

MATT: [20 second pause]


MATT: [30 second pause]


MATT: [75 second pause]

(I leave building due to embarrassment, then return due to interest)


MATT: [More pausing. Sum total of pause estimated at somewhere between two minutes and four years]

SALES ASSISTANT: Do you want them for £30?

MATT: Yes. 

Summary: Pausing and a steadfast refusal to engage in any form of embarrassment or awareness at how goddamn awkward your being will work. Even if it's just a fiver. Imagine what you could spend that fiver on. You could buy a house! 

Lesson 2: Always barter in vintage shops

I once bought a belt for £12 and didn’t notice the label until I walked into a Primark and saw my belt being sold for £2. There’s nothing more tragic than a woman having a meltdown in the accessories section of Primark. Matt doesn't feature here - this is just wisdom gained from my own meandering experience. 

Lesson 3: Don't barter in upmarket department stores 

MATT: Can I give you £20 for this? (Presents a truly horrfying cream batwing jumper costing £90)


MATT: But…

SALES ASSISTANT: That will be £90 please.


Summary: Know your limits, and when to bow out gracefully. Also, upmarket stores won't haggle with you and never buy a batwing cardigan out of embarrassment, because you'll both regret it and look like Joan Collins)

Lesson 4: Say things are faulty when they aren't

MATT: Can I get these for £25? (presents a pair of sky blue brogues worth £35)


MATT: But they’re faulty.

(I pretend not to know him and hover around the shoe-care section)

SALES ASSISTANT: No they’re not.

MATT: They’ve got a stain there [points at small stain], there’s a crack in the sole [does not turn shoes over as there is no crack] and they’ve got this bit at the back which sort of rubs quite a lot and, you see, I occasionally get blisters I mean not all the time but sometimes my feet bleed and it’s like aargh and so…

SALES ASSISTANT: You can have them for £25.

Summary: Scout out things with scuff marks on them, or anything that could be deemed less than 100% perfect and go after it. Like a lion goes after a gazelle. 

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Follow Stevie on Twitter: @5tevieM

Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski

Tags: Money worries