British inability to haggle could cost us £500 each year

Ditch the British reserve when it comes to money. You won’t regret it

Felicity Hannah
Friday 27 July 2018 12:12 BST
If you think that the kind of dealer portrayed in ‘Minder’ by Arthur Daley has been consigned to history, think again
If you think that the kind of dealer portrayed in ‘Minder’ by Arthur Daley has been consigned to history, think again (Rex)

A very British desire not to talk about money, negotiate or haggle could be costing people hundreds of pounds a year. 

Research carried out by Gumtree reveals that buyers miss out on a collective £6.5bn each year because they’re simply too British to barter.

That reluctance can come from worries about seeming tight, discussing money or even simply not knowing how to go about negotiating with a seller. The classifieds platform found that 61 per cent of people buying second-hand items through its website said they would rarely or never try to negotiate on the price when meeting a seller.

For 41 per cent of those it was because they worried it would be rude and 35 per cent felt it would be inappropriate. But if you struggle to haggle over the kind of second-hand goods available on a classifieds website it will be even harder to push for better prices on household bills or larger purchases like cars.

And a survey from the website found that 17 per cent of people in Britain have never haggled, while only 16 per cent said they regularly bartered.

But from cars and phones to houses and bills, there’s scope to cut what you pay. Here’s how:

House-selling fees

Many of us accept that it’s normal to put in a lower offer than the asking price when buying a house, but few of us try haggling over house-selling fees even though they can run into thousands of pounds. 

Research from online estate agent showed that 82 per cent of home sellers simply accept the first price offered by their estate agent. Yet haggling a 1.25 per cent fee down to 1 per cent would save £1,500 on a £500,000 property, so a small change in the percentage charged could lead to big savings.

According to Housesimple, with increased competition from often cheaper online estate agents, it should now be easier to ask for a more competitive price.

Household bills

Many people never switch providers for household utilities and they also don’t ask for better prices, meaning they end up paying whatever standard rate their provider charges. That is often higher than the best rate available.

TopCashback surveyed consumers and found that those who do haggle save an average of £206 a year. The most successful methods included pretending to end a contract with a supplier; and researching deals available with other companies.

On the high street

It’s easy to assume that the price you see in a shop is the price you need to pay, but the website MoneySavingExpert says it can be possible to haggle at big chains including John Lewis, Tesco and Debenhams.

One way to get more for less without the discomfort of arguing down a price is to ask a retailer to throw something extra in with a large purchase, like a fridge with a kitchen or cables with a new TV.

The website also suggests that there’s more flexibility over prices of items that are already in a sale; you just need to politely ask. If haggling face-to-face is too embarrassing for you then consider using the live chat function many retailers have on their website to discuss an item and then ask for a discount.

Over your phone bill

These days a phone is an essential, but the cost can be considerable. And research from Citizens Advice shows that some of the UK’s largest mobile phone networks continue to charge customers extra for a handset even once it’s been paid off.

Once you finish your fixed deal, it’s important to ring your provider and see if the price can be dropped as otherwise you could end up overpaying by as much as £38 a month.

When you’re at the end of a contract, your strongest haggling position is that you might leave for a different provider. Do your research before ringing up so that you can tell them what price you could get by going elsewhere and ask that they match it.

According to Which?, three-quarters (77 per cent) of mobile phone users secured a better deal – and an average saving of £72 a year – by haggling.

At a car-boot sale

The summer months are often filled with car-boot and jumble sales. Even though it’s expected that people will haggle at that kind of event, it can feel awkward to discuss paying less than the marked price.

Discount shopping website suggests it’s important to remember that no seller wants to take all their items home with them again at the end of the day. Don’t cause offence by suggesting a ridiculously low price but do make a reasonable offer.

Another good way to bring down the price can be if you’re buying multiple products from one stall. If they can see they’ll make a big sale they might be willing to offer a bigger discount.

Top tips for a successful haggle

Whether you’re haggling over a house or a handbag, there are some principles to successful negotiation that remain the same:

Speak to the right person. Often the first person you speak to may not have the flexibility to offer a lower price so ask to speak to a supervisor or, if you’re negotiating for a service, the retention team so you can ask for better prices.

Offer a lower price than you’re prepared to pay so you can meet in the middle. Don’t cause offence as a good rapport can be key to agreeing a price you’re both happy with, but part of haggling is debating what an item is genuinely worth.

Avoid accepting the first offer. If a seller has any wiggle room on a price they won’t make that clear upfront, in fact, sometimes you have to go through the haggling process in order to get access to all the discounts a salesperson can offer.

Be prepared to walk away, or at least look as if you are. If you obviously desperately want the item or service then the seller won’t feel they need to cut the cost.

Do your research. If you can talk confidently about the market and the other options and prices then the seller will know you’ve done your research. It will also show you’re ready to go elsewhere, which puts you in a much stronger negotiating position.

Be polite. Building a good rapport with the person you’re buying the item or service from is vital for successful haggling; if you set their back up then they are far less likely to offer you their best price.

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