The New York Times reports that consumers are haggling over prices in all kinds of stores:
Even at Megastores, Hagglers Find No Price Is Set in Stone
Shoppers are discovering an upside to the down economy. They are getting price breaks by reviving an age-old retail strategy: haggling.
A bargaining culture once confined largely to car showrooms and jewelry stores is taking root in major stores like Best Buy, Circuit City and Home Depot, as well as mom-and-pop operations.
Savvy consumers, empowered by the Internet and encouraged by a slowing economy, are finding that they can dicker on prices, not just on clearance items or big-ticket products like televisions but also on lower-cost goods like cameras, audio speakers, couches, rugs and even clothing.
The change is not particularly overt, and most store policies on bargaining are informal. Some major retailers, however, are quietly telling their salespeople that negotiating is acceptable.
“We want to work with the customer, and if that happens to mean negotiating a price, then we’re willing to look at that,” said Kathryn Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Home Depot.
In the last year, she said, the store has adopted an “entrepreneurial spirit” campaign to give salespeople and managers more latitude on prices in order to retain customers.
The sluggish economy is punctuating a cultural shift enabled by wired consumers accustomed to comparing prices and bargaining online, said Nancy F. Koehn, a retail historian at the Harvard Business School.
Haggling was once common before department stores began setting fixed prices in the 1850s. But the shift to bargaining in malls and on Main Street is a considerable change from even 10 years ago, Ms. Koehn said, when studies showed that consumers did not like to bargain and did not consider themselves good at it. “Call it the eBay phenomenon,” Ms. Koehn said.
“The recession is helping to push these seedlings to the surface,” she added. “It’s a real turnabout on the part of the buyer and the seller.”
John D. Morris, an apparel industry analyst for Wachovia, said that the ailing economy was not necessarily forcing all retailers to negotiate. But he says he believes that when there is an opportunity for negotiation, the shopper has the upper hand.
“This is one of the periods where the customer is empowered,” Mr. Morris said. “The retailer knows that the customer is enduring tough times — and is more willing to be the one who blinks first in that stare-down match.”
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We're sure most of us have asked for a discount on a floor model or damaged merchandise but on new product? Have you experienced this in your store? If you have, how did you handle the customer's request. And if you haven't, perhaps it's a good topic for an upcoming store meeting!