An Introvert’s Guide to Haggling Like a Pro

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Tara Bellucci)

Doesn’t “haggling” just sound like a term invented by a loudmouth New Yorker (…or Chicagoan…or Bostonian)? Though many of us prefer transactions that are quick and straightforward, paying sticker price at flea markets and antique fairs is not benefiting you or your wallet. Haggling doesn’t have to be hard—with these pointers and some practice, you’ll be ready to score some vintage gems at a fair price.

(Image credit: Tara Bellucci)

With the return of the Brimfield Antique Show this week, there’s no better time to flex those haggling muscles. Here’s how to score everything you want at a fair price, as painlessly as possible:

1. The sticker price is never the price. This bears repeating over and over in your head: Every single seller marks up their merch. If you whip out your wallet at the first price quoted, you’re paying anywhere from 20% to 50% too much. Don’t be a sucker.

2. You’re expected to haggle. You know why the sticker price is not the price? Because you’re expected to haggle. You are not offending anyone by offering a lower amount; it’s part of the experience. At last year’s show, I was scolded by a seller for not haggling. That’s way more embarrassing than just playing the game.

3. Be nice, yet assertive. Haggling doesn’t mean acting like a jerk. Asking pleasantly and clearly most often yields positive results. “Would you consider…” and “Would you let this go for…” are my go-to lead ins.

4. Combine items. I find the easiest haggling strategy is offering a lower combined price for multiple items. If you’re looking at a lamp and a vase that together would be $110, offer $80. Sellers are more likely to accept lower individual prices for a larger overall sale.

5. Pay in cash. Unlike credit, cash is easy, seamless, and accepted by everyone. Even if the vendor accepts cards, the cell service is often spotty, so you have to stand around awkwardly waiting for them to figure out how to use Square for the first time (true story). Plus, you have more bargaining power if the seller doesn’t have to pay processing fees on top of your transaction. Having some small bills on hand for exact change is always helpful.

6. Go toward the end of the show. If the fair is more than one day long, go near the end of the run. Vendors would rather sell their wares to you than pack them up unsold. This is especially true if it’s their last big show of the season (like the September week at Brimfield).

7. “What’s your best price?” You can always fall back on this straightforward staple. Asking the seller what their best price is cuts right to the chase. If you’re willing to pay it, congratulations. If not, combine with tips 3 and 4, or walk away.

What are your tips for haggling?