I love a good haggle. In many other countries it’s as natural as breathing, an integral part of the sales process, and there’s no harm in it. Yet in the UK, some see it as undesirable, unprofessional and even offensive – all for discussing a payment.
I was reminded of this while looking for a last-minute bargain abroad recently. Spotting a posh but pricey villa, I sent a friendly email asking if they’d consider taking 50 euros less than the list price for the week, as it was late availability. The incensed reply back told me I’d offended just by asking. Yet a simple ‘no thanks’ would have sufficed.
Over the years I’ve successfully haggled on everything from broadband and rent to wedding rings and library fines. When the price isn’t right, I certainly don’t take it personally. But I still find it odd that very occasionally, a friendly, polite attempt to negotiate prices can provoke hernia-inducing rage.
Once, when looking for a car, I spotted a potential fit in a second-hand dealership. I did my homework and found similar models for quite a bit less than the price on the windscreen. Going back for a second look with my partner, we decided to leave it unless they offered a very good price.
Calling us into his office, the salesman pressed us for an offer. When I suggested a price based on what the car was worth on several car review sites, his face went red. He started breathing heavily. After an ominous silence in which I thought we may have to call NHS Direct, he asked me why on earth I had the gall to suggest a price so low.
Now bear in mind I hadn’t insulted his family, told him his car’s upholstery smelt a little bit of cabbage (which it did), or fed him a high-cholesterol snack. I had politely made him an offer – as requested – on the price I’d pay for the car, based on widely-available research.
So I was flabbergasted when he threw his computer keyboard towards me, wrenched his screen around the desk and demanded I show him where I’d got such a ‘ridiculous’ price from. While he sat back with folded arms and a quivering gut, I clicked to a matching valuation I’d found on a well-known car review website, and waited.
He stared at the numbers on the screen for a good ten seconds, and stood up. Was he going to offer to hug it out and throw in a free air-freshener? Sadly not. He growled at us – in no uncertain terms – to get out of his office. We were literally thrown out for even attempting to haggle.
Yes, I drive a hard bargain (excuse the pun). But is talking about money really so distasteful? A few weeks later I haggled a good price on the great little car I still have today – with a smiling salesman who was happy to talk numbers and even threw in a couple of cans of Coke for the journey back.
Fortunately, the bad and the ugly are exceptions. After a second attempt on a different villa I’ve managed to scoop a lovely getaway at a third off the list price, with an owner who was equally glad to rent out an empty property at the last minute.