Business | Your Money

Bargaining 101: Haggling to save a few dirhams

If you don't ask, you don't get — bargaining in the UAE can save a few dirhams when you least expect it

  • By Cleofe Maceda, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 August 13, 2011
  • Gulf News

Haggling to save a few dirhams
  • Image Credit: Supplied

Money-savvy consumers know there's more to shopping than just the price tags. Whether they're in the market for an apartment, a new car or just a piece of kitchenware, bargain hunters seize every chance to haggle for a better deal. It's the best way to save money. After all, a dirham saved is at least a dirham earned.

However, for most people, bargaining is still something they're embarrassed to do or frequently forget about. It's definitely not a strange way of doing business in this part of the world, yet haggling is widely practised only in the UAE's souqs, open-air markets and bazaars. When buying at the mall, it seems the only way to save big on shopping money is to buy during the sale periods.

Beyond the traditional bargain spots, Gulf News looked where else it's possible to haggle, and what products and services are open to wheeling and dealing.

Investment broker's fees

To buy and sell mutual funds, stocks or bonds, you need the services of a broker, who in turn make money through commissions or by collecting fees. Financial experts say broker's fees are not always set in stone. Just ask and see if they offer a discount.

However, the savings you will get may not be that big and it may depend on the amount of money you invest through them. Just approach the salesman and if you don't get what you want, ask the manager of the business.

­Potential discount: 3%

Insurance premiums

When buying insurance policies, bear in mind that everything is not fixed. Even if you're just dealing with an insurance broker, don't hesitate to negotiate for attractive premiums. Brokers are keen to retain target profits and commissions, but they're most likely to agree to a discount if you ask nicely. They may even share up to 50 per cent of the commission, but not before the premiums have been paid.

You will also have a better chance of getting a discount if you're buying multiple policies. It's easy to ask. Say something like "Do you offer a special price for multiple policy holders?" "Would you grant a discount if I moved my business to you?"

Potential discount: 50% of the commission

Retail merchandise

Most people assume that the goods at retail shops are non-negotiable and that the only way to make some savings is when the retailer goes on sale. This may be true for most outlets, but it doesn't hurt to ask for a discount. Whether you're buying some supplements at the nearby drugstore or a pair of shoes, eyeglasses or a new refrigerator in LuLu Hypermarket or Dubai Mall, don't hesitate to approach the sales attendant and ask if it's possible to lower the price.

Some shops operate a set discount system and if you're not embarrassed to speak up, you can knock a few dirhams off the price tag even if you're not buying in bulk. Some UAE consumers have been doing this and they've been enjoying discounts as high as Dh500 in a single purchase.

If you're a repeat customer, the more convincing you will sound. Just throw in a friendly smile and say "Can you give me a special price?" or "What's the last price?" You'll get an even bigger discount if you know how to say those lines in the native dialect of the vendor you're dealing with. So, practice a 
few Cantonese lines before heading to Dragon Mart.

You will also have an excuse to negotiate for a price reduction if you spot a small dent, scratch or damage on the product that you can easily fix or tolerate.

Potential discount: 10% to 50% (or higher, if you're dealing with small-time vendors)

Gym membership

Given the number of gyms that have opened their doors in the UAE market in recent years, retaining members and attracting new clients are especially difficult for some business owners. Take advantage of the situation by negotiating for lower monthly dues.

Whether you're just signing up or you have been a repeat customer, it is worth asking for a special price. It helps to do some research before you propose a rate. To put yourself in a better bargaining position, find out what the prevalent membership rate is and decide how much you can afford to spend every month.

If you can tag a gym buddy, your wife or husband along, or if you can recommend other people to sign up, you will have more wiggle room to bargain. Additional tip: Newly opened outlets are more willing to negotiate. They know they must offer discounts to lure customers in.

Potential discount: 30%

Plane tickets, hotels, holiday packages

There is usually no room for negotiation if you buy your plane ticket or book hotel rooms and holiday packages online. However, if you go to a travel agent, you can certainly haggle. In a highly competitive environment, travel agencies don't usually mark up their rates so high, but their prices are also negotiable. Simply ask for the "best price".

If you have purchased from the same agency before, or if you're buying tickets/packages for a group of people, travel agents will be willing to lower their markup. UAE travel agents sometimes, for humanitarian reasons, grant discounts to residents who are having financial difficulties, so be very honest and upfront about your situation.

Your ability to negotiate will also depend on the value of the travel package you're purchasing. If you take a small return ticket for a trip to Doha, Qatar, for instance, it might be difficult to adjust pricings. However, if you take a package for a holiday in London and you include hotel accommodation, sightseeing tours and land transfers, or if you choose an airline that has a lot of frequencies on your desired route, you'll be in a better position to haggle. But before you negotiate, do a little bit of research on current rates.

Potential discount: 10 to 15%

Housing rent/agency fees

The rent on an apartment or villa is always flexible, especially if you're looking at an area that's clearly a tenant's market. Besides bidding for a lower rent, a potential tenant can also ask the landlord to increase the number of cheque payments and furnish the apartment without extra cost. Before you approach the landlord, however, get to know the market and find out what is available.

A potential tenant's bargaining power also hinges on the property owner's circumstances. Landlords who are not short of funds often try and maintain their price with the least hassle. But considering current market conditions, it is always easy to find a landlord who is eager to get his apartment occupied quickly.

Real estate brokers registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority often maintain the five per cent fee. This is to ensure brokers will complete their due diligence on the landlord and ensure that all documentation is legally binding and protects parties concerned. You can negotiate to reduce the broker fee, however, industry experts warn you might also end up with a discounted service.

Potential discount: 20%

Personal services

The next time you visit your favourite salon, mechanic or auto body shop, don't be shy to ask for a discount. Better yet, go to places like Al Aweer for tyre issues, or Satwa, Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira for beauty treatments and other salon services. You won't just get a discount, the standard service rates can be half those charged in franchised outlets or high-end outlets.

Potential discount: 10 to 50%

Salary

Salary is another area that you can negotiate.

If you're applying for a job and want a higher salary, don't be afraid to speak up and ask for more. Bear in mind the two important things that can help you get what you want:

Firstly, do your homework and understand the requirements for the position you are interested in.

"Secondly, always know your worth," said Lama Ataya, Bayt.com's chief marketing officer.

The company's website, which provides a list of average salaries in the region across industries and positions, can help you with your research.

Talking to people who are in the same position can also help you back your salary expectations to the recruiter.

"It is important that you conduct these negotiations in a respectful and professional manner as this does reflect upon your negotiation skills which are a crucial skillset for the employer in almost any role and will be assessed as such," she adds.

Tips/information courtesy of Steve Gregory, managing partner of Holborn Assets; Michael Michael, director, Landmark Properties; Premjit Bangara, travel manager of Sharaf Travel and several UAE consumers.

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