Bargaining is an art. While it is good for your wallet, is it everyone’s cup of tea? Some people seem to have a better knack for it than others. We hunted down the bargain hunters to find out some tips that everyone can follow to get a btter deal the next time you shop.
The art of bargaining
Dubai expat Chandni Mohsin Ali thinks her sister is one of the best artists, in this regard. Be it a mall or a street shop, she is amazed at her sister’s ability to bargain.
According to Chandni, a customer coordinator from Pakistan’s Gilgit territory: “While shopping in Pakistan, if we go to a shop and see a salwar kameez (traditional wear) for PKR10,000 (Dh264), my sister can easily buy it for PKR1200 (Dh32). She is no different when we shop in Dubai. She can bargain at a mall as tactfully as she does, at a street shop.”
[My Sister] can bargain at a mall as tactfully as she does, at a street shop.
What is the tactic?
The 29-year-old said: “At malls, Bilquis has no qualms about asking for clearance sales. If she loves an item, she watches for clearance on it, and even then she fearlessly asks for better discounts.”
Don’t accept the first offer
“Whenever she goes out shopping and she picks up something, even if it is for Dh100 she asks for a discount. Her favourite line is: ‘Kya, itna mehnga?’ (What, so expensive?) And then, she takes it upon herself to suggest a suitable price for each item, as if she is the one running the shop.”
Don’t stop till you convince
Balquis doesn’t stop unless she convinces the salesperson to give her a discount. Chandni added: “She keeps finding aspects in products so that she can convincingly ask for a further discount.”
Be prepared to walk away
And, what if the shopkeeper doesn’t accept the deal even then? Her next step. “She threatens to move on to a better shop and she will pretend to walk away, all the while hoping that the shopkeeper will stop her.” She wins most times.
Another tactic that Balquis always uses with the shopkeepers is the line: “I regularly buy things from your shop.”
An impressive online bargain
While he does not consider himself an expert at the art of bargaining, Murtaza S has some impressive deals that he can boast of. He bought a superbike online for Dh10,000 when the man selling it had originally asked for four times the price. He also gets designer watches on 50 per cent discounts straight from the official retailers.
Consistency is key
“Consistency is the key. I come from a sales and marketing background and that is what I have learnt. When I was planning to buy the superbike, I set a budget for myself and stuck to it. I then would look at ads that were being put up and have a chat with the advertisers. I would try and understand the profile of each person and why they were selling the bike in the first place.” he told Gulf News.
He focussed on people who might want to make a quick sale and wanted cash payment. There were times when he was laughed at for his counter offer. One man even said he would rather drive his bike off the cliffs in Al Ain and post the video on YouTube than take Dh10,000. Then, after three months of patient stalking, his patience finally paid off.
“I found a bike listed for Dh40,000. After I spoke to the advertiser, he said he could reduce it to Dh35,000 at the most. I told him I have a budget of Dh8,000 but since the bike was in pristine condition, I can do a little bit more and pay Dh10,000. I told him that I absolutely agree your bike is worth Dh35,000 and I understand you can sell it for that price if you stick with it for a long time but since you are leaving the country, if you need instant cash then I can pay within an hour. If you need liquid cash, this is the deal,” he said.
“He waited for 15-20 days to get a better deal. He didn’t find one I guess and messaged me saying I’m willing to sell it but I need the cash immediately. I said ‘sure, come over and I’ll give it to you right now’. And, that’s how I got the bike.”
Patience and research
If it is a purchase that is not urgent or a necessity, you should take your time to survey the market. According to Murtaza, he spoke with over 100 people before he was able to get the deal. Research, too, is key. Speaking about his superbike, he said that he was aware that current bike owners were having issues with the silencer.
“I brought that into my negotiation with the man and told him I would need to pay in the future to fix that potential issue,” he said.
Bargain on rent
Such research can also help with buying or renting properties, for example. While a reduction in rent is not always possible, you could ask the agent to give you a few extra months on the contract, which would ultimately make it cheaper, Murtaza said.
“The broker would not like to give a discount because he might be getting less commission. Instead of 12 months, I would ask for a 14 months contract on the same rent so I get two months extra. The broker is also happy and the landlord is also happy,” he added.
Leave your business card behind
While looking for a new designer watch, Murtaza said he left his card with a salesperson asking him to contact if they had an end of season sale.
“I told him that I would buy two or three watches together. This is what sticks in their mind because they feel like they might get a bigger sale. So, I got a call when this retail outlet was offering massive discounts on watches. The watch I bought had a market value of Dh8,000 and I negotiated it down to Dh4,500,” Murtaza said.
Connect with the seller
What he advises is to connect with the person and not make them feel like you are taking advantage.
“If you are bargaining they should not feel like you are lowballing them. I do it quite subtly, I go in there talk to the person first and say that I love the item. Then talk to them about the item so that they know I am seriously interested in it. Understand the person you are negotiating with and what is he willing to walk away with at the end of the deal.”
Can everyone bargain?
Chandni Mohsin Ali doesn’t think so. She added: “Those who run a hard bargain like my sister have a certain technique. When they do it, it sounds funny, but convincing at the same time. If I try the same thing I may sound rude and they may kick me out.
“I have tried to bargain but it back fired. She on the other hand bargains for even five dirhams. However, she doesn’t annoy them (shopkeepers), they don’t get angry.
Is it okay to bargain all the time?
According to Indian expat and former banker, Lamiya Siraj: “Bargains can be done for two reasons, genuinely for discounts, second for fun and pleasure. I love bargaining. But, I feel now we are in fixed price zones. I feel okay to bargain at places like Global Village or Friday markets.”
Lamiya feels there is a need to understand when it is not okay to bargain. She says it is important to ensure that bargaining doesn’t become exploitative: “We should not bargain with poor shopkeepers who, we can make out easily, are earning a meagre livelihood through their business.
We should not bargain with poor shopkeepers who, we can make out easily, are earning a meagre livelihood through their business
“I don’t understand the concept where customers go to posh malls and supermarkets and happily pay huge amounts as fixed prices on items and come home satisfied, whereas they bargain with local or street vendors for peanuts and get immense pleasure as if they have conquered the world and saved a lot of money. Example, we pay the full price of fruits and vegetable listed at supermarkets and, while purchasing from a local vendor we ask for discounts.”
You can bargain for anything, even a car
While many find it okay to bargain at street shops, is it possible to haggle for somewhere more expensive, say a car showroom?
Gulf News spoke to a car salesman at a luxury brand showroom in Dubai. The Egyptian expat (name withheld for industry confidentiality) said: “The margin on any item in a high-end showroom is marked up keeping in mind the possibility of the customer asking for a discount. In Dubai, I have noticed, very often people do ask for a discount. They ask us what the ‘best price’ is we can offer. As policy, we try to give them add-on services first and avoid the discount. But, if the customer is persistent, we give them a better offer.”
While some customers have mastered the art of getting a good discount, shopkeepers have a few tricks up their sleeves as well. These experts in the realm of all things business, handle customers hustling and bargaining every day. From unreasonable negotiators to those who ask for ‘free goodies’ they have experienced it all.
Amir Al Deen Shah has been a businessman in India and the UAE. Having extensive experience in dealing with costumers, he believes that everyone is looking for a bargain.
“Bargaining always happens and we keep a margin for it when setting the price,” the 34-year-old said.
Bargaining always happens and we keep a margin for it when setting the price
Speaking about how prices are negotiated, he said: “They [customers] halve the price we’ve set for sure.”
The tradesman faces certain buyers who are especially difficult to please, however, he aims to learn from such interactions. “Some customers want an unreasonable price but it’s a learning experience.”
Shah credited competition as the biggest factor when it comes to bargaining. “The biggest reason people bargain is competition. If I don’t give them the price they want, they can go to 10 other shops selling the same thing,” he said.
Shah also broke the myth that bargaining is a habit of people from certain backgrounds. “In my experience, everyone and all nationalities bargain,” he said.
Zohaib Mithya, a 35-year-old Indian business based in Dubai had similar comments.
The tradesman has been handling his business for over 15 years. Working in Dubai he has observed that most people are on the look for a discount. “Both residents and tourists bargain. Those who aren’t used to bargaining back home, come here and quickly learn that everyone is bargaining,” he said.
Both residents and tourists bargain. Those who aren’t used to bargaining back home, come here and quickly learn that everyone is bargaining
However, this can come at a disadvantage sometimes. “Sometimes tourists bargain more than residents and over products they shouldn’t because they are afraid of getting a bad deal,” he added.
Speaking about dealing with stubborn buyers, he said: “There’s no point in getting upset. We politely say no.”
Mithya believes that today’s customers are well versed in market patterns and educating themselves further is useful when looking for the best deals. “The only way to not get fooled is to study the market and prices,” he said.
The Indian national recommends surfing websites selling similar products to what one’s looking for, which is the best way to know it’s actual value.
As a trader, Huzaifa Shabbir spoke about how the growing overhead costs made it harder for business owners to offer a big bargaining window.
Some customers tell us the next shop will give it to us and to them I say, 'Sure, please go ahead. But for me it’s not working out. I am unable to give that discount'.
“Earlier, you would see people giving 20 – 25 per cent discounts on their orders but now if I have kept my profit margin at 20 per cent and you ask me for a 15 per cent discount, I will not be able to give it to you. Some customers tell us the next shop will give it to us and to them I say, ‘Sure, please go ahead. But for me it’s not working out. I am unable to give that discount’,” the Yemeni national who has a wholesale shop in Deira said.