The art of haggling

Haggling is an age-old art that so many find intimidating or even embarrassing. But that shouldn't be the case.

EVEN STARS SAVE. Anne Curtis seen shopping in Divisoria in a YouTube video (whywouldifoolyou)

MANILA, Philippines – Christmas is definitely in the air. We know this because of the weekly mall sale, tiangges and bazaars.

‘Tis the season for shopping, indeed.

And with it comes the importance of great skills in haggling.

Many find haggling intimidating or even embarrassing, but that shouldn’t be the case.

To appreciate it, all you need is to understand why haggling is necessary and what you can get out of it.

This is one of the lessons that my mother taught me. My mother, whom I consider the MVP (most valuable player) of all shopping and haggling competitions, has been roughing it out with retailers of all kinds since I was a kid.

Her trips then to affordable shopping destinations around Metro Manila usually included me (of course I was there for the merienda after). She would take me to Divisoria, Pasig, Baclaran and other markets to buy goods to be sold in the province.

Back then, she and my aunt ran a boutique in Bicol.

My mom bought all sorts of goods, from shirts, blouses and pants to houseware, cookware, decor, knick knacks and many more. I witnessed first-hand how she haggled and learned that when you’re in the business of retailing goods, you have to get the lowest possible price to make a profit.

I would often feel embarrassed about how much she asked for, honestly. If an item was Php100, she’d start haggling at Php40 or even lower.

It was as if she wanted to take the item home for free.

But through the years, I learned that haggling is necessary. I understood that market retailers buy their goods for a fraction of the true cost because they buy in bulk.

I understood this better when my mom decided to put up an “ukay” store in a public market in the province (the “ukay” as a shopping destination is a different story altogether).

For our “ukay” story, my mom would buy a ‘bulto’ (bundle) of goods — say, shorts — for around Php2,500. The bundle would come in a sack that would contain some 150 to 200 pieces of shorts.

We would sell each piece for a hundred pesos or less; this automatically retailed the cost of our purchase by double or more.

Allow me to share some tips on haggling that I learned growing up with a mom who’s an expert:

1. First order of business: Ask for a 50% discount

This tip applies specially when buying knick knacks and cloth bags, for example.

This means that if an item is being sold for Php300, retailers can already make a profit of Php150 from you.

I was able to prove this in in one of my trips to Divisoria. I liked this cloth bag with a leather handle and asked for the price even if I didn’t intend to buy it. The lady said it cost Php300. I thought that the amount was too much so I walked away.

The lady tried to entice me to come back by saying she was willing to sell the item for Php250, I still said no.

Then she said Php200 and lowered it all the way down to Php100. That finally made me turn around.

I bought the bag for Php100 and was giddy like a school girl.

Remember, though, that not all items can be given at a 50% or more discount. These items include leather bags and shoes because they naturally cost more.

According to my mom, it’s fair to ask for a 20% to 30% discount on these items, especially in Divisoria.

2. Buy more to spend less

Yes, you read it right.

This is the same principle behind retailing: buy items at a bigger quantity for a cheaper price to allow for higher add-on and profit.

When you buy more, ask for the wholesale price. This is usually lower than the retail cost.

According to my mom, buy at least half a dozen pieces to get to the wholesale price.  

3. Ask for the last price

When you haggle, you immediately ask for the last price on an item.

“Last price” means the lowest possible price that a retailer can get from selling an item and still cover their costs and have reasonable profit.

If the seller says the original price is the last price, walk away.

He simply wants to charge you more for an item. 

But if the seller quotes you a lower price, haggle and ask for a price a tad lower and hope he agrees.

If he doesn’t, add a few more pesos to your quote and, hopefully, you’ll both agree on a price that’s comfortable for both of you.

Really, haggling does not take anything away from a retailer. It just gives you more value for your money.

Haggling requires patience and an open-mind. There are so many deals and steals out there; one is bound to be worth your buck. –

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