Improve Your Negotiations With The 5 Golden Rules.   LEARN THEM

I sold children’s shoes in high school at Dayton’s Department Store, and we took everything back – no questions asked. The shoes could have been worn for a day or a year. Dayton’s policy was clear: the customer is always right on returns

Of course, some took advantage of this. But the vast majority did not. And Dayton’s used this and similar policies to develop an extremely loyal customer base.

But we didn’t negotiate price.

By contrast, my wife and I recently bought furniture for our summer place in Wisconsin and negotiated 30 percent off the “going out of business” sale price. And that sale price was already marked way down off the retail price.

So how can you tell what retail items are negotiable, and how should you do it?

1. Find out who typically negotiates

The Internet has empowered consumers with incredible information, including who will negotiate. According to The Wall Street Journal’s The Complete Guide to Haggling (which also has some useful tips), this includes hotels, medical providers on bills, furniture and mattress stores, cars, mortgage rates, and the list goes on.

This also changes based on economic conditions. More places will negotiate if they’re hurting for sales and have excess inventory. Vice versa, too.

So do your homework.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask

Negotiating in retail stores makes some very uncomfortable. I get this. The U.S. retail industry for years has spent tons of money to condition consumers to believe that “the price is the price.”

It’s now socially uncomfortable for some to even request a discount. No one wants to be accused of being cheap, right? On the other hand, you don’t want to leave a lot of money on the table if it’s usual and expected to negotiate.

My advice? It doesn’t cost you anything to ask, except maybe a little embarrassment. All they can say is no. And that’s okay. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

3. Use “fair and reasonable” standards – and be firm

After buying our furniture, we decided we wanted another matching chair. So, two days later, I asked for the same discount on it. I considered this eminently “fair and reasonable” based on the precedent (my Third Golden Rule: Employ “Fair” Objective Criteria).

But our original sales professional was off that day. And the manager on duty initially said no. I pushed back. After all, that same discount was fair two days before, and not much had changed. I was nice, but firm. He eventually agreed.

The lesson? Be professional but stick to your guns if you have a good standard.

Here’s another helpful standard: how much they have discounted for others in the past. If they gave someone 10% off last week and you have evidence of it (like a blog printout), it’s fair to give it to you too. Many places will also match prices if you can show that price from another store.

4. Move up the chain

The higher up you go from the frontline salesperson, the higher the likelihood they will have more authority and will give you a better deal. Store owners have full authority. Go for it.

Latz’s Lesson: Negotiating in stores can be intimidating. But if you know it happens, then ask for a fair discount and stick to your guns – even if you have to talk to the boss.

 * Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

Share This