How I Learned to Bargain
You wouldn't think that bargaining and haggling would come naturally to a painfully shy and somewhat awkward sixteen year old, especially when his first experience with it was over 3,000 miles away from home in Mexico City. And yet that's exactly where I first learned to haggle and bargain, interacting with street vendors in my tourist Spanish on a once in a lifetime three week trip to Mexico with the Spanish Club in high school. What surprised me was the lack of pressure. As someone who was socially awkward in my own country, in Mexico I enjoyed interacting with people and found it very easy to negotiate with vendors - it was like an enjoyable game that both of us could play.
Quickly, it became apparent to the rest of the group that I was by far and away the best at getting great prices, doing better than everyone except our teacher - and I was pretty close to matching her. Suddenly very popular, I enjoyed the time of my life seeing the amazing sites of Mexico while many beautiful young women who had nothing to say to me in high school were stroking my arm, giving me hugs, and asking me to get something they wanted for them at a good price. "Por favor ayudame, es para mi novia nuevo," (please help me, it's for my new girlfriend) I would say, gesturing over to one of the gals standing with the group, who would usually be glancing over at us. Many a merchant knocked off another 10 or 20 pesos for me with a smile, glad to help a young brother out.
Out of sight I'd smile and give the girl her souvenir and the change. "Thank you so much! How'd you get the price so low?" would be the inevitable response, occasionally even with a hug. "I'm just a natural, I guess," would be my smirking response, perhaps the first sign of strong self-confidence from me in my life. After one such exchange my Spanish Teacher, Mrs. Schlue (one of the best teachers I ever had), smiled and said "Nice job, Romeo."
I have loved haggling and bargaining ever since.
How Confident Haggling Translates to Everyday Life
Obviously based on where I was in life at the time, my first experience with haggling was a very positive one that has great memories for me, as well as serving as somewhat of a springboard for me in actually having self confidence and overcoming the sometimes crippling shyness and introversion that resulted. What surprised me was how easily becoming confident in haggling translated to useful skills in other parts of life.
First of all, haggling should be part of every flea market or farmer's market. It's expected, it's not looked down upon, and even if you don't get much of a difference - every dollar counts on the experience of being able to do so confidentially will make you more at ease at looking for deals in other places in life. Buying a car is another great example (you should never pay sticker price for a brand new car), but haggling also translates to:
- Negotiating a salary or additional benefits
- Finding new business as a freelancer or entrepreneur
- Confidently challenging a charge on a credit card
- Talking down a medical bill for a settlement after months of payments
Aside from the obvious financial situations, being able to confidently haggle makes other social interactions much easier as most people find negotiating about money to be one of the most difficult conversations to have. Getting a great deal on items you buy or loans you take out can also translate to a fuller and more affluent life.
More Stories on Searching for Bargains
Don't only rely on haggling for getting good deals. Searching for bargains can not only be fun, but also lead to better purchases than you would have otherwise gotten new. There is also something to be said for embracing hobbies and past times which get you out and about instead of sticking around the house watching TV. After all, there is something to be said about living life.
One hobby I enjoyed was searching for antique books. This meant going to used book stores (many of the best books I ever read were for a quarter or less from these stores), attending local flea markets, or looking through boxes of books the day before a local auction. Once in a while I'd end up buying a nice chair or piece of furniture for $30 or less that fit perfectly in the apartment and is much better than the cheapest Wal-Mart crap out there. Sometimes I got the books I wanted, and once I bought a first edition Sinclair Lewis for $10 which I later sold for $775. That was a great day.
I've made a very good second income from finding antique books, while others I know have made a small fortune off of antiques bought cheap and sold at much higher prices. Some of the best furniture I've ever bought were from estate sales or auctions, and the apartment I'm living in has a ridiculously good art collection throughout every room - with no painting or etching ever costing more than $25. Bargain shopping isn't just looking for fifty cent cans of tuna - it can be a fun and exciting hobby that gets you out and about and makes you certainly feel rich as a Prince, even on a Pauper's salary.
A Few Concluding Tips on Haggling and Bargaining
Learning to haggle is a process, as each person is going to have a very different style. Some people are best with the soft sell, some people learn they are best starting with extremes and making their way back to reasonable prices. You will need to practice to get even better at haggling or bargaining than before, and at learning what style works best. Aside from getting better negotiation skills, the habit of getting out and about and living life, meeting people, and doing things will lead to a happier and more fulfilling overall life - which should be the goal for each and every one of us. Haggling and bargaining do not need to have the negative connotations many people associate with those words - these can be very positive words and should be considered as such.