What is Bargaining?


I don’t understand how it works. I also more commonly see it at small/personal businesses. When I go to the store and see milk for $5 I usually just pay the $5. Or if I see $100 shoes and I just find another one that’s in my budget? can I bargain at the large stores?

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At stores you can almost never bargain. The price they set is the price and there’s not much you can do about it. If you are buying from a private seller people will often try to drive the price down, and some stores that are locally owned like pawn shops or antique stores might let you haggle a bit. Bargaining is often done on high value items such as houses, cars, boats due to the fact that expensive items don’t sell as often and it may be difficult to find another buyer.

In the U.S., bargaining is mostly reserved for expensive items such as real property, automobiles, furniture, mattresses, major appliances, and so on.

However, other items can be negotiated in some cases. For example, the price of buying almost anything used from a private person is usually negotiable. Some sellers will indicate the price is firm, but this is uncommon. Personal services such as music lessons or yoga classes might be negotiable as well.

If the item being purchased has a salesperson that seems invested in getting you to the make purchase, then the price of that item is probably negotiable.

One reason you can’t bargain at a big store is that you’re unlikely to meet someone who even has the authority to bargain with you. A cashier or a stocker doesn’t set prices, they’re just an employee. Even if someone like the manager can bargain with you on behalf of the store, they have better things to do than haggle over the price of groceries.

These days bargaining mostly only happens in the purchasing of very expensive items, like cars and real estate, when you’re dealing directly with a salesperson or an agent or the like.

Bargaining is a way for buyer and seller to meet at a price that makes everyone happy. On the seller side it means you can make more deals by reducing your margin on difficult customers, and higher margin on customers that are not as difficult on price. The downside is that your customer might just not want the hassle, so you’ll lose deals that way. Also you yourself might not want to spend all that time.

Depending on what you sell and how you sell it, it might be worth it, or not. A supermarket obviously does not have time to negotiate the price of eggs for each customer. For a $500,000 house, most people are ready to spend a few hours or even days negotiating.