How low can you go?
July 9, 2006 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Furniture store price haggling. I've heard that it's ok to negotiate the listed prices on furniture at independent, mom-and-pop stores.

My friend says no, it's not like buying a car from a dealership, where there's the expected offer-counteroffer dance. I know this isn't possible at Ikea or Target, but at my local, one-location only furniture store, is that a possibility?

And, if so, how do I start the conversation? "$400 for this dresser? How about $300?"
posted by Pocahontas to Shopping (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It is always appropriate to haggle.

Some haggling tips.
posted by bigmusic at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2006

how do I start the conversation?

"What's the best price you can give me on this?"
posted by essexjan at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2006

Is that price firm? Is there any room for negotiating? Will it be going on sale? Can you work with me on the price? What if I pay cash? I'm shopping around -- can you give me a more competitive price? (If the same item is sold elsewhere.)

Go ahead and ask. If they seem surprised or offended, they're faking. By the way, plenty of people haggle at department stores, as well.

Sometimes the merchant will say "Make an offer," so be ready with a figure that's lower than what you're actually willing to pay. More commonly, they'll say "I can give you x% off." Sometimes they will say, "I have to check with so-and-so, who isn't here." In that case, ask if they'll phone the person right now. From the start, be clear that you are seriously interested, not just curious.
posted by wryly at 12:10 PM on July 9, 2006

From the start, be clear that you are seriously interested, not just curious.

This is a good point. Until they went into semiretirement a few months ago, my parents owned an art gallery for about 15 years. They were always willing to negotiate on prices on the artwork (within reason, of course - they had astronomical overhead costs to meet each month [I believe their monthly rent alone was $12,000], so they wouldn't just magically sell an $8000 painting for $4000) if A) people indicated they were genuinely serious about buying, and B) weren't insulting (this may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how many people would walk in and say "god, I could do that with a little practice. I'll give you 500 bucks" -- and then seem truly suprised that my mom didn't clap her hands and say "sold!").
posted by scody at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2006

I worked at an independent mom and pop once and we would sometimes negotiate antiques. It never hurts to ask.

Others may feel differently but this is what always influenced me and my willingness to bargain with someone:

Be polite. People that keep pestering me about it after I said we were not negotiating the price on a certain item, or told me what a piece of junk it was anyway, or what a dump the store was, who did I think I was with these prices.... I would pretty much end the possibility of any deals right there.

Volume makes a difference. Volume means different things to different places. Know what it means for the place you're in. For example, if a place does any wholesale at all, one or two purchases is not a large volume.

Regular repeat buyers that we knew got deals more often than someone who just showed up for the first time, but there were exceptions.

When I bargain with people I engage them in a conversation first. Small talk about the weather, mention common acquaintances if we have any, tell them how much I love love love the item I'm looking at, and then ask if there's any flexibility on the price with a smile.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2006

Prices on all big ticket items, and furniture definitely qualifies, are almost always negotiable. You have probably negotiated for cars, rents, electronics, clothing, etc. The same techniques apply here. Shop around, know what a good price is before serious negotiations begin, shop during the day in the middle of the week if you can, toward the end of the month when it is clear that the salesperson works on commission, be willing to walk if you don't get your price, and always keep it friendly.
posted by caddis at 12:54 PM on July 9, 2006

You can definitely haggle. I've even got major department stores like Sears to cut appliance prices by 10%, just by asking. No one has ever acted offended, although some have faked surprise but then their manager comes over and starts playing.
posted by acoutu at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2006

"Wow, I really like this couch, but it's about $200 more than we budgeted for it."

"Well, we might be able to come down $50 on the price."

"Hmm, well, do you have any annual sales coming up?"

"How about down $100."

posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:11 PM on July 9, 2006

Also if you start with the haggling, make sure you are prepared to buy if the seller meets your price.
posted by jessamyn at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2006

Furniture stores - yes, negotiating is perfectly OK. It may not be something that happens in department stores, depending on where you are. In China, you can haggle in any store, except those owned by the government.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2006

Bring cash. I once bought a $900 couch for $650 by offering cash on the spot in an independent furniture store, so perhaps my experience might give you some ideas. I had a friend who was a master haggler who felt strongly that nobody should ever pay retail for jewelry or furniture because they have such high markups. He coached me to pull the cash out, offer it to the sales guy, and say, "I simply can't afford $900, but I have $650 cash money that I will give you right now." My friend told me to use the overblown "cash money" lingo repeatedly, wave the money around a lot, and politely repeat the offer without getting sidetracked (similar to what they suggest in assertiveness training); I did, but I must say that I felt pretty melodramatic with the whole routine, and my mother was ready to give me the money because she was embarrassed. The salesman first tried to show me other couches in my dollar range, but I politely insisted on the original. He grew very frustrated "Look lady, we don't do that - go to Mexico if you want to haggle." This turned to "Well, I could probably give you 15% off" as I got closer to the door, and to "OK, OK, but you are robbing me blind" out in the parking lot where he chased me down and accepted my offer. (I didn't do nearly as well on the couch I bought to replace that one last year, tho!)

As others have noted, you have to be dealing with someone who has the power to make discretionary decisions. This was an independent family-run store. Large corporate chains aren't the best targets. I worked retail in a small clothing boutique for a number of years, and we were sometimes responsive to bargaining and occasionally to trades. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Good luck!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:43 PM on July 9, 2006

I learned by watching my mom to smile and ask: "Is there any room for negotiation?" Often there is; sometimes there isn't, but no one has ever been offended by the question.
posted by tangerine at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2006

My attitude is the sales guy may have room to move and all asking costs you is a minute of your time. After the salesperson has had a chance to chat me up I usually open with "What's the best you can do on this foo?"

CrayDrygu writes "Your average department store clerk has absolutely no discretion whatsoever in pricing, and would likely get fired for giving out arbitrary discounts."

This is definately not the case in Canada, any item more than a few hundred bucks and the clerk has room to move 9 times out of 10 in my experience. Sears, The Bay, Future Shop, Home Depot, and Rona are all places I've successfully reduced the price on expensive items.

acoutu writes "I've even got major department stores like Sears to cut appliance prices by 10%, just by asking."

Sears will always give you the lowest sale price 60 days forward just for asking. Always ask if the item is going to go on sale at Sears.
posted by Mitheral at 3:28 PM on July 9, 2006

I can state quite authoritatively that the markup on furniture allows for haggling.

The only requirement is that you be sane and decent about it. And don't bother haggling if you don't absolutely intend to buy it. No point in wasting people's time.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:22 PM on July 9, 2006

I'm actually at work selling furniture at an indie store right now. Expensive-ish furniture too. I'll be brief. Most people here have got it right, but to recap:

1) Be nice. Be friendly. Designers can be asshats and we have to give them discounts. Friendly walk-ins are a pleasure to give discounts to.

2) Come in on the last days of the month, weekdays preferably. If we're trying to make quota, the inclination to give discounts is greater.

3) Go for volume. You don't need to buy 100 sofas, but buying two things rather than one can make all the difference between nothing and 15% off a $5000 sofa. Retailers don't make money on margin -- they make it on volume.

4) Forego the high pressure. I don't care that you don't buy this sofa or dining table right now or at all. I can always find someone else who will.

5) If it's already reduced in price, don't bother haggling. We cut the price to get rid of it right away and don't fool around with further reductions -- we're not making any money on that sale sofa. We want to get something profitable in its place ASAP.

I must have more tips somewhere, but the Italy just won and everyone's back out shopping.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 4:40 PM on July 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, how low can you go?

10% on a single non upholstered piece
15% average for sofas and multiples
20% if it's floor model, slight blemishes -- scratches, dents. no fabric stains.
40% if it's ugly, stained, or cracked.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 4:43 PM on July 9, 2006

Yes. I used to be a merchandiser for a large furniture chain. I used to write all of the big price tags on the items including a little code on the bottom that lets the sales person know what the profit margin is so that they can figure out what their commision is going to be. Or better said, how much are they willing to give up to make the sale.
posted by snsranch at 9:03 PM on July 9, 2006

my parents used to own a furniture store.

I would almost always throw in the sales tax - 7% here at the time, I would sometimes go to 10%. If I went any higher it was something we wanted to get rid of. On a big order I may throw in a delivery. Cash works better than credit or debit because the retailer has to kick back some money to the credit card company if you use VISA or Mastercard - I don't remember the number just now but its significant.

Good colours, or popular items I would probably stay firm on and not knock anything more that a token amount off. If something has just been on the floor a couple of days I probably hold firm too. Be polite, and if you say you're going to walk out but don't you have lost - this is like poker.

Some people also got deals because they bought something while we were unloading it - this drops our overhead to practically nothing.

Try to be nice. These mom and pop operations have places like wal mart eating their lunch when they sell crappy pressboard furniture
posted by Deep Dish at 11:05 PM on July 9, 2006

Deep Dish writes "Cash works better than credit or debit because the retailer has to kick back some money to the credit card company if you use VISA or Mastercard - I don't remember the number just now but its significant."

1-3.5% depending on vendor, merchant, volume and business type.
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 AM on July 10, 2006

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