From CNN Writer/Editor Karen Waygood:
Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” had the power to go home all along. She just didn’t know she had it. Likewise, you probably learned one of the most powerful tools for getting a good deal when you were a little child.
“We have a saying sometimes in the business,” Susan Egan, a dealer at Kudzu Antiques in Scottdale, Georgia says, “mean people don’t get discounts.”
Over at the Big Shanty Antiques Market in Kennesaw, Georgia, dealer Dan Frey says, “There’s some interesting dynamics that go on with a sale. And it’s sort of beyond the dollars and cents. Dealers like to be respected. They like to feel like they worked hard at getting where they are. Most of them have a decent knowledge base.”
For that reason, many dealers don’t respond well to an overly aggressive buyer.
“I find that when I do that, it shuts people down,” Egan says. “Now some people do respond to it… they like that play. I don’t work that way very well.”
Frey adds, “You might read sometimes these articles about coming in and pointing out the flaws. That certainly has some merit to it. But most dealers - most savvy dealers - see right through that. And, as well as you think you can do it, you’re really never able to do it politely enough.”
One of the ways you can be respectful to a dealer is simply in how you phrase a question.
“Most dealers are not real happy when somebody says ‘I’ll give you… I’ll give you ten for it,’” Frey says.
A more respectful way would be to put a smile on your face and ask the dealer, “would you take ten for it?”
After Egan asks a dealer for their best price, she says, “If they give me a price that’s a little bit above what I want to pay, then I’ll just say, ‘you know I really can’t pay that, would you be willing to accept…?’”
“Sometimes a little humor helps,” Frey points out; “Sometimes I’ll say, ‘what’s your best brother-in law price?’”
How much of a discount?
So how do you figure out how much of a discount to ask for?
“Know what you’re buying,” Egan says. “Have an idea of what it’s worth on the market. Have an idea of what price you’re willing to pay. Because if you walk in and have no clue, you’re not going to get a better deal.”
“Do your research. Go online. Go to local malls in your area,” Frey suggests. “If you don’t want to buy books with big pictures… go look at some of the price guides without buying the book. And just get a feel.”
Is there a standard percentage if you want to offer a lower price?
“Most dealers will have a standing written policy that if someone asks, like if they buy an item that’s 20 bucks or higher - and they ask - give ‘em 10% off,” Frey says.
Not all dealers, or antique malls, will do that. Some will give you a 10% discount at $100.
“Always ask. The worst that can happen is that they say no,” Frey says.
Frey cautions one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to insult the dealer with an offer that’s too low.
“I know that when people come in and cut me 50% - maybe if I have a carnival glass bowl for $40 and they say, ‘I’ll give you $20,’ - it’s over. I keep the biggest smile on my face, and never get ticked off, but that concludes the business relationship. I probably wouldn’t sell it for $40 at that point.”
Haggling is expected if you buy six or seven lower-priced items. But, what if an item’s price tag has “firm” written on it?
“End of story,” Frey warns. “That is generally not well received. “It’s sort of like a girl that says, ‘you can’t kiss me,’ and you try to anyway. Not well received.”
Cash, check or credit card?
“Some shops really do need to keep the prices a little bit higher when you’re paying with a credit card because dealers have to pay those fees,” Egan says.
“Check and cash are always good. We prefer cash.”
“Again, I stress in my mind, be respectful, Frey reminds. “Say, ‘If I paid you cash, would that help you any? Would that be better for you?’ And it probably would. Dealers love cash.”
In the end, haggling to get a good deal is very much like a dance.
“It is,” Frey says. “If you’re good at it, a carefully choreographed dance. And you need to be respectful of your partner and don’t step on their toes.”