How to Haggle in the City

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Have you payed five dollars for a hotdog and Coke? Are you unsure of what to do when there are no prices listed beside pictures of gyros and calorie counts? Have you considered buying artwork off a card table, but were unwilling to shell out twenty-something dollars? Are you tired of dealing with less-than-professional vendors?

New York City is notorious for shady salesmen. Here is a guide to haggling that will hopefully prevent you from ever having to answer yes to any of those questions (again.)

• Set a bottom price. Go into your transaction with the highest number you’re willing to pay already determined. Being wishy-washy and taking the first markdown they offer is not the best strategy.

• Don’t speak first or more. The first offer that is made won’t last whether it is from you or the seller. Who ever speaks first will have to compromise. The less you speak the more confident you appear. Give the impression that you don’t need whatever it is that they are selling.

• Debate. Pretend you are at Interregnum. You aren’t a tourist who doesn’t know how this city works. Give reasons on why it should be cheaper or how you could get the item from another street corner.

• Bluff. Time to put your Drama Competition skills into practice. If the initial price is too high for your college budget, play it up. If the seller doesn’t seem to believe you, walk away. If lower offers don’t follow you then they most likely were already offering you their lowest price.

• Be honorable. Remember that the vendors are running a business in order to provide for themselves if not a family also. At the end of their day, they are not trying to trick as many people as possible. Take a tip from Leigh Steinbreg, a successful sports agent: “It’s learning how to negotiate to keep both sides happy – whether it’s for a multi-million dollar contract or just which show to watch on TV, that determines the quality and enjoyment of our lives.”

Haggling is not a cheapskate’s tool. It is a skill that combines well thought out speech, stewardship and the concept of value that we learned in Introduction to Economics. So with this advise in mind, try your hand at haggling next time you are in need of a quick bite or an item off a street-side table.

MiscNathan Deardorff