Engagement rings are expensive, so I want to make sure that you get the most you can for your money. And if you’re buying from a bricks and mortar store, a great way to reduce the amount you pay is to haggle your way to a discount.
Now, negotiating the Cuban missile crisis was probably pretty hard. The end of the Cold War? Quite tricky, I imagine.
Knocking a bit of cash off the price of an engagement ring? It’s a walk in the park.
Most people are happy to haggle on a pair of fake sunglasses from a market on holiday. The negotiation is part of the fun – and I know that my benchmark is trying to get a price close to what a local would be offered. In Malaysia, my now wife’s mum (who grew up in Malaysia) will open the haggling in Malay and usually get an opening price of up to a third of what I would get. I still enjoy the experience though – it’s expected by both parties and if it goes well both parties leave happy – the mark of a good deal.
If we’re happy to do it on holiday, why not back home too?
Maybe it’s because of expectations of what’s socially acceptable. On holiday, we know the stall holders expect it, so it becomes part of the fun. But in the sterile environment of a shopping mall, it’s seen as not so much the done thing.
But you should think about rings the same way you do about cars and white goods – the price is flexible and sales people are open to negotiation. These are high-price items and the retailer needs to keep the stock moving.
Haggling is a win-win for both parties. Retailers would rather sell at a discount today than have something sit around gathering dust.
Jewellers are asked for discounts all the time. Suggesting a reduced price doesn’t make you look cheap, it shows you’re savvy about how you spend your money. Rich people don’t stay rich by spending more than they need to.
Face the fear
The biggest barrier to negotiation is getting over this initial fear and embarrassment. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? After you get over this, the rest can be broken down into a few simple steps, which is what we’ll be looking at in this post.
Haggling is a great life skill to have in your man armoury and the following tips can be applied to buying pretty much anything. They can help in your day-to-day personal interactions too.
Remember – if you don’t ask, the answer is definitely no.
Do it with a smile
Negotiating doesn’t need to be awkward or confrontational. Effective haggling doesn’t look or feel anything like an argument – there should be little or no friction. The tone should be like an everyday conversation you’re having with someone you know well.
Good haggling is an exchange between two people trying to find a win/win deal. You don’t need to be aggressive to be effective. If you’re the domineering type, it will often work against you. A cheeky request with a twinkle in your eye is the approach to take.
In life, you rarely get anything you don’t ask for. If you ask nicely, and you are fair, most people will meet you in the middle.
How to do it
Follow the steps below to give yourself the very best chance of getting a bargain.
1. Avoid an audience
Time your visit to avoid busy times. A salesman won’t be interested in reducing his commission when they have a shop full of people who are all looking to buy. Pick a quiet time like a weekday morning.
I’ve always found an audience makes everything more nerve-wracking, whether it’s the family at a sporting event or a carful of people as I parallel park. Asking for a discount in front of people may make you feel more awkward about it. If there are lots of people about, ask if there’s anywhere private you can discuss the purchase. Ideally this would be an office, but a quiet corner will do.
2. Choose your target
This is key – it’s only worth starting the discussion if the person has the authority to negotiate. The part-time high school kid who only works there on Saturdays to support his Xbox habit won’t be able to hook you up with a discount. If the person you’re speaking to doesn’t have the authority, ask to speak to someone who does.
3. Warm them up
Flat out demands for a discount won’t work – a negotiation means two people working together to find a solution they are both happy with.
This is best done with a smile on your face – a few minutes of friendly chatting before you get down to business will pay dividends. If the sales person likes you, they’re more likely to help you out. Your discount is at their discretion and a winning smile is harder to resist than strong-arm tactics.
4. Play it Cool
Don’t let the salesperson know you’ve fallen in love with a particular ring. This puts the balance of power with them and gives them no incentive to come down on the price. If they don’t think you’re willing to walk away, you’ve already lost the negotiation.
At the same time, you need to let them know that you’re serious about doing business there and then – at the right price. You’re more likely to score a deal if they know you’re in a position to buy.
You should open your negotiation with as aggressive an offer as you can – a price that would absolutely delight you, rather than just satisfy you. This is your anchor price that the sales person will counter after which, in theory, you meet somewhere in the middle.
Don’t worry about an offer being insulting. It’s not – it’s bold. If you don’t open the negotiation the jeweller will and you will already be on the back foot.
6. Don’t take no for an answer
Your offer may get flat-out rejected – the sticker price is the sticker price. But don’t mistake this for the end of the discussion – treat the ‘no’ as a ‘not yet’ and continue the discussion.
Continue the conversation by looking at other rings that do meet your price point, and asking about extras that could be included – free resizing, free polishing etc.
Asking deeper questions shows you’re keen and will offer intel on the jeweller’s constraints and how they might be willing to move.
7. Bring proof
If you’ve seen a ring for a good price, bring a print-out along to show the salesman the kind of deal you’re after. They might tell you to go and purchase there, but the threat of losing out to a competitor can make people compromise.
Be prepared to hear the store’s merchandise is higher quality or offers better customer service and respond by saying you’d like to buy here and now, but only for the right price.
8. Be the strong silent type
As negotiations come to a close, a classic salesman technique is staying silent. We hate awkward silence and will do anything to avoid it, including negotiating against ourselves and accepting a price just to fill the awkward silence. Your job is to make the salesman fill the silence with a cheaper offer.
If they have quoted a price, say nothing and furrow your brow to show you are, reluctantly, thinking about it. Stay quiet until they feel the need to speak again. Stay strong and this can only go one of two ways:
- They’ll repeat their offer and throw it back to you
- They’ll cave and make a better offer
If you’ve been on the wrong end of this, you’ll know how well it works. People make an offer and then think they’ve caused offence and try to fix it by adjusting the offer.
Even if you know the sales tactic, it’s still difficult to counter. The golden rule is to remember never to negotiate against yourself. Never change your offer until another has been made.
If the silence becomes unbearable and you need to break it, ask whether they have understood your offer and restate it. If you’re met by nothing but stalling, you can force their hand. Directly asking them to make a new offer is better than negotiating down yourself. If you’re going to give ground, make sure that they earn it.
Stay strong. Stick to your guns. Get the ring for the price you want to pay.
9. Be willing to walk away
This is your trump card – unless you need to buy that day to pop the question, you can always walk away. Leaving with no deal is better than taking a bad deal. If you think the jeweller is trying to overcharge you, walking away is the ace up your sleeve.
Even this needn’t be the end of the negotiation. Leave the door open for the other side to change their position without losing face. Thank the jeweller for their time, leave your details and let them know what it would take to get your business.
Knowing you can walk away will give you the confidence to hold out for the deal you want.
Jewellers want to make a sale – they need to move their inventory and are definitely open to receiving offers that will help them make their monthly targets.
All you need to do is hold up your side of the bargain, bite the bullet and actually go for it. If the worst thing that can happen is they say no, surely it’s worth a go because the best thing that can happen is hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket.