Haggling makes a comeback, with assist from website

Fierce competition among retailers combined with more savvy shoppers is giving a boost to the art of haggling.

Bargaining for a better deal is no longer limited to cars or television sets at big box stores.

More retailers are quietly adopting price-matching policies and are giving their managers permission to give larger discounts.

"The bargaining practices are more commonplace for home and sporting goods or electronics, but even higher-end retailers like Nordstrom have price-matching guidelines - though they usually do not broadcast the terms," writes Hilary Stout for the New York Times.

Joe Marrapodi, co-founder and chief executive of Greentoe.com, a name-your-own price website, told the Times that he recently checked out Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's stores in Santa Monica, Ca., and was told by sales representatives and managers at both that they were willing to bargain. They mentioned their price-matching policies.

"I think they kind of keep it low key," he told the Times. "They don't want it to be a thing."

So how do you go about getting the best deal?

Time magazine recently put together a list of suggestions from experts on how to bargain:

• Be armed with information. Know what you want to buy and search the Internet for the best price.

• Ask if the store has a price match policy.

• Usually the salesperson doesn't have the authority to give you the best deal. A smart move is to ask to speak to the manager.

• If you are in a small boutique offer to pay cash.

• If the merchant won't budge on the price, try asking for extras, like a warranty, accessories or free delivery.

"If you know that a store offered the item at a lower price in the recent past, don't be afraid to use that as a negotiating tool," suggests Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.

Dworsky also suggests the shoppers point out scuffs and scratches.

"If you find a flaw in an item, or are interested in a floor model, that is another justification for getting a price reduction," he says.

Ed Brodow, author of Negotiation Boot Camp, suggests looking aghast when told the price of an item.

And if all else fails, be prepared to leave. Turning your back on a potential purchase may be the perfect motivation to give you a better deal.

If you are shy about asking for a bargain, Greentoe.com will do it for you.

Greentoe.com's business model is similar to what Priceline's used to be for travel.

Consumers submit offers for new merchandise in five categories: camera and photo equipment, baby items, home theater, appliances and musical instruments.

The site has a color-coded meter that goes from red to green, letting you know whether your offer is reasonable. It provides information on the average online price as well as the lowest online price.

For instance Greentoe.com shows $496.95 as the lowest online price for a Nikon D3200 camera, but its meter shows green at an offer of $455.

If your offer is judged reasonable, Greentoe.com sends it to its network of authorized retailers and the first one that accepts your offer will make the sale.

Purchasers will have at least 14 days to return items.

Marrapodi, the company's CEO, told Consumer Reports' ShopSmart that his site on average lets customers save 18 to 20 percent off retail.

You can reach The Watchdog at george@ctwatchdog.com. Check out ctwatchdog.com for consumer, health, finance, shopping, elderly issues, media, Internet, computer, travel, and education tips.


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