Haggling without losing face

'Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.'

Aasma Day
Aasma Day

John F Kennedy’s words may not have been aimed at getting a few quid off a new telly, but they’re just as apt when applied to haggling.

Us bashful Brits are usually too polite to barter and most of us break out in a sweat at the thought of asking for money off the price tag.

Haggling – the face-to-face form of it anyway – is fast becoming a dying art form and used car salesmen and Del Boy style traders are probably rubbing their hands with glee at how ready we are to part with our readies.

However, recent research has revealed younger generations prefer haggling from behind a computer screen.

Never has a piece of research been so on the money when it comes to describing me and my money off habits.

Everyone loves bagging a bargain. It makes us feel deliciously smug and money savvy. I somehow convince myself I’ve saved money even when I buy a load of discounted stuff I don’t need.

Although I’m not usually backwards in coming forwards or afraid to speak up, if there’s one thing that turns me into a tongue tied red-faced mess, it’s the thought of haggling.

I hate the thought of coming across as cheeky or stingy or offending someone, so more often than not, I either meekly pay the price stipulated or don’t end up buying the item at all.

My heart always sinks when shopping in far flung countries where haggling is part of the culture as I know I’m rubbish at it.

In places like the souks of Marrakech, bartering over the price is not just acceptable, it’s expected.

If you don’t try and haggle the price down, you may as well be handing over an extra £50 and the shopkeeper will secretly label you an idiot.

I full well know many countries expect haggling but it doesn’t stop me feeling awkward and nervous about it and I end up paying over the odds.

There’s also the guilt that engulfs me when I’m shopping in a poorer country where the prices are low to start with. Even though I don’t want to be taken for a mug, I don’t want to try to screw them for the lowest possible price.

Many years ago, Hubby and I were in Tunisia and admiring some ornate leather pouffe foot stool things in a nearby shop. It was the final day of our holiday and we didn’t have a lot of money left and knew we couldn’t afford them.

However, the young lad in the shop was convinced we were trying to haggle when we told him we only had X amount of money left. As we prepared to leave, he wearily sighed and said. “Okay then, I’ll take what you have.”

We couldn’t believe our luck but immediately felt incredibly guilty. As we paid, the boy politely asked if we had any leftover shampoo or soap we wouldn’t mind giving him for him and his mum.

We leapt at the chance to assauge our guilt and returned with half used bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and what was left in bottles of perfume and aftershave and the lad was absolutely thrilled.

When it comes to faceless haggling online though, I’m an absolute supremo. I’m a pro at finding discount codes and price matches and getting the best deals for holidays, TV packages and the internet.

I also have no qualms about haggling on sites like eBay.

Life is hard, so why not drive a hard bargain ... especially if you can do it while keeping your dignity.