I am, by nature, a non-confrontational person. I also hate negotiating. But I hate overspending even more, and enjoy traveling farther and living better with the money I have. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned traveling the globe is that, just as most cultures don’t have set prices in their markets, most hoteliers, tour operators, even restaurateurs are willing to engage in a little haggling from time to time.

What you have to realize is that most business owners set prices arbitrarily. They have no idea what their products and services really cost and just pull a number out of thin air when setting prices. They all have latitude, and they want your business.

So, if you’re neither shy, nor a jerk about asking for a discount, you should be able to get a discount 70% of the time. You just need the right questions to ask and have some fortitude. Here are some articles that give great advice about negotiating for better hotel, car rental, and flight rates and prices:

  • “How to negotiate Airfare” by Tiffany Ross at eHow.com.
  • “Negotiate All Your Travel: The Ultimate Guide” by Elizabeth Lang at WiseBread.com.
  • “Traveling? Negotiation helps you get there,” by LATZ Negotiation Institute.

An 8-Step Guide to Negotiating for Less

Negotiating with hotels, car rental companies and airlines is not something that should be done in a gung-ho manner. There is a certain skill set needed, and a certain approach adopted, if you are to be successful. So, here’s my own 8-step process for talking down any carpet salesman types:

  1. Show some interest but not too much. Open the conversation with “That looks interesting
    • Too much interest tells the vendor you’re hungry for what they’re selling, and that you may buy it no matter what price they tell you
  2. Have a sense of what you’re willing to pay: a reasonable discount, not a ridiculous one.
    • Get clear with yourself on what the item is really worth to you. What is your absolute maximum price? What is your ideal price?
    • Ask for a price that’s too low and you’re likely to insult the vendor and stop negotiations in its tracks
  3. Only deal with the decision-maker. Politely ask, “Can I speak to the owner/manager?”
    • Going straight to the right person and bye-passing a floor salesman shows you know what you’re doing and makes you a more credible haggler
  4. Open the door to negotiations but let them name their price first. Say something like, “I like this…can you help me on the price?”
    • Try to come off as human and not as a penny-pinching jerk
    • Compliment the piece. Mention how you’d like to have it/admire it but that the price is a barrier to making the purchase. Vendors want people to want their wares, and they want people to buy. Start the conversation on this note and it’s a win-win for everyone
  5. If he comes down to your desired price, great. Close the deal and don’t worry about getting an even better deal. Be content with your lot in life.
  6. If he doesn’t come down to your desired price, indicate that you’re willing to walk away from the negotiation with a comment like, “I’m sorry we couldn’t agree on a price.” Be prepared to walk.
    • This takes some finesse. No one likes to feel threatened or like they are being given an ultimatum. Express that you’re not desperate to buy but if the price is right you will, and start nudging closer to the door.
  7. Give him a way to save face (and still close the deal) by letting him know you’re still interested. A comment like this should do it: “Tell you what. I’ll be walking around this market for another 15 minutes. If you want to sell it at my asking price, come get me. I’ll pay cash.”
    • Consider leaving your business card and contact information, perhaps in a short time the vendor will have changed his mind
  8. Throughout the entire negotiation, don’t talk too much. Be patient and listen. If you reach an impasse, let silence speak for you. (Many people will speak just to fill an uncomfortable silence) Let him do the talking. Fewer words will be more powerful.

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