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My Day As a Haggler

Emboldened by her reporting, Jillian Goodman tests her negotiating know-how.

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10 a.m.: I waltzed into my local Cobble Hill coffee shop prepared to make a bold move: I’d deliberately put only $4 in my wallet. When the cashier told me the $5 total for my coffee and muffin, I pulled out my wallet and emptied the cash, feigning surprise at how little was there. “I can only give you $4,” I said. He looked around at the crowded coffee shop and begrudgingly accepted my offer. Saved $1.00.


10:45 a.m.: En route to Chelsea Market to shop for a dinner party I was hosting the next night, I realized I had horrible coffee breath. I asked the newsstand guy if he would knock a quarter off a pack of gum if I also bought a bottle of water, and he went for it. The price came to $2.75, but I then realized I only had two quarters. Lo and behold, he took off another 25 cents to make it only $2.50. Saved $.50.


10:50 a.m.: After loading up on produce at Manhattan Fruit Exchange, I asked the cashier weighing my items for a cash discount: No, I was informed. The only discount they could give was five cents off for bringing a reusable bag. Luckily I had one. Haggle denied.


11 a.m.: At Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, my plan was to get into a lively conversation with the butcher, mention I was cooking a celebratory dinner for friends (their first wedding anniversary), compliment the store’s beautiful lamb shanks, and then ask if she could do better on the price. Alas, the woman behind the counter was not interested in chatter. “No,” she said, looking disappointed in me. She could not. Haggle denied.


Noon: Fisch for the Hip consignment shop in the Village was having a sale. I was drawn to a Phillip Lim blouse, which was already marked down from $96 to $70.I explained to the clerk that I loved the top but could only afford $50. Since it was already on sale, the best he said he could do was 10 percent off, bringing the total to $63. I asked him to make it an even $60 and we had a deal. Saved $10.00.


3 p.m.: Hit up Long Island City Flea & Food market. I came upon a booth selling a fabulous collection of Time magazines from the sixties and seventies, with covers of Marilyn Monroe and Norman Mailer, among others. Five dollars each, I was told. My counteroffer—$25 for seven of them—was a success. Saved $10.00.


3:15 p.m.: Galvanized by my bulk discount, I tried something similar with a vendor selling vintage ties. I dug through a bin for a while and picked out four Oleg Cassinis and one Missoni—all in beautiful patterns and amazing. She was already offering a deal of $5 each, or three for $10, but I decided to push my luck: five for $15? It worked. Saved $5.00.


6 p.m.: Now back in Cobble Hill and on to the Brooklyn Wine Exchange. I’d done my research and knew that Astor Wines had just done a sale on Tuscan reds. I did not know, however, whether the particular Tuscan Chianti I’d picked out had been part of the sale, but I bluffed, asking if the cashier would honor Astor’s 15 percent discount. No dice, but it was worth a try. Haggle denied.


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