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Just Pay Full Price for the Hot Dog

And other deal-sealing advice from Herb Cohen, author of You Can Negotiate Anything.

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Pay in cash
Your average local store or boutique, they have to pay the credit-card companies whenever you use your card. Offer to pay in cash in exchange for a discount.

Pretend to be a bit dumb
You want to feign a low-key pose of incompetence. If you say, “I don’t know a lot about refrigerators … ,” that will make the salesperson feel like he or she is in control. If the clerks feel unthreatened, they’re likely to reveal more information to you about the product—which you can then use to negotiate the price further down the line. Pretending to be slow will also help you pick up on whether you’re being conned.

Timing is key
If you’re buying an item where the salesperson is getting a commission, go at the end of the quarter; that’s when they’ll be scrambling to meet their goals, even if that means taking a lower price. Also, haggle during slower times when there aren’t tons of customers.

Draw out the process
Once people invest time in you, it’s hard for them to divest. I was at a department store buying a Zegna suit. Finally, after we settled on a suit and were figuring out the fit with a tailor (which took a very long time), I turn to the salesman and go, “What tie will you be throwing in for free?” Of course I got the deal. Plus two shirts. The guy wasn’t going to blow this $2,000 sale for a tie and some shirts that cost a fraction of the price.

Pick your battles
Could I negotiate a carton of milk? Probably. But the amount of money I could ostensibly save, a few cents, would just not be worth it. One time I was at the airport with my wife, and I negotiated the price of a hot dog—I got seven cents off. My wife made me promise that I would never do that again.


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