Ask Snag: How to Negotiate


It’s here! It’s finally here! Just in time for crazy garage sale season. This guide will help you in getting the most of your pocket full of quarters and dollars and help bring home a van full of vintage goodies.

1. The first step and most important step to negotiating: be nice. Seriously for the love of all things, be nice. I’m assuming all of our readers are nice since we’ve only had nice comments so far (thank you commenters!). The Snag team has seen it all: a man running up to one of us and verbally berating us to get a “deal” on a harp (yes, I know, a harp), a woman throwing quarters and dimes at the checkout person, and a great amount of other general nastiness. But it’s simple: show the seller some respect and you’ll (probably) get some respect. If you try to get a deal by being aggressive, pointing out flaws in merchandise or insulting the seller’s pricing, it’s not going to end well for you.

This doesn’t mean you need to accept any price, but almost 90% of the time you will be refused a price reduction if the seller doesn’t like you.

2. Be enthusiastic—but not too enthusiastic. Sellers like to deal with motivated buyers—they don’t want to waste their time dickering with someone who might just change their mind anyway. As tempting as it can be to stay aloof and give off a “I could take it or leave it” vibe, you might get a better deal if you seem genuinely interested and give them a cue that you will indeed buy the item if you strike a deal. Just don’t get carried away—nobody is going to give you a deal if they’re certain you’re going to buy it anyway.

3. Know your price. What are you willing to pay if this is going in to your home? Do you love that dresser? Will it haunt you at night if you don’t purchase it? The last dresser and nightstand set I purchased was off of Craigslist. It was listed for $300 and I really didn’t want to pay that much for it. I had exactly $200 in cash and knew if I offered less than that and some other Craigslist buyer snatched it up I was going to be bummed. So I called the seller and negotiated on the phone and simply stated, “Your dresser is beautiful and I love it, but would you be willing to accept $200 cash? That’s all I have at the moment.” Nice, no lies, plain and honest. She said yes. Woot.

4. Know their price. Refer to our guide on how vintage items are priced as a starting point. But don’t stop there. Unless it’s the first day of a sale and the item you’re negotiating for is in demand, you can generally get at least 10–20% off items priced over $20. Flea markets, antique malls, shops all generally have a small discount. Sometimes more. Once I was going to purchase a mid century hutch for $80 and asked the front desk if the dealer had any discounts or sales. Yes, turns out they did and I purchased it for $60. Ask if they can do any better on the price.

Knitting basket and tensor light

5. Buy in bulk. If you walk up to pay and you have amassed a ton of things, you will get some better deals. If all of your vintage wallpaper and lamps add up to $25, it’s highly likely a $20 offer will pass muster.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff. A candle holder for $3? Eh, probably pay the $3. Unless you really only have $2 in your pocket left and there’s no other money shoved in your cup holder.

7. Timing. If you’re at the garage sale or tag sale on the last day, you can often get things for 50–75% off. Sure, it might not be the most stellar pickings, but you never know.

8. Know when to walk away. If you feel like there will be no convergence between your price and a seller’s price or you start to feel uncomfortable, seriously it’s just stuff and leave it behind. Once, I picked up an old fortune telling book in the bottom of a mouse-turdy box at a flea market. The seller told me it was very rare and said it was $100. Really? Then he launched into a diatribe about investing in antiques and how could I be so stupid not to pay his price? I walked away and never went back to his booth again.

Does this help to boost your confidence and save you a few dollars? Any tips we have missed? Please share in the comments or shoot us an email.

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