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Bargaining For Bargains

Everyone loves a bargain, but you don't have to wait for things to go on sale to get a discount.

It's possible to negotiate a lower price on just about anything, says financial adviser and radio host Dave Ramsey. And the more expensive the item, the more wiggle room you have.
But you have to know how to go about it.

Ramsey shared tips with co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show Tuesday.

"It's like we're the only country in the world that doesn't bargain for everything," he observed. "If you visit any other country, bargaining is a way of life. We get in our overpriced cars and (use) overpriced gasoline, (to) drive to the mall and put it on overpriced credit card interest and pay 120 percent of retail, and think that's a good idea.

"I don't know if everything's negotiable every time. But it sure is fun to mess with them for a change."

Even though it can be intimidating to ask for a better price, Ramsey says it's well worth it: "What you learn is, you're not necessarily damaging someone else. You have to keep in mind they really want to sell you something. That's why they're there. You're not hurting them. You're helping yourself. You're blessing them and you get what you want."

Ramsey's prevailing motto in bargaining is to have fun. He feels it's like a game, and you should try to enjoy and embrace the challenge. You don't have to be aggressive or mean to get a deal, he says. As a matter of fact, Ramsey suggests that shoppers smile at all times. The salesperson is much more likely to want to work with you if you're friendly.

His main tips:

ALWAYS ASK: It's been said a million times and it's still true: You don't know if you don't ask. And, it never hurts to ask. The worst that could happen is you're told no.

BE INFORMED: Or, as Ramsey likes to say, "The guy with the most info wins." Do your research, particularly when heading into an electronics or appliance store. You absolutely have to know what you're doing when you're making a big purchase. Know what features are available, what you need and what you want. Know how much items sell for online, and check out the competition. You will have more power to negotiate if you've shopped around first. A salesperson can tell when you know what you're talking about. He will know you're serious about your purchase, and that he can't pull the wool over your eyes, so he'll take your negotiating seriously. Whatever you do, don't make a big purchase impulsively. The retailer always wins when this happens.

USE THE POWER OF CASH: Ramsey suggests literally getting money out of your wallet and waving it around a little. Try if at all possible to make your purchase using cash or a check, and not on a credit card. Literally showing them the money makes a big statement. It says you're willing and able to buy right away. You're saying to the salesperson: "You have a deal if you're willing to make one." This tactic works best when salespeople are on commission, and it tends to work better in mom and pop stores as opposed to "big box" stores. And no, it's not always going to work.

Even in a big box store with no one on commission, somebody there is making money off of your sale, Ramsey points out. You just need to find the right person to talk to. Usually, this person is the manager. If you've tried using the power of cash to no avail, ask to speak to the manager and try your line again. This person will also know if there's a floor model with a scratch that might be available at a discount, or one that's been recently returned without a box, etc. One way or another, you can wind up saving, and you'll be surprised how effective you can be.

KEEP WALK-AWAY POWER: We're talking willpower here. You need to have the emotional maturity to realize that your life will go on if you don't buy this particular TV today. Once you become set on making a purchase, Ramsey says, your body language and voice tone change, and you'd better believe a good salesperson will recognize it. If you don't have a bit of an "I don't care" attitude, if you don't keep the ability to walk away, you won't be able to bargain effectively.

SAY, "THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH": This phrase is key, according to Ramsey. When a salesperson makes you an offer, sweetly tell them, with a smile, that the offer isn't good enough. Don't say anything else. You'll say this and then there will be a long pause. We're all uncomfortable with silence, and if you keep your mouth shut, Ramsey guarantees that the salesperson will jump in to fill the void, usually by lowering the price or throwing in free delivery, or something along those lines.

After hearing all Ramsey's tips, you might still be thinking, "Yeah, right. Why should a store bother negotiating with me?"

Simply put, there's a lot of competition in the marketplace and a lot of pressure on employees to sell. Shoppers can use this to their advantage. It might be easy to dismiss these tips, believing that negotiating is never going to work. But do you know it's not going to? Have you ever tried? Probably not.

Ramsey has saved himself a lot of money over the years by asking for deals, and he encourages others to try as well. After all, you'll never know if you don't ask.

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