By Christine Frietchen
The word “haggling” has a bad rap. Asking for the best price, at least in Western culture, is typically frowned upon. But why? In Asian, Middle Eastern and some parts of South America, haggling is the normal way to buy things.
We’re really only comfortable haggling when it comes to cars, homes and garage sales. But why not try it elsewhere? For my latest adventure in juicing on a budget, I gathered my nerves and decided to give haggling a try at a few places: the farmer’s market, a big-box grocery store, and a mom-and-pop shop.
There are a few common sense haggling tips that seem repeated everywhere:
The timing seemed ideal to hit the market. It was a Friday at 3:30 p.m. The stalls would soon start packing up, and I figured the less they have to pack up, the better.
First I tried negotiating for apples. I asked at one stall if they could give me a discount for buying 10 pounds. She said no, but added that they do discount 25% for a bushel (about 40 pounds). Next I tried kale. I figured that’s something very perishable—it’s not going to be very fresh the next morning after sitting outside all day today. When I asked for a discount, I was told I could pick any two bundles of greens for $3, a $2 discount. Pretty good! At other stalls, I tried asking for discounts on squash and tomatoes, but didn’t have any luck.
Next I hit the huge grocery store across the street. I made a beeline for the produce section and quickly found someone restocking. I wouldn’t be able to negotiate with this guy, but I could at least ask him what my chances were. I told him I needed 15 pounds of carrots, and did he know if the store could give me a break? He said I’d need to talk to the manager. It took 10 minutes to track down the manager, and there were already six or seven other people waiting to talk to him.
When I was finally my turn, he first asked me if I was a chef. I said I wasn’t and then he just said “no, we don’t discount.” I was bummed, but at least I learned that you can get a discount if you work for a restaurant.
What really surprised me with both the farmer’s market and the big grocery store was that I felt so nervous even asking! It felt like a kind of stage fright, and I’m not sure why I was so anxious about asking a simple question.
My last attempt: The small fruit and vegetable shop near my house. I’ve been shopping here for more than 5 years, and I know the store owner, Lilly, quite well. Like me, she’s a big tennis fan, so we always chat about which players were winning or losing in the tournaments.
Here, I felt none of the anxiety I felt trying to haggle at the larger places. Being a “regular” makes all the difference. I told Lilly I was doing a juice cleanse, and needed to buy a LOT of vegetables and fruit. Could she give me a discount? Without batting an eye, she gave me 15% off. On my way out, she tossed a few more apples and a couple of oranges in my bag, wishing me luck.
While haggling might not come naturally, it gets easier with practice. You’re most likely to have good luck at farmer’s markets if you should for highly perishable items towards the end of the day. But I certainly had the best experience with my neighborhood shop.
Have you tried haggling for fruits and vegetables? How did it turn out? Were you as initially nervous as I was?