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Am I getting screwed?

The New York Times wrote about how you can now haggle and negotiate prices at Home Depot, Best Buy, and Circuit City.

It makes me very uncomfortable.

Here’s what I expect lots of customers are hearing: 

“We are usually ripping you off.  You are an idiot for paying full price.  Some people get a better deal than you.”

I thought that “Best Buy” means “best buy” – not “best buy for someone else”.  We shop at big corporate stores because we assume they are using their buying power to get us the best deal.  We also like the convenience of knowing that there are none of the hassles of dealing with independent vendors.  Now I’ll never be able to buy at these stores again without feeling like there is some pressure for me to negotiate to protect myself from a rip-off. 

Lesson: Customer trust takes years to develop. And one awkward moment to destroy.

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  1. Paul Chaney March 25, 2008 at 8:24 am #

    Good point Andy.
    For years, haggling over price was standard procedure in the auto industry. Then some dealerships came out with a “bottom line, no haggle” price, so dickering over the sticker price became a thing of the past. To now be pressured to do it in big box stores makes me uncomfortable.
    Not only that, haggling requires a certain bravado. The more timid among us might refrain simply because it’s not in their (our) nature.
    I don’t like the practice. Best Buy et al, just give me the best price you’ve got right out of the box! If I want to haggle I’ll go to Honest John’s Used Cars.

  2. Saul Colt March 25, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    This goes against my perception of the Best Buy brand. They spend a slew of $$$$ on TV commercials saying that their staff won’t hassle you because they don’t work on commission….but now we are supposed to hassle them for an honest price.
    I hate haggling to begin with but now that I know I am expected to do so makes me feel as if I should shop elsewhere.
    Great Post Andy!

  3. Nick S. March 25, 2008 at 9:00 am #

    Just what these stores needed…another reason for me to go online and shop.

  4. John Lawlor March 25, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    I don’t buy from BestBuy unless absolutely necessary based on a few experiences 5+ years ago when their “no-commission” sales people and checkout people tried to badger me into buying their equipment protection policies – even after I clearly told them that I wasn’t interested and would walk out of the store empty handed if they keep pushing their BestBuy buyer protection plan.
    When the cashier brought a ‘manager’ over to show me the error of my ways I walked out empty handed.
    If this is an example of BestBuy’s “negotiation” then I’ll stay online for the best deals and avoid then in-store bazaar atmosphere.

  5. Valarie Heggs March 25, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    Hi Andy,
    This is my first time taking a look at your blog and the topic of this posting is interesting. I didn’t know that more of the large retailers were starting to take this approach, but I have had the “haggling” experience a few times at Lowe’s. Once my husband and I simply asked for a discount on a large order of mulch (7 pallets) and got 20% off by simply asking. Another time, when we were shorted on a lumber order (and had a terrible delivery experience), we got the remainder of our order, some additional supplies and delivery charges for free.
    I hate haggling, but have come to accept that most of the time, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Most of these larger retailers seem to have some “wiggle room” in their pricing.

  6. Tonja March 25, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    Paul is right, it evokes the used car salesman feeling – and turns off customers. Buyer beware!

  7. Patrick March 25, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Hi Andy –
    I must say I see this article in a completely different light. I disagree that this is a consumer turnoff – my girlfriend haggles everywhere she goes and is often successful.
    The problem facing retailers is that the cat may be out of the bag. If Best Buy and Home Depot among others make it known that you can haggle now because the economy is weak, consumers will still want to do that once the economy rebounds. It will be more difficult to have consumers focus on the experiential (such as a Target, Best Buy or Sephora even) if they have become used to haggling for lower prices and expect it to continue.

  8. Stoney deGeyter March 25, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    I think you’re making too much out of this. I can’t remember the last time I made a major electronic purchase and didn’t ask, “is that the best price you can give me?”
    I don’t like the expectation of haggling… where you can’t buy a soda without arguing on a price, but sometimes its nice to know you can get better deals just by asking… or making a larger purchase.

  9. Jen March 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    this is so similar to why i REFUSE to buy anything at macy’s without a 20% off coupon.
    macy’s direct mail and newspaper coupons are so prolific that if i don’t have one, i feel like i’m wasting money. …and something about that doesn’t sit right w me.

  10. Robin March 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    I dealt with this problem in the hotel industry. It became so commonplace for guests to request, even demand, a lower price or upgrade, it became nearly impossible to manage check ins with the speed and efficiency our brand required. I used to get so angry – where do all these people get off assuming they’re entitled to a discount at every turn. What happened to things costing what we value them to cost?

  11. Ed Brill March 25, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Andy, FYI Abt Electronics in Glenview has had an unwritten negotiation policy in the same space as BestBuy for years. I always wonder about buying from them online, because there’s no opportunity to try to negotiate on price. In the store, though, I usually can get an extra 10%-20% off, especially with a bulk purchase.
    Best Buy as a “chain” feels different though… how empowered are the individual store employees? Probably nowhere near enough.

  12. Robert DeRobertis March 26, 2008 at 7:28 am #

    I am surprised you are surprised that there is haggling at Best Buy and Circuit City. Maybe it is my New York roots but I’ve always showed up with competitive advertisements at each store looking for the “best buy”. With the internet, and an iPhone you can point to the lowest price at these stores and say “I want this price.” You usually get something close but not as low given some internet shops are in the gray. But you do get a deal.
    Everything is negotiable, everything is a negotiation. This is why I don’t drive a Saturn.

  13. Katie Konrath March 26, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Andy, I agree with you that such a revelation could be very harmful to Best Buy’s or other companies’ brands. Especially “Best Buy”… after all, if you’re going to make a claim in your company name, you should support it!
    A big part of the harm I see in this is that people will feel that they have been ripped off by their previous purchases. It’s not such a big deal for a cd, or something small like that–but what about a computer or a tv?
    The main reason to go to Best Buy is for the price–it’s definitely not for the service! Once they’ve proven that their price isn’t even the best they can give, what’s the point of shopping there?

  14. Pat Moore March 27, 2008 at 10:43 am #

    Robin says:
    “where do all these people get off assuming they’re entitled to a discount at every turn. What happened to things costing what we value them to cost?”
    Value is in the eye of the beholder. For me: Motel 6 = Hilton = 4 Season = 1 comfortable bed + shower. (And if the price is right, I will sleep on the floor)
    Just because you are impressed with the shiny chandelier doesn’t mean your guests are.

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