One of my friends is a successful bargain hunter. When I ask her some tricks to help me do as well, I get the feeling she thinks I can't deliver. What can I do to make good shopping deals myself? - Samantha Saver
Dear Ms. Saver: Family Circle magazine joins me in touting some successful methods for saving money by bargaining while shopping. First and foremost, regardless of whether you're in a department store or at a garage sale, be polite. A friendly customer is much more apt to receive purchasing perks than a rude person.
When store shopping, always ask to see the manager if trying to strike a deal. (A sales clerk will have to ask the manager anyway so just skip this middleman.) Point out minor problems, such as a missing button and ask for a discount, especially if it's the last one in your size or whatever.
Family Circle says this tactic usually gets a customer 10 to 20 percent off
and sometimes even more if Moe Manager is having a good day. Another strategy is to "Like" the store on Facebook and follow Twitter. These days, technologically-savvy shoppers can save money on this type of sale since often they'll know in advance of sales circulars.
Neighborhood stores usually have an owner on the premises and this is the person with whom you'll ask to speak. Obviously, he or she has the final voice on prices and may even enjoy the art of negotiation. Emphasize the neighborhood aspect, too, such as "I'd love to do business with you since we're neighbors here in East Brainerd, but Adele's in Hixson has a better price. Can you match them?"
Flea markets and garage sales are special kinds of beasts. Negotiation is expected and, frankly, if you don't make a (reasonable) offer, you're likely to either miss out on a great item or overpay to the extreme. If you can, wait until the end of the day before making your offer; by that time, the owner is tired and wants to pack up and go home. Don't forget, though - you're chancing the article being snatched up by other browsers before the end of the period. Carry cash to seal the deal. While some fleas market vendors do accept credit or debit cards, garage sale sellers almost always deal in cold, hard cash. Have a variety of coins on hand, too; you don't want to overpay because the owner doesn't have the correct change to return to you. (This especially holds true for a garage sale.) Don't forget that while the old adage is true "One man's trash is another man's treasure," if you decide your treasure is really garbage after all, you cannot return items to either a flea market or to a garage sale proprietor; it might have to wait until your next yard sale.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.