Have you ever noticed how Israelis get fantastic prices for items while we Americans are stuck paying through the nose? It’s because we don’t know how to bargain. Bargaining was the one skill that I can certainly say made me more Israeli. But in order to bargain, some ground rules have to be made:
1 – You bargain before you make the decision to buy, not after. An American likes an item, decides to buy it and then asks for a discount. Why would the seller realistically give you a discount? You’re going to buy it anyways! The Israeli, on the other hand, looks at the item and says “maybe I’ll buy it…and maybe I won’t.” Now the seller will go down much more in price – he wants to make this sale happen.
2 – Have an idea of how much you’re willing to pay before you look at the price tag. You can look at some other items to see if your willingness to pay price is reasonable, but don’t let a single price tag dictate a price to you.
3 – The more alternatives, the more room to bargain. In Petah Tikvah (where I live) there are dozens of shoe makers. I clearly have my favorite, but I let him know that I am ready to take my business elsewhere if he won’t match the price I want. On the other hand, there are only so many stores with English books, so my power is limited there. In fact, if I want a book, I’d prefer to wait until the next time I go to Jerusalem in order to gain back my bargaining power.
4 – Don’t get sucked in by standard bargaining tricks. Negotiators teach you that by drawing someone in for a longer conversation, making the sale sound personal, and a slew of other techniques, you can “win” a negotiation. If you’re not comfortable with the techniques the other guy is using, make up an excuse and leave.
5 – Never buy under pressure. In Israel, there is no such thing as a one day sale. Trust me, the item can be bought another day and another time.
6 – Be nice, but firm and strong. Whining will not get you anything, and yelling at the poor guy will probably just make him say “to heck with the sale”. Have a spine, but be respectful.
7 – Bargain with more than money. Remind the owner that you are a potential repeat customer. If he demands a certain price to fix your shoes, tell him to throw in a pair of laces. Buying a suit? Tell him to throw in a tie.
8 – You can bargain almost anywhere: This is Israel – you can bargain at stands in the streets, at stores in the mall and nearly everywhere in between.
9 – Just ask. Even if you’re violating all the rules I put above, there is logic in asking for a discount. It is bargaining goodwill for money. Storekeepers usually over inflate their prices anyways and are willing to trade it for the goodwill generated by “giving” a discount in order to have you leave with a smile and a story (“you wouldn’t believe how easily I got this metziah and such-and-such a store.”)