My Mom often asks me how I successfully negotiate the price of anything. She’s read my tips for haggling and my additional negotiating tips, but she can’t seem to make them work for her. When I hear her stories, I can pinpoint where she went wrong – she’s timid and unwilling to walk away.
Instead of giving more of the same tips, I’m sharing a conversation I had with a tailor that led to a 46% reduction in her fee. No matter what you are negotiating for, it’s about the body language, the pauses in our conversation, and the research you do before entering into a haggling discussion that matters.
Here’s how I negotiated 46% off a tailoring job.
I scored a sweet Hurley handbag at St. Paul’s Thrift Shop for just $5 – but it had a broken zipper and torn liner, so I immediately took it to the tailor. I knew the bag sold for $42 new, so I wasn’t interested in paying a lot for these fixes. If the tailor’s bill was too high, I could walk away from the entire thing only having spent $5. That research was key in negotiating down the price of tailor services.
Tip: Don’t make up your mind about the purchase in front of you before you begin the negotiations. If you’ve already decided you’re okaying paying the asking price, which means you’re not willing to walk away, you’ll lose. Every time.
On a slow morning I walked into the tailor’s shop with my baby and my new-to-me Hurley purse.
“Hi, I’d like a few repairs to this purse,” I said. “The zipper is broken and the lining is torn.”
“Nice purse,” the tailor said as she inspected the bag. “Yes, we can do that.”
As she began to write out the slip, I started the negotiation.
“How much would those fixes cost?”
Tip: Notice how I used hypotheticals when asking about the price, indicating I’m not sure I’m going to have the repairs done.
She paused, held up the bag.
I raised my eyebrows and paused. I looked at the bag, but did not pick it up.
Tip: Physically holding onto an item during price negotiation shows you’re attached to it, and therefore more likely to pay a higher price.
“Hmmmm,” I considered. “The bag is actually not worth that much.”
Tip: I had looked online and found the bag sold for $42 new. So paying $5 for the bag plus $28 for fixes would have put me near the cost of buying a brand new bag! I didn’t tell the tailor exactly how much the bag was worth, however.
“I can do it for $25,” she said.
I paused again and didn’t make eye contact, which might have been confrontational. Slowly, I pick up the bag and inspect it while considering her proposition. I wait until she speaks again.
“Well, maybe I can just use the lining like this,” she said, acknowledging she could repair the existing liner instead of replacing it entirely. “It won’t look the same as the other side, but…”
“And if we don’t need to open up the zipper. If I can just put a new one in it.”
“So how much would that be?”
“And that’s for both repairs?”
Tip: During price negotiations, make sure to restate exactly what work is going to be done for what price. A lack of clarity can leave wiggle room for the other side to later claim that the stated lower price was for limited work.
“With a new zipper?”
“Yes, if I can just put on a new zipper. If I have to send it away it’s going to be more.”
I took my chances that she would have a zipper in stock that would fit. It didn’t seem like a big risk at the time. What kind of tailor doesn’t have a variety of zipper on hand? And I knew that the liner wouldn’t be an issue because there was enough fabric in the bag to cinch it up a bit.
If the bag had been worth significantly more, I would have been willing to pay more to have it restored to it’s original condition. But it wasn’t, and my desire for a low cost repair job won the day.