How They Save Money: Hate to Haggle?

How one woman does it well

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After graduating from high school in 1968, Sarah King and her best friend took a trip around the world. “We went to Hong Kong, Kathmandu, India, Iran, Singapore,” says King, a real-estate agent who lives in Alexandria. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and she brought home some lessons in shopping: “We went to a lot of places where you could bargain.”

Because she often didn’t speak the language, King would write an offer—say, for a rug—on a slip of paper and discreetly show it to the seller. Years later, she says, it’s been a good way to negotiate for Oriental rugs in Washington, too.

King loves to bargain, whether she’s in an antiques shop, jewelry boutique, or department store. “I don’t have as much success at a store like Neiman Marcus,” King says. “You can always try. You say, ‘Is this the best you can do?’ I’m pretty forthright.”

Another tactic: Be prepared to walk away. She might say: “I’m ready to do this figure right now. It’s a quarter to 12, and I’m going to lunch at 12. Are we doing this or not?”

She says her husband, Lyles Carr, is “mortified most of the time I do this. But I do real estate. I negotiate all the time.”

King says it’s best to bargain with a manager or owner, not a salesman. That the more you’re buying, the more leverage you have. That cash talks better than credit cards do.

She does her homework so she has an idea what a piece should cost. She knows that her first offer might be rejected. “Sometimes people say: ‘Are you kidding? I’m not going that low,’ ” King says. “You have to be flexible—give a little, take a little. Everyone’s happy at the end of the day.”

This article appears in the August 2008 issue of Washingtonian magazine. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

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