If you’re anything like me, you love to get your hands on a new piece of tech. The excitement of picking up that anticipated parcel, or having it handed over the counter at the shop brings me back to that Christmas Day feeling every time. But being an adult now means there are more things to pay for other than sweets and fizzy drinks, so I’ve had to learn to get the best deal on things to allow me to fund my lifestyle. I’ve got it down to a pretty simple process now, and I want to share it with you all, as people get ripped off far too much and everyone loves a good bargain!
Step 1 – Define your limits!
Set your budget. Know how much you can afford before you start and stick to it, as otherwise you’ll find it difficult to narrow down your choices.
Step 2 – Research
If you’re shopping for something specific and have researched it already, you can probably skip this step and head to Step 3, unless you’re open to compromising and getting a cheaper model. However, if you want something, but don’t have the specific make/model chosen yet, the obvious thing to do is research. Google is your friend here, but also if you know someone who know’s about the subject matter, speak to them for advice. There’s no point shopping around until you know exactly what you want to buy, or at the very least have made a short-list of 2-3 options at most so find out about your options and what the best choices are for your budget. There are plenty of reviews online and it’s as simple as typing ‘<productname> review’ into your favourite search engine to get some guidance. I can also recommend review sites to get info on their ‘Best Buys’, as they’ve done the short-listing for you. An example of this is What Hifi, who do excellent reviews and ratings for things such as TVs, Home Cinema Amps, Speakers, Blu-Ray players etc. They also have a great forum where you can go to speak to other people who may already have the thing you’re shopping for. It’s equally important to read the negative feedback as well as the positive, as you may uncover common issues with what you’re looking to buy. There is a wealth of knowledge out there on the internet, so make sure you use it and learn about the product that you want. This research will pay off later on when faced with salesmen who like to try to throw buzzwords at you to make things sound better than they are. If you know your stuff, you can cut to the chase, but I’ll cover that properly further down. If you haven’t picked the one and only option, rank your short-list by your first, second/third choice.
Step 3 – Know your stuff
Hopefully you should have a good idea of what you want to buy now. But I can’t stress the importance of really getting to know it. If it’s something that you can try out in a shop or from a friend, do it. Familiarise yourself with it’s features, what you like about it and what you don’t. The reason for this is that if you have to speak to sales personnel, it’s possible that they might try catch you out, throwing buzzwords at you or telling you that you’re better off getting a different model. Hopefully their advice is sound, but you can’t always be sure, so it’s good to be able to cut through the bull.
Step 4 – Price it up!
Now is the time to start looking at prices. Get a feel for how much the item costs. Look in stores and online so you know what you’re facing. Online retailers generally aren’t as flexible on price, but that doesn’t mean they will reject an offer over the phone, so bare that in mind. One of my favourite places to shop around is with Google Shopping. They do a lot of the hard work for you, giving you a fast way of finding the main retailers and their prices. Once you’ve found a best price and buying location in mind, you’ve got a few options:
Option 1 – Wait for a price-drop
If you’re restrained and patient (aka. not me!), you can save a lot of money this way. Often it’s the safest way to get a bargain as demand for items drops over time. The other advantage is that it gives you more time to research and find out through other people’s experiences whether there are any issues with what you’re looking at. Just before the new generation/model of an item launches is the time to strike.
Option 2 – Hunt for discount vouchers, offers and Cash-back
There are some great websites out there that give you the opportunity to automatically get a bit of discount. If you search for the store that you want to buy from and ‘discount voucher’ at the same time, you could strike it lucky and get a code that will give you some money off. Alternatively, sometimes you can find online only deals or conversely, ‘in-store only’ deals on the store’s website. Another good way of saving a bit extra is to use a cash-back website, such as Quidco, where you take the referral commission that would have otherwise been given to Quidco themselves. The only catch is that with these kinds of sites, you normally have to give them the first x amount per year (I think Quidco is about £5). If you buy things regularly online though, it’s definitely worth considering. Also with some of these sites, you can link your debit card to your account and if you shop in certain stores you automatically pick up a cash-back in-store (providing you paid with the same card!). It’s worth baring in mind that if you’re using offers or discount codes, you will probably not be able to haggle on the price, so often when I use this approach, it’s on a lower value item, which I simply want the quickest, best price; without the extra effort of trying to negotiate over a few pounds.
Option 3 – Go in-store and haggle
Armed with your knowledge of the product and what the best online price is, you can try going in store and getting an equal or better deal (and therefore potentially cut out the waiting for delivery). More on that below.
Don’t forget, you can combine the options to potentially get a better deal.
Step 5 – Buying
If you’ve gone down the route of discount codes/offers etc and you know how much you can effectively get the item for, you can either simply go ahead and buy it, or try to get a store to match the price. The key things to bare in mind though are that shops will generally only price match if the item is in stock at the comparative website/retailer and they likely won’t match on cash-back or voucher codes. That being said.. Don’t Ask, Don’t Get!
By now, you should be armed with the knowledge of the product and also the price. You know exactly how much you can get it for from a competitor and know you can get it from them as a backup. The important thing to bare in mind here is that you are not obligated to buy from anyone in particular.
When you get to the store, locate the item, check the price (as it could be cheaper than anywhere you’ve seen prior) and try to single out the more senior members of staff, ideally a manager. Once you’ve found your target, go direct to them and ask whether they would be able to help you as you’re looking to buy. By telling them up-front that you’re looking to buy, their interest will be peaked and they should think that they have an easy sale headed their way.. Little do they know, we’re going to make them do some work!
Cut to the chase
Tell the salesperson what you want, but don’t be on the fence about it. ‘I’ve been thinking about getting this TV’.. Too indecisive.. Try ‘I am going to buy this TV and would like to buy it from you’. You could add something like ‘as I’ve bought from you before and thought your service was great’. The compliment and loyalty to their company (whether it’s true or not) will sweeten up the salesperson. If the price is the cheapest you’ve seen, you won’t have any real comparative bargaining power with your backup, so just bare that in mind as you may not get much budge on the price, if at all. If they try the sales pitch, throwing buzzwords and specifications at you, hopefully you will be to throw some back to demonstrate that you already know everything there is to know about the product. Ask some questions such as ‘Do you have it in stock?’ and ‘How long does delivery take?’. Also, with some items, I would recommend considering an extended warranty, but you don’t really want to pay a premium for that. If you want one, make it clear from the outset that you want it, as it often is another incentive for the salesperson to do a deal. An example of one where I have found it a godsend was with my Home Cinema Amplifier (Onkyo TXSR605). I bought it from Richer Sounds, who are generally willing to do a great deal and have excellent customer service (in my experience). When I bought the amp, I got them to include their refundable 5 Year Warranty, which, if you don’t use it in 5 years, you can claim your money back. Since having the amp, it has suffered two of the common HDMI issues that plagued that particular model and I’ve easily saved hundreds in repair costs. Other companies include a 5 year warranty as standard.
Now is the time to talk money.. If you’re satisfied that the store can meet your needs (in terms of supplying what you want), tell them that you’re keen to see what kind of a deal they can do. If the reaction is a straight-up no, then it’s worth exploring whether there is anyone who would be able to offer a deal within the store. If not, then look disappointed and let them know that it’s a shame and that you’ll go and get it online or try another competitor’s store. If they are willing to let you walk out the door, do it. Don’t turn around and beg them to sell it to you anyway.
If they respond more positively, follow their lead and see what sort of price they come up with. If it’s nowhere near where you need it to be, let them know. ‘Hmm that’s not bad, but I can get it from <retailer> online for <amount>, including delivery’. They may try the old ‘Well that’s true but you would have to wait, where you can have it today from us’, but that’s not good enough reason. Tell them that you can wait if you need to, despite wanting it soon. They’ll likely need proof of the comparative price, so if you don’t have a smart phone handy, make sure you’ve got a print-off of the relevant pages on the website. They will probably want to verify it by checking themselves. If they’re going to this length to check the price is genuine though, it’s a good sign that they will be looking to match the price. Be patient and polite at all times, but keep control of the negotiation. Once the salesperson has made a decision as to whether or not they can beat/match the online deal, it’s down to you to make the final call. Sometimes these negotiations can take time and if you’re dealing with someone with less authority within the company, it may be necessary to request the manager come help. If you’re happy with their offer, shake on it and thank them. Hopefully you made them do a bit of maths and work to get to where you needed them to be!
I wouldn’t say there’s a textbook approach to closing a deal, as you have to react to the people and circumstances. Don’t be tempted to spend more money than you have to or intended, you need to walk out knowing you got the best deal possible at that time. It can take some practise, but providing you stay calm, confident and friendly, it can really pay dividends.
Please let me know your experiences or questions in the comments section!