Rules and Etiquette to Handle Estate Sales

Americans aren’t known for being a bargaining type culturally. This is in contrast to their international counterparts who won’t hesitate to negotiate a lower price for almost anything. I once watched an Indian tourist in New York City try to negotiate a lower cost for a watch for her with a helpless salesperson at Macy’s. “I pay cash!” He said. He looked aghast as the saleswoman calmly tried to explain that America pays exactly what it says with a very small price tag. The expression on her face when she explained that sales tax is also applicable can be seen.

Remember that estate sales are intended to unload items quickly so haggling is a normal part of the process. Ask for a discount and be respectful. However, don’t assume you can get it for nothing. Insulting sellers is a faster way to get slapped or to get kicked out from a tag sale. In most cases, it is fair to ask: What can you do to make the price even lower?Many times, sellers will give you something that may surprise you or be less than you thought.

When there is more stuff available, your negotiating ability is lower at the beginning of a tag-sale and higher towards the end when there are fewer items. You will get the best deals if you are a serious bargain hunter.

If you are desperate to purchase an item that is not in your budget, write down a price and your number and give it to the sellers. You can let them know that you would like to be contacted if the object that you are interested in isn’t sold before the end of the sale.

These rules will help you to respectfully negotiate:

  • Be sweet. If you want to ask for a discount, a charming attitude and a smile will score you high marks with sellers. It is more likely that you will get a price reduction. Do not be pushy.
  • You shouldn’t ridicule or laugh at the item’s listed price! Saying things like: “These sellers are insane if you think they’ll get $50 for that!”
  • You don’t have to try and get a huge price drop within the first hour of the sale. Prices are usually reduced as the sale progresses. You can ask the sellers to help you determine when that is.
  • A group of items is a great way to lower your price. Don’t be afraid to ask if you are interested. What is the price for these three pieces?
  • Don’t lowball. While everyone wants great deals, it is not a good idea to offer less than half the price. When asking for a discount, be fair.
  • It is a common tactic to criticize the merchandise in an effort to make it cheaper. One time, I witnessed a customer telling a seller she would pay $2 for the “ugly red” area rug that no one wanted. She was quickly informed by the angry seller exactly where to find the exit door.
  • You should know that not all items can be discounted in price. Many times, furniture or other items are not available at tag sales. You can either accept the price and move on or get over yourself.

Happy haggling!

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