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Garage Sale Etiquette: Useful Phrases When Haggling


There's a certain unspoken etiquette that goes along with haggling at a garage sale. Typically it is only learned by hard experience but there are a few tips that can start beginners off on the right foot.

First, always be friendly and respectful to the seller. Your chances of negotiating a bargain go down with every frown.

Second, be sure that it is OK to haggle with the seller. You could watch the seller interact with other buyers to determine how flexible he or she might be. A quicker way is simply to ask, "Are your prices negotiable?"

Third, do some research on the items you are seeking before you head out for the garage sale. If you have some sense of what the item sells for, both new and secondhand, then you can offer a reasonable lower price. Don't forget that the seller needs and deserves to make some profit.

Consider using these phrases or something similar but remember to always deliver them in a friendly tone. Practice in front of a mirror if you usually sound too confrontational or rude.

  • "Have you noticed this crack? I'll give you half since it's damaged."

  • "I’m sorry; I simply cannot afford to pay that price."

  • "That must be the tourist rate. So what's the real price?"

  • "No thank you, it's just too expensive."

  • "I'll think about it and come back later." Be aware that this tactic could result in item being snatched up by another buyer before you return.

  • "What's your best price for this?"

Some buyers like to examine an item, put it down and then come back later. This variation on one of the above phrases can work but again you risk the item being purchased by someone else in the meantime.

Among other haggling tactics, watch out for unmarked items. Usually the seller wants you to make an offer in this case, so don't volunteer a price. Ask the seller for his or her price for the item. Often what they are asking is less than what you would have offered.

When you find something you want that's listed for 25 cents or less, don't insult your seller by haggling over something this cheap. If you can't afford something for a quarter, you shouldn't be out shopping.