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October 22, 2019

12 Rules to Haggle Like an Indian

A few years ago when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, a group of friends and I went out to a nice steak dinner the night before the game. The special was a beautifully marbleized rare Wagyu steak and everyone was drooling over the waiter’s description. I asked everyone at the table to find out who was gonna order it, and one by one, everyone’s hands went up, including mine.

Since six of us were interested in having the Wagyu, I asked the waiter if he’d be able to give us a discount. He looked at me and said he couldn’t really do that. I said, “All good, mind asking the head chef to come out real quick so I can ask him?”

The head chef comes out kind of confused and I ask him, “My man, any chance you could tell us a little bit more about the Wagyu steak — we’re all pretty interested in getting it.” 

After he’s done selling us on this amazing piece of beef, I asked him, ”What’s the number one bestseller on the menu?” It was the bone in fillet on the menu for $75. The Wagyu was twice the price of the bestseller, so I was like, “The Wagyu sounds great, but $150 is way too much. There are six of us who want it, we’ll do it for $100 a pop. Is that something you could do for us? Totally cool if not, we’ll just slip down to the bone in filet since it’s probably just as good.” 

I remember seeing my friends’ straight faces. They didn’t blink. They didn’t flinch. They knew I was in the cut. 

The chef was like, “Well sir, that’s quite unusual. We don’t really do that.” 

I said, “That’s cool, you don’t have to. I’m just asking in case you want us to enjoy the Wagyu. We’ll happily order it, but at $100 each for six of them. Totally your call.”

The chef took a second to think and said, “Yeah, we’ll do it.” 

Boom, he walked away and everybody was like, what the fuck

One of my boys yelled, “Oh my god!! I’ve been paying full price for steak all my life!!!”

Haggling the rarest steak in the world at a fancy restaurant is something most people probably wouldn’t do or even think of doing. Yet, the art of haggling is so important. If you feel uncomfortable bargaining over a piece of food, imagine when it comes to something with extra zeros at the end. You’re going to be even more uncomfortable. 

In India, haggling is the norm. You bargain for everything since there are no price tags. Not so much in the West, where fixed pricing is the norm. Americans can benefit from understanding how to haggle like Indians who love the process of getting a deal. Once you learn to put aside your ego, set your market price, and implement my 12 haggling rules, you’ll see everything is open to negotiation and you’ll push the boundaries of your life. 

Why Haggle a Price Tag?

The reason you feel uncomfortable bargaining for a nice steak is your ego wants to avoid embarrassment and rejection at all costs. Your ego also wants to be able to show it can afford big price tags. To strike a hard bargain, you have to do the internal work and get your ego out of your way. When you sort out your internal issues, then the whole world becomes very negotiable. 

Related: How to Legit Control Your Thoughts

Economics states the market price is what you’re willing to pay and the price somebody is willing to sell. Fixed pricing is only for convenience, it’s a suggestion, which means you don’t have to purchase anything at face value. Social norms and your ego create an invisible line that prevents you from haggling price tags. Once you get over your ego’s fear and find your market price, you’ll remove the invisible line that holds you back. 

One time I asked a group of high schoolers to try to get a discount on a cup of coffee. The results were epic. Bargaining for a small cup of coffee was such a self esteem boost, they asked, what’s next? Let me tell you, you can bargain for anything. I’ve haggled prices on clothes at Nordstrom, teeth cleanings, steak dinners, car repairs, and music at nightclubs. I’ve also used these principles to negotiate multi-million dollar deals for Fortune 100 companies. Once you get comfortable asking for what you want, you’ll realize how much more is available to you. 

Bargaining for small stuff is fun. Plus, you’ll get over discomfort and build up confidence to advocate for yourself. You can’t jump into one of the biggest moments of your life and expect to crush it without experience. You need to practice my haggling rules on everyday items so you can make your dollars stretch further. When it’s game time, you’ll haggle hard for your pay raise, wedding, car, or house — and nail it.

Top 12 Rules to Haggle Like an Indian

1. Know your limits, know your floor, be willing to walk

Know the max you’re willing to pay, the least you’re willing to accept, and have a plan B option so you can walk. This is called a negotiations envelope: most desired outcome (MDO), least acceptable agreement (LAA), and best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). Most people forget or aren’t willing to walk away as their BATNA. If you can’t leave, then you have no leverage. Without leverage, there’s no negotiation. 

2. Crank up the kindness

Turn up your biggest smile and be genuinely nice. Make them like you in 30 seconds or less. Never talk shit or get angry. Make them want to do a deal with you because you’re likable. If you have to walk, then say, “I really want to do business with you and I’m bummed we’re just so far apart. It’s really been a pleasure meeting you.” Make them feel good when you leave, and watch the price drop when you return. 

3. Make them invest in your story 

Spend a lot of time telling a story about why you’re shopping or why the item is important. Vendors want to make quick sales. If you force them to invest more time with you, they’ll be more committed to making a return on their time. Plus if they care about you, you invoke a social norm on top of an economic norm. Giving you a discount of 20% is fine with them because they make up the 20% in feeling good about helping you. That’s the difference between financial capital and social capital.

Related: Why Social Capital is the Biggest Leverage Point in Negotiations

4. Unbundle if you’re buying, bundle if you’re selling

Whenever you are buying in bundles, never haggle on the package’s total price. Always negotiate each item separately. For example, if you’re buying a car, negotiate the car, financing, and add-ons separately. The total savings in unbundling is greater than if you did it all together. If you’re selling, it’s the opposite. Negotiate the entire package rather than individual items. 

5. Anchor on the last offer and talk in increments

Always haggle in small increments. If you’re buying a $100 item and you got someone down to $80, but you really want it for $60, anchor on the $80 and talk them down in $20 increments. You can say, “What’s $20 to you?” or “We’re only talking about $20.” Anchor off the lowest price given to you and start to chip away towards bigger discounts.

6. Be creative with non-monetary incentives

You can offer to leave a Google or Yelp review, or make recommendations to your friends. For example, every time I go to Indian restaurants I always say, “My friends are looking for the best Indian restaurant in town. I hope it’s you guys, so please see what you can do. Maybe bring out some extra stuff for me to try. I would love to be able to recommend this place to people.” The owners know an Indian giving Indian food recommendations carries weight, so they hook me up.  

7. Nibble, nibble, nibble 

Once you get the deal and you want something else, pull out the classic Columbo move and say, “Just one more thing!” For instance, after the waiter took our order for our $100 Wagyu steaks, I was like, “Hey, one more thing. A few of us don’t like the tentacles and a few of us don’t like the tubes in calamari. Could you separate those two for us?” Most restaurants won’t do it up front, but if you ask on a nibble, then you can get calamari tubes and tents like I did. 

8. Act outraged 

Whenever you’re presented with 5 -15% off deals, act a little outraged, because you’re looking for deep discounts like 60% off. You’re playing big so say, “You must be out of your mind” or “We’re not on the same plane right now” or “Are you for real!” You’ll make their offer invalid to prevent logrolling, a negotiation that ends up meeting in the middle. Disregarding an outrageous offer forces their hand to slash the price more.

9. Take the edge off

After you get outraged, you have to bring it down a notch and add some humor to take the edge off. You can push aside their ego and say, “You know I don’t want to insult you but we’re really far apart.” Crank up the kindness again and counter with a bigger discount. Like I did with the chef, you can say something like, “We’ll do it for $100. But hey, I get it if you can’t. Totally your call.” 

10. Don’t bluff

When you tell a vendor you can get what you want down the street for less, you’re insulting them. You’ll instantly become unlikable and break rule number two. If you can get it cheaper down the block, just go down the block. And if you’re making it up, your bluff is going to get called.

11. Grease the wheel

Slip some cash to your waitress, hostess, whoever, to grease their wheel. People want to hook you up, they want to say yes, but they have rules to follow. Make it easy for them. Slip them a little extra and you will get loved on. 

12. When it’s over, you’re best friends

When the deal is done, show love to the people who hooked you up and let them feel good about your great bargain. During my trip to Marrakech, I haggled for a marble chess set. The street vendor was sharp. We went back and forth before settling on $5. After we shook hands and I paid, he pulled up two stools and sat me down to share soup with him to break his Ramadan fast. Game recognizes game.

Start Negotiating Daily

Here’s my challenge to you: drop the ego, muster up your confidence, and ask for something beyond what’s offered.

Remember in haggling, the way you ask matters. Keep your cool, send out good vibes, and have no expectations. More importantly, have fun!

And you know I GOTTA HEAR ABOUT YOUR WIN so drop me a message or comment with the 411.

Post a comment


  1. Jean McKnight

    I am am an landlord, and recently had a tenant ask me to hold an apartment for me, which I know better than to do because it cost me a lot and risked a vacancy (I’m in a college town) but I liked them so much I did- and quoted them $100 less than I normally would too, because they had a kid and I figured they could likely use it. They didn’t ask for it, I just told them less without telling the usual number because I didn’t want to embarrass them. But when they came much later, they demanded I modify the bathrooms at my expense to be more like an Indian bathroom, and throw in some furniture for them. Then they acted like I was really cheap because I wouldn’t. Gotta tell you: I have not been that mad often. To me, the time to haggle is BEFORE you make a deal; not after you make one, let alone after you make it and the owner voluntary takes a hit to hold it for you below market. I was absolutely shocked they did this, as they had seemed so nice. I told them to go find another apartment, because I don’t deal with people who don’t keep their word. They wrote me a note about how because they were going to be renting my house, we were like family, and families help each other out so we should work something out. I didn’t even answer, I was so mad. Is this an Indian thing? Here I feel like it is flat dishonorable to try to take advantage of someone you’ve already come to an arrangement with; all the mores if it were actually family! Interestingly, in a lifetime of renting, I’ve only ever had one other similar situation; renters pled extreme poverty *after they had rented an unfurnished apartment from me* and I helped them out by finding them furniture, dishes, linens, food etc, and then found out they literally had more money than me. Also the woman actually asked me to drive to another town and buy her a jewelry box as part of the furniture (for which they had neither bargained nor paid), at my own expense and on my only day off and bring it to her, “because she didn’t have a car”. (That was the day at the gravy train stopped, btw.) They were Indian too, and I was so furious I put the property into management just so I wouldn’t have to look at them again, I was so pissed. So…just curious: is this an Indian thing? Random jerks, or a cultural barrier?

    1. Andy Seth Post author

      Best not to place judgement on a group of people based on individuals’ actions. Obviously, in both instances, the people tried to nibble when really, they were asking for a feast. They should have made those asks upfront. Nibbling is for small stuff, not demanding to modify bathrooms and throw in furniture (which are laughably absurd requests). All we know is that those people did what they did and being mad is perfectly natural. It’s how you dealt with your emotion as a reaction that matters. You not answering them seems fitting, but if there’s still anger in you, then you’d want to work on letting that go (see my article on “Let that Shit Go: How to Heal Unresolved Conflicts). My hope for you is that you continue to see the good in people you’re renting to and at the same time, not let your kindness be taken advantage of. That keeps your heart open and your conscience clear without suffering.

  2. Mike

    Indians should assimilate and just shut the fuck up.
    Don’t bring your 3rd World bullshit to our home.
    Cheap bastards

  3. Sam

    I lived in India, loved the culture and non violence of ahingsa kamma (Santi Santi) and having all day to talk, one can begin at 10 thousand rupees and finish at 50 after 3 hours haggling. But in those days i had nothing to do, and was poor, and had all day to waste. Now, being busy, and doing serious business not mess around to end up without savings at age 75,. I personally do not like to waste time anymore (life is short), so when i state a price, it is already my lowest. In Thailand, if you haggle too much, or cheeky, too cheap, we will refuse to sell to you at any price and throw you out of the establishment. Indians have a bad reputation with their over haggling in Thailand, and it is not welcomed. So, asking for a 33% discount on six wagyu steaks would get you ‘if you can afford to eat i a restaurant six of you, then you do not live i a slum and are of Brahman Caste or Sikh or whatever higher caste, and can afford the blooming Wagyu so take it at face value, or leave the establishment (or be thrown out). I personally would throw such a group out. Barefaced cheek in Thailand to do that

  4. Richard Mudd

    I have been on the other end of this. While I feel that I have a much greater appreciation for other cultures than most in my industry, I do not think it unreasonable to expect an understanding of western culture as well.

    After we have a nice pleasant conversation, and even become almost like friends, I take about an hour to fully understand their hopes (I am in the remodel business). I then explain that as a company we take a lot of time to get the estimate to the best possible price. I then take the time to give them the best possible price. It is not ego. But every dollar that I would get negotiated down is a dollar away from feeding my family. That and I take my work as a profession. I suppose this may be construed as ego, but you are at a restaurant! The profit margins are shit! Their reputations are often attacked for frivolous reasons and the poor guy may have been mulling things over “gee should I just give the jerk the deal and hope to make up the difference elsewhere? What if I refuse? Oh crap then I will have 6 1 star reviews”. Of all things that story is borderline repulsive. Now it is possible I am wrong, but in the restaurant industry it is entirely possible that you took advantage of an over stressed under paid service worker. Also, anyone who has been swindled often shakes hands and smiles…. Natural mimicking behavior. It is not until 2:30 am doing the books that the reality of you swindling the restaurant settles in.

    I apologize for being too harsh, but I would recommend to understand other cultures, but have some compassion for others.

  5. Henry

    Nah. I prefer to be an honest respectful person. Majority of interactions with indian immigrants when it comes to business dealings are routinely dreadful hence why most people avoid them. There’s a difference between being financially smart and being a crook and nothing ive seen from the Indian community comes across as financially smart, but instead dishonest, harassing and disrespectful. The scams and lies make it impossible to actually make a good business deal. Once you agree on a price they immediately lie or try to scam you.
    The most common for me is after a remodel, repair or renovation, they suddenly demand we do a list of work for free in order to be paid for the actual work we were hired to do. If we fall for the scam they will next make an excuse to not pay at all due to not doing enough free work. I have yet in 20 years to actually have an honest conversation and contractual deal with them where a scam isn’t attempted. I don’t have this problem nor statistical pattern with any other group. This is actually becoming a big problem and Im sure they realize the gig is up considering salespeople run away when they arrive and contractors hang up whenever they call for services. I always hope for just one honest encounter but it has yet to happen. Because of this I find nothing honorable in trying to behave like them.
    Many times the scam is simply defrauding the business or individual they hired. It’s reached a point where people are finding credit card skimmers in convenience stores that were put there by the actual store owner.
    The only reasons many do well in America are because of the unlimited taxpayer funded benefits and grants thrown at them, the acceptance of the fake degress they had made in their country, and the decency of Americans who simply deal with the degeneracy rather than do what should be done. The absolute last thing that needs to be done is accept this degenerate behavior and allow it to infest American society thus causing a degenerate society exactly like the one they fled from.
    Let’s make sure to not glorify nor encourage this type of behavior. There’s a saying that there is no such thing as a 3rd world country but instead it’s a country full of 3rd world people.
    This behavior will eventually lead to bad outcomes if it isn’t addressed and stopped. More Americans are doing research and finding out just how much free money is given to indians coming to America. More and more Americans continue to have poor experiences when doing business with Indians. More and more Americans have become educated regarding the Indian culture and are catching the scam attempts before they happen. Go to any convenience store that’s Indian owned and most likely you will be scammed even if just for 10 cents. Go do an estimate for an Indian homeowner wanting a remodel and every time they will try to scam the contractor. This isn’t a one time thing but instead an epidemic that will result in many disgruntled Americans who will vote in politicians that will stop any further immigration from india and stop all of the vast taxpayer funded benefits given to them.
    Moral of the story……you can haggle all you want but there comes a time when we don’t need nor want your business. It’s going to come to that unless the behavior changes. You can’t haggle with a hung up phone or a locked door. Maybe appreciate the country that made it possible to give you a better life and stop trying to get over on everyone because the fact is you need everyone. You don’t want it to reach a point where everyone realizes they don’t need you because all you do is take take take.

  6. Bobby

    Indian hotels are also a ripoff.

    I also won’t do business with an Indian.

    Never able to construct deals with them. Very unbecoming.

  7. Nick

    Indians are notorious for making agreements during a negotiation and not sticking by their word. In America we like to honor our commitments and “do business with a handshake”. Obviously we typically back that up with a contract but once you make a deal and shake someone’s hand an American will typically honor it….not an Indian. The deal will the struck then later, and yes much, much, later they will come back and ask for the moon. Doing business with the Indian community is aggravating and often not worth it because in order to get their business you deal with broken negotiations, missed timelines and constant requests to take a deal that would lose you tons of money……PISS OFF and go back home!!!