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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 (this was way before I went vegetarian) 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.

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