Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to negotiate for price in English

Did you go shopping this past weekend?

Did you buy food? Clothes? Electronics?

Did you ask for a discount or try to barter with anyone?

Today we have a great question from a listener about how to ask for a lower price.

We’ll talk about more than just how to ask the seller about prices, but also we’ll discuss when it is appropriate and when it’s just plain rude.

This topic is highly cultural so listen up if you are from another country and you are living in the United States!

Here is the question from our listener:

Thank you Lindsay and Michelle, guys I have a question but I don´t know where to post it in order to get your answer. My question is which expressions can I use to ask for a cheaper price in a transaction… for example, in Colombia we say “en cuanto me lo deja” o “¿por qué tan caro?” I hope you read me.

By the way I have improve a lot of my listening skills listening to your podcast. thank you!! Great job!



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Where can you negotiate price?

In the US most things are NOT negotiated for price.

You’re not going to go to a grocery store or CVS and try to negotiate when you buy milk or eggs or shampoo.

Here are some places where you can negotiate:

  • Buying a car
  • Buying a house. This is considered to be more of a negotiation, rather than simple haggling.
  • Buying a mattress (many people don’t try to negotiate when they buy a mattress in the US but you can. This is true for other consumer products that are marked up heavily)
  • Flea market- old antiques, garage sale
  • Electronics- maybe if you buy more than one but this is rare


BUT it depends on your perspective:

Here is a quote from Forbes Magazine from an article written by Jeanine Poggi on 7/21/2008

“How to Bargain at Retail: About 20 years ago, Herb Cohen was sitting in Bergdorf Goodman as his wife spent hours trying on different dresses, an experience undoubtedly shared by many men.”

“When she came over to show me what dress she was buying, I asked how much it was. When they told me the price, I asked, ‘And what scarf will you be throwing in with that?’ The sales assistant immediately pulled out a scarf and included it free of charge.”

Click here to read more of the article.

This anecdote shows us that maybe negotiating is more possible than we think it is in the United States and that we should try it more often.

However, we should keep in mind that this was a man that did this and he was also a negotiation expert and business consultant.


Despite this example, the man in the article is the outlier.

The majority of people in the United States are not going to bargain the price at a mall.

So we don’t advise it.


BUT This is a very American perspective.

Here is the other perspective again from the article:

“While Americans are used to bargaining for car prices, in our culture we feel most ticket prices are set in stone,” Kolb says. “But women in all other cultures are hagglers. No one believes the ticket price is the real price.”

How to ask for a lower price:

  • “It’s a little out of my price range. I’ll give you $30.”
  • “Can you go any lower on this?”
  • “How about $30?”
  • “If I got X and Y what kind of discount could you give me?”


Other tips:

  • Don’t whine by saying “why is it so expensive?”
  • Don’t keep pushing if it’s clear they aren’t interested in negotiating.
  • Don’t be obnoxious and don’t lie by saying, “I saw a lamp like this down the street for $20”


This issue is very cultural!

If you are traveling then read some guide books to find out what the local cultural norms are and respect them.

If you are living in a new place, observe people around you.

Be polite and remember you are talking to someone who might not view negotiating in the same way.


What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

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