Price Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts

Negotiation has never been my strong suit. As a buyer I used to be embarrassed to even try. Thankfully, I’ve gotten over that! And now having been an online seller for years, I’ve been on the receiving end of some cringe-worthy offers. I decided it was time to update an older post on negotiation with some of these stories. Enjoy!

Don’t make low-ball offers. Those “cheeky” offers may be cute on reality TV (think Antiques Road Trip in the UK), but not so much in real life. We know what our items are worth. Don’t waste our time and yours.

I had a vintage Höganäs Keramik Swedish jug competitively priced at $34. I was offered $15. Ouch! That wasn’t even in the ball park. I declined and later sold it for $28.90.

Paid $4 at Goodwill.

Don’t share a sob story about how this is “all you can afford” or that you’re on disability or that you want to buy this for your dad’s birthday, but you’re just a student, yada, yada. Either you can afford it or you can’t.

Perhaps the wackiest story I’ve received was from a woman who wanted to buy some charms from me as they were similar to ones that had gotten stolen from her. But she was on disability and only had a monthly income of $650 and $300 of it went to her son for rent. (Greedy son if you ask me.) Could I help her out? I wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but for the sheer creativity and depth of her story (which could have been true for all I know) I offered her a 10% discount. I never heard from her again.

Don’t point out the item’s flaws as if we don’t know them. We’ve detailed them in the description and in the photos and the price reflects that.

A guy contacted me offering me $50 for a $75 Native American souvenir basket. I countered and said I could sell it for $65. He declined based on the damage. (The small damage on the lid is shown and described in the listing.) Now fast forward a month and he contacts me again asking if I would accept less for this basket. This time I sent him a coupon code for 10% off. He writes back: “Thanks. Best I could do is $45. Plus postage. I will have to pass on your offer. Damage is reason for my offer of 45.00.” It later sold for the full $75, which was a fair price to begin with, especially since the damage was so minimal. In perfect condition these little baskets sell in the hundreds.

I saw a similar basket in the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA. (Paid $2 at a local rummage sale, sold $75.)

Don’t say “You’ve got this priced too high. I’ll give you $XX.” Most sellers do a lot of research to determine the current value of their items. But even if you believe his/her price is unrealistic, pointing it out will not score you any points with the seller.

Don’t ask “I can get this cheaper at XYZ. Can you match their price?” If you can get it cheaper somewhere else, then buy it there!

I had a gal contact me about a 1950s sterling silver charm I was selling for $18 plus shipping. She said, “I can get this on eBay for $11.95 with free shipping. Can you match that?” I replied, “Wow that’s a great deal. I would grab it on eBay.” Later I researched it and discovered the $11.95 eBay price was for a junky silver-plated, new version of the charm. No wonder she wanted mine. Apples and oranges.

Don’t ask “What’s your best price? I know this is a standard question in price negotiations and I dare say I’ve asked it once or twice, but it really is an annoying one. Our best price is the one you’re looking at!

Don’t ask “How much did you pay for this?” That’s none of your business and not relevant to its current value or this negotiation.

I had a series of messages from a guy who wanted to buy a $300 painting from me. I was willing to give him a 10% discount, but that was not the discount he had in mind. Finally he asked me what I had paid for it. He wanted to base his offer on what profit he thought I should make! Did I just fall off the turnip truck? The painting later sold for $275 to a very happy customer.

This was displayed in our house till it sold. I still miss it! (Bought for $30 at a Habitat for Humanity Restore.)

Don’t ask “What’s the lowest you’ll take?” because I shan’t tell you!

I have a few items on eBay that use the “Buy It Now/Make Best Offer” feature. Instead of using the handy dandy feature to send me an offer, one lady sent me a message asking “What’s the lowest you’ll take?” I ignored it. She contacted me again saying, “Unfortunately, I have a small budget …what is the lowest you will consider? I look forward to agreeing on a price.” She added a smiley face. I don’t play that game. Make your offer and we’ll go from there. She wouldn’t make an offer.

Don’t be surprised if an offer is outright declined and no negotiation is forthcoming. More often than not I decline offers, particularly on my older best quality pieces that I know are already fairly priced.

A woman messaged that she loved one of my antique silver pieces but was on a “limited budget” and made an offer of $200 on a $250 item. Though the piece had been listed in my store for a few years I knew $250 was fair and if anything it could have been priced higher. I declined her offer. She bought it a few hours later at full price and had it sent to her business address…a high-end antique store! Well, well, well.

Do remember that this is a business. The folks selling these items have costs. For some this is their sole livelihood. They have time and money invested. They have driven many miles and spent hours scouring thrift stores, auctions, yard sales, etc. for these items. They have cleaned them, tested them, researched them and photographed them.

Do ask,Is there any wiggle room in this price?” This is an easy, friendly way to open up negotiation.

Do make a reasonable offer. In my books, that’s in the 10%-30% range. If you’re buying a number of items from the same seller, you’ll have more leverage.

Do use cash when buying in person for the best deal. I have found even with antique stores if I offered to pay in cash they were willing to give me a better price.

Do be courteous in your communications and if you’re negotiating face to face, for Pete’s sake, smile, be amiable. 

Years ago we had a yard sale and a guy approached the negotiation for a hibachi with furrowed eyebrows and a gruff tone of voice. It was the end of the sale and we were going to start packing up soon. Honestly, I would have been happy just to give it to him, but his manner was so off putting that the negotiation became quite spirited. (We had wanted $7. I sold it for $4. A ridiculous amount of effort on this item!)

The bottom line for me when I’m negotiating as a buyer is to be fair and respectful to the seller. If the price is already good, I don’t try to nickel and dime him/her. As a seller receiving offers, I weigh if I think it’s a fair offer and would I be happy selling the item at that price. If not, I counter or decline.

Well enough said.

I hope all your deals are good ones!



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