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In the United States, when, if ever, do you haggle over food prices?

Let's just limit this to the United States, because from my understanding and experience haggling for everything, not just food, is much more common and commonly accepted in other parts of the world.

So, in the United States, do you ever haggle over food or meal prices?

I know some consider it déclassé, but I also know that many of us do it (myself included), so please feel free to share.

Personally, I've done it at local Farmer's Markets, county fairs, coffee shops (incl. Starbucks), and your typical neighborhood ethnic eateries, incl. many many Chinese restaurants of all stripes.

No judgments please, let's just share stories and experiences. Because people also consider picking your nose déclassé, but I know I do it, and I proudly admit it.

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  1. Almost never.

    The rare occasion (and I can only remember 2-3 times in my life) is at a farmers market and once at a fish monger. I was buying a lot at both places for a big party so haggled because of the volume I was buying.

    For those that don't know as well - Whole Paycheck does case discounts on anything in their stores (or mine does). So even if I'm buying a lot of chickens I ask how many are in a case and get a 10% discount. Not really haggling but along a similar line as what I wanted from the above examples.

    Edit: there are aspects of this thread that already rub me the wrong way but I'm not sure I can articulate them all right now - I'll be interested to see if anyone really does this in the US (except for the OP who we already know does this of course, so some must).

    1. I am the punchline to the old joke: "Somebody's got to pay retail!"

      1 Reply
      1. I've never haggled over food or meal prices, and rarely over other goods & services. I just think the practice is tacky.
        In fact, it saddens me that buying many things in the USA has become rather like buying something in a Persian market...maybe even worse.
        Our whole society seems to be becoming déclassé.

        Sorry, I guess that was a judgement. If my comment gets deleted, I understand. If it doesn't, I hope it provides food for thought. It would be something interesting to explore in anappropriate forum.

        15 Replies
        1. re: The Professor

          how is haggling déclassé? I wouldn't buy a house or a car for the asked price or accept a decent professional level job at the first offer (different and more complicated scale I know), and granted in a restaurant I would just suck it up to the stated prices unless it was horribly wrong. but if at a market and the fruit is bruised or the meat turning an unfortunate shade...

          as for services there's always the value in being a repeat client and the expectation of future work (and damn right I'll steer that work their way when I can)

          1. re: The Professor

            "it saddens me that buying many things in the USA has become rather like buying something in a Persian market...maybe even worse."

            Where? In my daily life I can't think of where I routinely haggle over price.

            1. re: Chinon00

              Huh. I was a real estate broker for ten years. Haggled daily over price, fees, terms, commissions.

              1. re: Leonardo

                Most people don't buy or sell houses everyday.

                1. re: Chinon00

                  if one is sitting in front of a menu and saying to the staff "no way I'm paying $X for halibut, what can you do for me?" yeah that would be a bit odd. but the idea of haggling in and of itself isn't so wrong. "can I have a half-portion, since I can't take the rest with me and I pay 5/8 the regular price?" sounds difficult and a total pain to accommodate but not unreasonable.

                  at a store saying "I love these peaches but someone's been shaking this tree and $1.69# really?" is different.

                  1. re: hill food

                    If you only eat half of the entrée ask for 50% off!!!
                    Yeah, that's the ticket!!
                    Funny story: I know a well to do 60ish couple that go to McD's in the AM for breakfast. There is a breakfast special of Egg McMuffin with a free coffee and free refills. They split the egg thingy and the cup of coffee and usually get 2 refills. Then they walk to the parking lot and get in their Mercedes.

                    1. re: Motosport

                      that funny story is many people in my neighborhood...

                      1. re: Motosport

                        oh c'mon that portion negotiation would be arranged BEFORE the order ever hit the kitchen. duh. but I think it fair to pay a bit more than half (same service and kitchen work really) for half the plate. this is why I have been known to lie about having a gastric bypass rather than get the after-dinner guilt-trip.

                        this is why I like the places that do small plate/large plate versions, yeah sure it's very 1995 but it works for me.

                        once at a chef's flight tasting menu type place in Chicago, at the end I declined dessert as I don't really do sweets and the waitress suggested 'next time' I swap in an appetizer replacement. well if I'd known, they'd be that accommodating... I think she did bring me a port or something.

                        1. re: Motosport

                          The McMuffin/Mercedes story? My dad would say that is how the couple affords the Mercedes!

                          At the coffee shop in my town, there is a note posted at the cash register AND on the coffee makers that reads "Free refills do not apply to people sharing cups!"

                          Very entertaining things happen when extreme frugality and food issues collide.

                          I served on a board with an extremely wealthy (Forbes 400 wealthy) woman that would instruct the catering staff to package up all the leftover food from the meetings so she could take it home to her husband.

                          One day she took home a huge pile of bagel sandwiches that had been sitting out for hours. Probably still edible but really?

                          The poor girl from the catering company honestly didn't think Mrs. X was serious but Mrs. X was not deterred, out she pranced with a huge platter of bagel sandwiches.

                          1. re: cleobeach

                            Maybe she had a very big dog??? Hah!!

                              1. re: tcamp

                                My husband used to work for Leona Helmsley (personally, not at one of her hotels) and he can tell you some stories!

                                1. re: coll

                                  oh god I still remember the profile of Leona in SPY magazine around 1988 (oh yeah sure they torqued the details, but there was an element of truth)

                                  1. re: hill food

                                    He actually admired her, but he has a similar personality, very good at expressing himself at the expense of others.

                                    She was a smart cookie, until it all came crashing down. But "The Queen of Mean" was a perfect description. Luckily she liked my husband, he lasted a few years. Possibly a record!

                2. I have haggled at farmers markets, our local Asian market (it's the norm there), and for large banquets and other events like that.

                  EDIT - I forgot and in Hawaii, I always ask for the local discount, sometimes you get it sometimes you don't, really depends upon how tan I am at the time.
                  And I'll haggle with fishmongers and fisherman right off the pier.

                  1. I am terrible at haggling. Somebody usually had to do it for me. Especially at flea and antique markets in Europe.

                    If I do not feel the item is worth the price, I normally go to the next stall. Besides, my face always shows if I really want something. Which is why I do not play cards for money.

                    42 Replies
                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                      Me, too. I admire people who can haggle. Hopefully I pick up some tips on this thread.

                      1. re: KrumTx

                        I think the key is respect.

                        Like so many things in life, if one is able to empathize and appreciate the other perspective in the end everyone benefits.

                        If the person you are speaking to is not in a position to bargain or is not willing then don't push it. But more often than not many people who are in a position to bargain will readily do if approached first about it - no one will really ever advertise that they're completely negotiable.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I agree. I'll try to keep this short so as not to bore you to tears:

                          Two years ago, my dad and stepmom (age 72) moved to a suburb of KC. Within a block of each other were tons of stores. When I went to visit, we went to a few. At every one, stepmom politely haggled. Dean and Deluca: no go. Trader Joe's: free candy bar at checkout. Apple: free mouse and another accessory. Tapas restaurant: free round of drinks.

                          I remember being annoyed and embarrassed. My dad just shook his head. But when we were back at their home and she was unpacking things, I made a snide remark and she responded "it never hurts to ask!"

                          She was right. She saved probably 100 bucks that day. It wasn't out of necessity - they were financially comfortable. But she had a point. She was kind when asking. She never pushed it. Props to her.

                          Dad died suddenly a few weeks later. This is my last big memory of her. I can't haggle for the life of me, but I think I'm going to try, at times. As you said, it's all about respect.

                          1. re: KrumTx

                            One should never be pushy when negotiating.

                            Broach the issue politely and gently, and no matter how or when you bargain just remember to keep something in mind: both parties need to (and should) benefit if the bargaining is to work.

                            Great story, by the way, thanks for sharing.

                            1. re: KrumTx

                              I think KrumTx father was married to my aunt! My father (and his sisters) operated under the same "it can't hurt to ask" and it forever embarrassed me. As a result, I don't haggle or ask for discounts for food purchases.

                              1. re: KrumTx

                                Krum - yep as somebody in business once pointed out to me "you don't ask - you don't get"

                                worst that can happen is they say no.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Or, they pity or otherwise think you have some sort of condition that causes you to ask for free stuff. That could be worse.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      But it's true. For example,if an elderly woman, as described above, asked for a candy bar or whatever else from a place where asking for free food is not the norm, I'd probably say yes out of pity.

                                      It would be much harder for me to say no in that case, than to the rude, pushy person who asked for a freebie.

                                      1. re: LeoLioness

                                        a nice and polite person is not a pushy one. and anyway who needs a stranger's pity or 2nd thoughts if they haven't been affronted? they can say no. you can say no. I have said no (nicely). it's within the rules.

                                        perhaps a better term would be 'bargaining' and that doesn't equate awkward scenes or more.

                                        1. re: LeoLioness

                                          I take it you're not elderly yet? Live and learn. It feels good not to care what others think about you, whether right or wrong.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Folks, can't we just withhold judgment on this issue in this thread?

                                            Some people will haggle, bargain, negotiate, or whatever you want to call it, some people won't.

                                            That's just a fact. And that's what I'd like to explore.

                                            If you want to discuss who is right, or wrong, by all means feel free to do so. On a new thread.

                                            1. re: coll

                                              Point taken, but not entirely. I know plenty of elderly people for whom their personal decorum is always something they think about.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                coll - right now I'm picturing you as the character of Sophia on "the Golden Girls"! HA!

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  Well give me another 20 years.....I'm getting there!

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    she was the youngest one on that show!

                                      2. re: KrumTx

                                        Krum, my wife is far more likely to haggle, not for food necessarily, but other things, and that can possibly be that she grew up in Brooklyn and her mother did most of their shopping at the small independent grocers rather than supermarkets and so learned that there. She's always getting deals by "asking." I should do more of it. I do when I'm other countries where haggling is standard, but here I just don't really consider it.

                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                          It works in sub-cultures that come from haggling cultures. In the US, the very widespread cultural assumption (dating back to its popularization by the Quakers) is that a merchant who permits haggling is a merchant without integrity. There are some significant exceptions - such as car dealers - but the exceptional nature of these is such that most Americans treat those not as opportunities but as anxiety-inducing; note that car dealers are not widely esteemed for integrity....

                                          In Boston's Haymarket, vendors include a certain percentage of sub-quality produce as part of the deal; you don't get to pick, he/she gets to pick and ensure that each customer gets a fair share of good and subpar. There is some haggling that goes on, especially towards the end of the day. It can be a sport. But it can also intimidate newbies.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            USA vehicle dealers encourage the "haggling" process. Except for Saturn of course. OOPS!! they are gone, that did not work!!!
                                            Otherwise, real estate, appliance, electronic and art dealers haggle.
                                            Not too much haggling when it comes to food in markets or restaurants.

                                            1. re: Motosport

                                              Plenty of haggling over food in restaurants (in the kitchen) and supermarkets(in the warehouse). I used to "haggle" all day long, it's a true art!

                                              1. re: coll

                                                But not by the normal retail client.

                                                1. re: Motosport

                                                  OK I admit I'm a little abnormal.

                                              2. re: Motosport

                                                I often said (until it was too late) that were I ever to buy a car I'd buy one from Saturn for this exact reason. I refuse to haggle. Despite what customers think, they're *not* going to win - I have a friend who swears that he's talking people down to a point that they're uncomfortable, sorry but no.

                                                Ask for a fair price and I'll choose to pay for it or not.

                                                Similarly haggling is the exact reason that I never resell things - I'd rather throw stuff away than for instance sell it on craigslist or whatever. Because invariably some jackwagon shows up trying to haggle the price. No, the price was stated as X, you agreed to X and now you just wasted my time by not accepting X when you show up.

                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                  if a person shows up and wants to haggle, you have the option to refuse, lol, ya know?

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    When I sell something on Craigslist I state up front: Those who attempt to haggle will be sent off the property.

                                                    1. re: Leonardo

                                                      right. if something is posted as "price firm", i'd have no trouble respecting that.

                                                      certain items i've sold that way and if people tried to bargain me down i told them no. pretty simple.

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        or at that point the price goes up 10% "that was price was good 5 minutes ago but ya ticked me off"

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          At our store we call it aggravation tax.

                                                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      Of course I do. But they've wasted my time just by me being available for them to show up.

                                                      There are some people (and I've known people who do this, unfortunately) who are banking on the seller being peeved about just this and figuring that the lost time (setting up the sale, being available for the buyer, etc) wasn't worth the difference in money the buyer was trying to put forth.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        If you're in sales long enough, you learn how to up the charges for time wasters and their aggravations. They pay, or they go away, either way you win.

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          There's a reason why I'm not in sales, see my first post on the topic about how I always admired Saturn for their no haggling policy. I don't want to deal with the headaches from either side :)

                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                            I fell into sales, and it took my years to learn to turn people down. It's a good lesson in life, didn't come naturally to me. I'm not talking only about haggling, but about walking away when need be. People shouldn't be afraid to do that more often. I don't get "peeved", I get even.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              Back in the day my boss, a very wise man, said:
                                                              "The best way to get back at an annoying client, sell them more!!"

                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                And my favorite boss of all times had a sign in his office that said "Tact: the ability to tell a man to go to hell, and make him happy to be on his way!"

                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  what, piss on his head and convince him it really IS raining? well he'll need a hat or an umbrella if you happen to sell those.

                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                    Creating a need IS a very important part of a good sales pitch.

                                                  2. re: Motosport

                                                    As Schmerler Ford used to advertise: 'Bring in the wife and we'll dicker!"

                                                  3. re: Karl S

                                                    when was the last time you actually shopped at haymarket?

                                                    i haven't gotten bad produce from anybody in well over a decade and many of the vendors now indeed let you pick your own.

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                      I admit it's been over 20 yrs. I didn't realize they changed the old ways. So my comment reflects how it *used* to be....

                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                        many of the old school guys that ran stalls have been replaced by more recent immigrants. it has definitely changed for the better.