Tough times demand tougher haggling

LOS ANGELES Heidi Berkley drove her dream car off the lot after haggling $2,000 off the sticker price.

"They called me about six times before they came to my number," said Berkley.

A car is one thing, but would you haggle at the hair salon? The shoe store? The doctor's office?

"I feel like I might be perceived as cheap," said consumer Heather Starr Fiedler.

Consumer trends expert Audrey Guskey says these days, that stigma is fading.

"I would say every type of product is fair game. There's really not anything that you can't bargain for," said Guskey.

Start at the mall. Guskey says many managers will discount products up to 20 percent if you ask. And ask for coupons, which are often reserved for loyal customers.

"You may not be a credit card customer of theirs, so you may not have the coupon, but a lot of times if you ask them, they'll use it," said Guskey.

Think about saving on services too, like the salon. While you're there, ask for a discount on a manicure.

"I've never even thought to ask them for a break unless it's something they advertise and they offer. But it's a good idea," said Fielder.

See if your phone company also provides cable and Internet service too. If you use all three, ask for a cut rate.

"I lowered my phone bill by at least $40 a month," said Berkley.

Even your doctor may make a deal. Experts say don't feel bad bargaining on health care or cosmetic services that aren't covered by your insurance.

"What does it hurt to say, 'You know what, this is coming out of my pocket. Can you cut me a break? Is there a way I can get a discount?'," said Guskey.

Believe it or not, Sandi Hughes even negotiated the price of having a baby.

"I learned to look at bills like I was car shopping again. This is the sticker price; it's not necessarily what you have to pay. It's what they are hoping you pay," said Hughes.

She got her obstetrician's price down from $3,000 to $1,900. She also saved $500 on her anesthesiologist.

Even an occasional haggle will help stretch your pennies even further.

Consumer experts say: Ask retailers to give you a discount of 15 to 20 percent if you buy a large quantity of one product.

And you should also ask if there's a floor model or display sample available, because many managers discount the last product if it's out of the packaging.

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