The Art of the Deal, Guitar Style
Haggling. Wheeling and dealing. Hondling. I hate it. Still, I like to get the best deal I can on gear. I've been buying guitars for nearly fifty years and early-on figured out that it required some negotiation. Dealers very often don't put their actual selling price on the instrument so you have to "work" for it a little. I'll admit that I did it poorly when I first got started but I've learned to do it pretty well since. To end up satisfied and comfortable, I've had to change my outlook and approach pretty drastically. I've had to adjust my thinking. I've had to ask myself, "What am I trying to accomplish here as I buy?" A haggler wants to buy an item at the best price possible, perhaps so he can brag about his dealing acumen later. What do I want? I just want to negotiate the best deal I can get, a reasonable deal, negotiated with a reasonable person. I'm more interested in not overpaying than I am in gouging out the best possible deal on the planet. There's a difference. I want to walk away happy. If I am a person of good will, I want the dealer to do the same. To this end I've developed some steps to a good deal:
1. Do your research before you step up to negotiate. Find out what most dealers consider a fair discounted price. Check all the dealers in the area and several sites on the Internet and find their prices. Be sure to adjust the price to reflect the difference between brick-and-mortar and mail-order stores. Always try to compare the same products, apples to apples. If you can't, make the best comparison you can and be fair. Take the best prices you find into the store for them to see. You can preload web pages into tabs on your phone's web browser.
2. Go by Amy Grant's father's principle: "A good deal is only a good deal if it is a good deal for everyone involved." The dealer has to run a store. I need the lowest reasonable price I can get. The deal needs to be fair for both of us. I don't browbeat them for a lower than usual discounted price and I expect them to not browbeat me to accept their price. I always strive to be on kindly terms with the dealer.
3. If the price you are seeking means more to you than the individual guitar you are looking at, be ready to cordially walk away if the dealer isn't willing to come down to your reasonable target price. But be nice! Say, "I think I can get it for a lower price elsewhere, but thank you." You may need to come back to this dealer for this guitar or another.
4. Conversely, if the particular guitar means more to you than the deal, don't cut off your nose to spite your face. Before you go in, mentally prepare yourself to pay the list price. That way, if you get any break in the price at all you can celebrate.
5. Don't waste the dealer's time. What is the first thing they ask when you start acting serious? "Are you ready to buy today?" They do that because they sometimes reserve a couple of percentage points to close a deal immediately. Be prepared to pay at the concusion of your negotiation. Don't ask for their bottom line cash price or negotiate until you are ready to throw down and buy the instrument.
6. Be willing to meet in the middle if the dealer just can't meet the price you want but you like the dealer. Good will is a wonderful asset. Maybe you will get a better deal next time.
So, when you go into the store, your entre' can be, "Hi! I like this guitar and would like to buy it but I'm looking for a little better price." They might say, "What were you thinking of?" You say, "Well, I've done my homework and have found it at other stores but would prefer to buy it here. I've found it here for this amount and there for that amount and here for this amount. Those are all brick and mortar stores like you (or, "I realize those are big box stores and can allow "$x.xx" difference to keep your doors open"). Can you match those prices, please?" When you use these techniques you set up the table so that both parties can feel good about the negotiations and the deal.
It's a win-win. Your dealer will love you for it and welcome the sight of you next time you enter the store: "Hey, howya doin'? How's the guitar workin' out?"