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Five Tips to Haggle a Discount

30/01/2014 17:22 GMT | Updated 01/04/2014 10:59 BST

Did you know that it is perfectly legal to challenge the price of ANY product in ANY shop in the UK and haggle your way to a better deal? Savvy shoppers are responding to the current economic pressures by haggling themselves significant discounts. Whilst traditionally, we Brits have always been wary of negotiating over cost, it seems that a minority of us are now cottoning onto something that psychologists have long known; that most things are negotiable.

Retail research suggests that people who haggle can save themselves hundreds of pounds a year. That's a lot of money, and allows this new 'haggling class' to counter the dwindling pound in their pocket. Sadly, most of us are still reluctant to play the negotiation game, whether out of embarrassment, awkwardness or simple lack of confidence. Yet psychologists who study persuasion techniques have these skills - and I think it is about time we shared our secrets.

Of course, retailers would prefer customers not to know how to haggle. But, they have expensive psychology experts advising them on the psychology of persuasion in order to lure more cash out of shoppers; this article is about levelling the playing field just a bit. So, here are my top five tips based on psychological research for driving that bargain, whether it be a new car, phone, TV or designer dress:

1.Use confident language that is neither hesitant nor negative. Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2008 shows that hesitant phrases such as "I mean", "you know" and "isn't it?" reduce a negotiator's credibility and weaken your arguments. Tag phrases, such as 'don't you think?' and 'you know?' will also weaken your case.

2.Take someone with you; they can observe the seller's body language whilst you drive the bargain and watch out for signs that they might be lying - eg if there are discrepancies between the seller's language and body language or if they suddenly start avoiding eye contact etc.

3.Having someone with you also allows you to play the oldest trick in the book; good cop/bad cop. There are a few variants of this, but generally, one of you will point out the flaws in the product whilst the other's enthusiasm reassures the seller that you are still interested. Research by psychologists Bob Sutton and Anat Rafaeli back in 1991 suggests that it should actually be called 'bad cop/good cop' as it is most effective when the 'bad cop' starts off.

4.Avoid emotional leakage or 'tells'. We are pretty good at controlling our facial expressions but less good at the parts of our body further from the brain - hands and feet can typically give us away. So, don't tap your fingers or jiggle your foot when you see a product that you love.

5.Be aware of typical sales ploys like 'foot in the door' (where they get you to admit you like something about the product), 'alternative close' (asking you, for example, which colour you prefer), 'limited availability offers' (must end today!) or 'perceived scarcity' (only two left!). These all use clever psychology to play to human processes such as fear of missing out, the need to appear consistent or a reluctance to offend.

Haggling for a better deal then, is partly about understanding the psychology of persuasion and partly about resisting their attempts to get you to spend more. And, as the recession bites even deeper, most of us need all the savings we can get. The retailers won't want you to know, but the discounts are out there for the taking. Happy haggling!