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Is ‘Bargaining’ the wave of the future?

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Watching the Today Show one morning last week, and then 9 News here in Denver that same evening, I saw similar stories about the rise of bartering by consumers.

According to these reports, in the United States at least, consumers are beginning to bargain with national retailers to negotiate pricing. The Today Show specifically talked about how New York consumers were beginning to “bargain down” the prices. Walking into stores along 5th Avenue, shoppers are speaking with sales associates and managers to get the pricing down to a level that they are comfortable paying.
Initially it took me a few days to digest this. I was completely in awe over the concept of walking into a high-end retailer – say Tiffany’s – and speaking with the manager to “barter” with him on the price! This is something that many of us would do when vacationing in Mexico, or when in China on a business trip as it is part of the culture in those countries, but in US retailers?

The thought has occurred that our current economy could easily be pushing us in a similar direction. Not only might that be beneficial to the shopper but it can also benefit the retailer if they are able to move their inventory quickly and generate a sale.
But is America daring enough to barter in this way? Is it ready culturally? We have all seen the rise of bartering over products online – EBay, Craig’s List, etc. But, that’s online and there is no face-to-face contact involved, nobody to cast judgment over what you are doing. Yet bartering online had to start somewhere, as does bartering in person I suppose. The 9 News piece has interesting tips for how to approach it; things like who to talk to in the store, where to start, how to do your research beforehand, etc.

It will be interesting to see if and how this will evolve over the next economic cycle. How will this change shopping habits? What will be the response of marketers and brand owners? Advertising and other communication? What does this indicate about our country and the US shopper / retailer relationship? Is bargaining the wave of the future?

– Contributed by Tera Gill

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