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Hagglers at your jewelry booth


So I’m watching the Morning Show and they had a segment about
hagglers. They were suggesting that it was a good idea to haggle when
they make purchases due to the slowing economy. They were also
suggesting it at even unconventional places. So… what’s your
view? How would you handle a haggler at your jewelry booth?

I myself, have always been insulted by hagglers and my response to
the customer has been very polite, but I usually turn the question
back on them and say, “Don’t you think my work is worth it
(explaining the time and materials)” Usually, they just get somewhat
embarrassed and pay the price marked. I guess some people just want
to feel special - like you will give “just them” a special deal. I
wonder if there is a creative way of making them feel extra special
without compromising yourself and integrity by giving them some sort
of break. One thought was offering them a discount for using cash,
thereby passing on the credit card fee savings that I too would be
able to avoid paying. Any other thoughts?


It depends on how the haggling is approached. If someone tries the
same technique as if they are bargaining for a used car my response
is similar to Holly’s, “And what do you think the price should be for
a one of a kind piece of handmade jewelry set with a stone that is
the product of hundreds of pounds of stone that I cut looking for
just this stone?” If a person is nice and truly in love with the
piece I build it into my margin to offer as much as a 25% discount.

BTW. The hundreds of pounds of stone I don’t use I sell at rock
shows and on eBay or tumble polished and given to kids as free
samples. Nothing is thrown away except the sludge left over when the
saw oil is filtered and recycled.

Rick Copeland

Dear Holly,

Yup, it’s that show time dilemna again. Here’s your legal problem. As
a credit card merchant, you are technically doing a legal no- no by
offering a cash discount to discourage a credit card sale. Read the
fine print on the merchant agreement contract you signed and you
will find that rule.

That said, I like your response to the haggler. The other thought is
to build into your retail price a “haggler’s discount” margin- 10%
is fine. Price the work 10% more and let the haggler “work” you down
to the real price.

Usually, they just get somewhat embarrassed and pay the price
marked. I guess some people just want to feel special - like you
will give "just them" a special deal. I wonder if there is a
creative way of making them feel extra special without compromising
yourself and integrity by giving them some sort of break". 

This is how I take care of making people feel special. We have a
repeat buyer program. It is carefully explained that this is how we
reward buyers for purchasing more than one time. The first time, the
customer pays the “full” price. They then are invited to add
themselves to our mailing list (duh) If there is some resistance to
that, we explain that FOREVERMORE, they always get a 10% discount on
any FUTURE purchases except for a clearance or “special” item. We
also assure them that their will not be shared; it’s
only for us and we do not spam our customers.

The customer then can’t wait to sign the mailing list and are
grateful that they will automatically get that precious haggling
discount without a hassle. Of course you’ve added that 10% into the
price so who cares if you have to give it. The customer feels
awesomely special- you are told that you are the best thing since
french toast, and everybody comes out a winner- ESPECIALLY you since
you now have a new groupie collecting your jewelry. If someone
doesn’t haggle, then you’re ahead of the game and it will average
out for the ones you discount to. If they ask you why they can’t get
that special deal the first time, you reply that you have to pay to
play- it’s only fair.

Your decision…
Ruthie Cohen

Last fall, at a show we tried a ‘special’, buy 2 or more pair of
earrings, get 10% off both. It did increase sales, but not exactly as
we thouhgt it would. We still have some under $20 earrings (I have
boothmates that won’t ask more than that for simple bead on a headpin
earrings. We thught that the sale would increase the sales of those
earrings, Not really, we had several ladies, that started out with a
pair of $10 or $15 earrings, and then they decided to look for a
second pair. They would look around and then end up with a $30 or $40
pair, as the second pair. I think that they first found the gift
earrings that they needed, then they stayed long enough to find
something that they wanted for theirselves. Folks are used to sales,
if our jewelry is properly priced (that is we are askin enough for
it), then I would think that we could plan on giving some sort of

If you buy the necklace than I’ll give you the earrings, type of
thing. There are also the folks that mark everything up, then give
folks a great deal. Oh, its marked $175, I’ll let you have it for
$140, when you might have had a straight price of $140 on it. I
don’t care from this tatic, but I imagine it will make sales. A lot
of follks feel that price equals value. ON another forum, a lady told
about having some simple pearl ans silver earrings in a gallery
priced at $35 (about 10 min of work and around $2.50 in material
cost). They didn’t sell the gallery owner asked if she could raise
the price to $95. She did and now they are selling extremely well at
that price.

Cairenn, the Howling Artist

If you make your own work explain that it’s not buy/sell. People are
aware of sales that offer 50% off. So by extrapolation… Beyond
that don’t explain

Holly a major consideration is the price levels at which your works
sells. You didn’t, in your post, make a distinction between
’hagglers’ and people who ask for a discount.

If you engage prospective buyers keep your questions global; Don’t
pose questions that can be answered yes or no.

“Don’t you think my work is worth it” could be embarrassing and is
too personal.


Don't you think my work is worth it (explaining the time and

Personally, I would walk away if any seller was confrontational to
the level of asking me to asses their work and perhaps not liking
what I have to say. I always think it better to take the focus of of
the acusative tone, and state, that “the prices shown reflect the
current market and labor trends”- no personalization in that
statement and hard to argue, and saves time in all that explaining-
which I usually don’t enter into unless someone is truly interested
in materials beyond the karat gold, or colour of the gold alloy or
stone options where there are any.

I too saw the morning show and it was more directed to retailers, not
industry specific events. Haggling happens at events-It depends on
the pricing tiers you have factored into the costs of your booth and
related expenses as well as the materials and fabrication and the
margin you add in just for hagglers, if you can mark your items up
even 10%, you are then in a position to offer everyone a discount-
and since discount is all they care about hearing when asked for one
you are prepared in advance…it is the nature of the beast to think
about that before hand, and the extra 10% you make having
anticipated that situation may or may not arise at least covers your
airfare if nothing more depending on the volume you sell at a given
show/venue. Additionally, with volume buyers be prepared to offer
them a discount structure based on volume that still keeps your costs
below 24%, covers your event participation and staffing, and is based
on the daily market on the night before the sale, or after finishing
your last piece for the show-whichever is greater. In that light, a
good price display set is worth the investment if you do lots of
major shows, or your work is in the upper third of independent
jewelry sales. From pre-made blow molded sets to tags you make
yourself out of materials like jett-sett, polyclays, or wood the
ability to change prices while making them crystalline in the buyers
eye is part of making the sale. I can’t tell you how many times I
have seen others complaining that their work is not selling at a show
while refusing to clearly label or make visible at-a-glance, their
prices, and for volume buyers not having a pre-printed sheet with
policies and terms. Making them up on the fly leaves far too many
details uncovered, or at best, unclear.

I personally have presentation folders printed and ready for each
segment of the potential buyers I expect to encounter at a given
venue- from individuals looking for custom design work ( I also keep
an appointment book and cards ready and have additional help lined up
at a venue for the block of time I will be entertaining appointments
on the half hours, for no more than three hours per day at a venue,
and one and a half hours per evening for cocktail time appointments
with potential volume buyers if they represent a major sale or
ongoing business, the cost of which is factored into my expenses and
itemized annualy when I do major shows, merchandise market
appearances or gallery openings) to N. american and global retailers
to businesses I am consulting with in mergers and acquisitions- each
segment of the buying public has differing needs and accordingly I
have diferent policies and terms to clarify my needs and bottom line
on fabricated products, personalised services and consulting, to
contract based fulfillment for retail and supply chain management
from outsourced vendors and supliers for client 's organizations no
matter how small or large they are. Anticipating all situations that
may arise is I think the key to a successful show on any scale and
having ready promotional materials often helps seal the deal
so-to-speak for buyers that spend one day seeking, and the next
actually making purchases or negotiating contracts, etc. In that way,
having everything laid out before hand I think makes any buyer feel
that all are treated equally and fairly when dealing with me. I am
not a “coddler” though and don’t have time at a venue to enter into
drawn out discussions for a single 300. 00 -500. 00 sale (my lowest
retail price point). Regarding discounts for cash: try to find a no
fee credit processor in your area ( they exist!) and perhaps rethink
your pricing to account for those fees if you can’t implement a no
fee scheme at remote (away from your studio or storefront) locations.


You can just say something like: “If I was willing to haggle prices
I’d have to mark my starting prices really high. Then you’d have no
idea what price was fair. This is the typical overseas bazaar and
domestic big box strategy. I prefer to set a fair price based on my
costs and labor, right up front.” (Or words to similar effect) You
could also talk to a blank wall, for all the good trying to educate
some of this type of customer will do!


This is likely to provoke some strong discussion on the list!
However, I’ll chip in my $.02 on the topic.

First off, I’d be really careful about something like offering a
cash discount, as that will likely violate the terms of your merchant
agreement should they find out.

Second, the only reason to “make them feel special” is if you want
to encourage haggling. To me, I price my pieces fairly so that I
cover my costs to make them (including my cost of business
operations), plus a small but appropriate profit that goes toward
building the business in the future. My response to hagglers is a
firm but gentle one “The prices I offer are as competitive as
possible in this economy, and are as marked.” The price is clearly
marked on each piece so they can see I’m not making it up as I go
along and adjusting it based on how they appear (I’ve heard that
perception when prices are not visibly marked).

Should they persist in requesting a “special deal,” I point them to
older inventory that I’ve dropped the price on already and explain
that these pieces are priced more aggressively to help them find
homes. And should there be an actual conversation going, I will
mention that the price of silver has quadrupled in a very few short
years and how the price of gold has skyrocketed as well, making it
much more expensive to purchase the raw materials to make replacement

I try not to get insulted because I realize that there are some
people who simply don’t feel they’ve fulfilled their duty unless
they’ve asked for a better price… and there are some who truly will
not purchase unless that price is dropped even if it was very fair to
begin with. The former are satisfied with a courteous but firm
response. The latter are folks I really don’t want to do business
with, because they next time they expect an even larger discount, and
so on, becoming a real drain on your business.

I guess that was a little more than $.02. Ah well.

Karen Goeller
No Limitations Designs
Hand-made, one-of-a-kind jewelry

We’re in the middle of our easter show right now, and what we do is
instead of giving a discount, we give a little gift…usually a
keyring…of course one can’t be giving away sterling silver stuff,
so if you don’t have anything inexpensive this approach won’t work.
With others we explain that we set our prices to reflect the cost
plus our work, so giving a discount is tantamount to saying our work
is not worth so much…and if they don’t want the piece they don’t
have to buy it…the trick is not to be too desperate to make a sale
if you’re not happy with the price, you’re getting.

Steve Holden

I just asked for a discount at a thrift store yesterday, got $5 off
on a $40 televison stand. I bargain whenever I can. It’s called
negotiation. Haggling is defined as argueing about a price. I think
haggling is about the buyer literally telling the seller that the
object is not worth what they are selling it for. I have a retail
store, and it is not unusual to be asked if I can give a discount.
Some people ask for a discount because they are buying 3 pairs of
sterling earrings, about $60-$80 total.

Some people try to not pay sales tax. As if I am going to take a
chance on getting in trouble over $4 or $5 bucks. If they cannot
afford the tax, they can’t afford the item.

I usually explain that our prices are already as low as we can make
them, that we are a small business and we would like to stay in
business. Just last week I told my employees not to discount
anything. With the price of metals at what they are, all inventory is
discounted if it is not marked up to what replacement prices would
be. I have felt the way you do, especially when someone offers 1/2
the price you are asking.

Must be a cultural thing, it has always been Asian women at my
store. That a customer wants to buy your work should be the focus,
not that they are trying to get a better price. They are not trying
to undervalue your work. They might not understand how much work or
the price of the materials you used. What I have learned in 20 years
of retail, add 10% to the price in the beginning. You can give a good
customer a discount at your discretion, and you can give the person
who tried to negotiate with you a “deal”.

If you cannot lower the river, raise the bridge. It is about
business. It is not about ego or self esteem. And I am curious, if
use do you negotiate for a better price with gem dealers?
If you do not, you are spending more than you need to. I get a
better price just about every time. I have also raised my repair and
custom prices as retail has slowed. What is happening in the U.S.
looks like a downward spiral since 9/11. I cannot expect that there
will be a reversal. Metal and gas prices might not go down. Indian
restaurant I go to just raised the lunch buffet price from $6.95 to

Richard Hart

Just make sure that you are clear that you are reporting your cash
sales, so the IRS doesn’t come after you!

There are places that do charge the extra percentage for using a
credit card. Works out to a cash discount, but I expect by phrasing
it as an extra credit card fee they avoid giving the impression they
might be trying to pull a fast one.

I have had a few people try to haggle, but not many.

Beth in SC

If someone tries the same technique as if they are bargaining for a
used car my response is similar to Holly's, 

If you make one of a kind pieces, you cannot compare your work to
used automobiles!!!? In my opinion there should be no bargaining on


When people ask for a discount, I explain that if they spend over a
certain amount I’ll give them a 10% discount. That amount is usually
$500. Otherwise, the price is the price.


Umm, guys, I know you all want to be creative about it but what’s
wrong with just saying no? People come into my shop and occasionally
ask the question if I’ll discount and I just say no. Politely and
firmly. No discussion of why or why not. Just no. They rarely ask
again. For those of you raising your prices just so you can discount
it, in my book this is at best ambiguously unethical (at worst
downright unethical). Just because the big stores do it doesn’t mean
you have to stoop to their level.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambrige, MA 02140

When someone in my store begins to ask for a better price, I tell
them the following:

I have never learned how to play that game. I understand that there
are places that do it but I do not understand how. Some people are
very forward and will ask for a price. Some are shy and would never
do that. The forward group are not going to get a better price at
the expense of the shy ones. Everyone will see the same price, the
same fair price. If something happens that allows me to change it
downward, no one will have to ask since it will already be done by

Most of the time, people will accept this and pay the price. In any
event, you may notice all the “I” sentences in my statement. It is a
lighthearted approach making myself the fall-guy. This structure
avoids anything that might sound like “you cheapskate”.


Haggling is an expected part of the culture buying cars and shopping
at flea markets. Nothing wrong with that. To some people a bunch of
booths at an art fair seems to them like a flea market. Not very
flattering to the artists, but so what? At least they showed up.

Some people get very annoyed with hagglers. I, on the other hand, get
annoyed with people who are just so offended by haggling. We had an
employee for several years who was generally excellent at sales, but
man-oh-man if you tried to get her to budge on price she would get
very upset. I never really did get this straightened out with her.
Some of my best customers, repeat customers that have bought for
years, know that I will give them a little break on price or throw in
something extra if they are buying multiple pieces. For whatever
reason this shop assistant would either respond to customers asking
if we could do any better on price by either giving them a very icy
or even rude negative response, or she would bite her tongue and
then go fuming irrationally about it all day afterwards. I told her
over and over again that trying to negotiate a better deal does not
make them a bad person and that she should be more flexible. But in
her particular culture whatever the price is marked is the only price
to be considered and she never completely got over it.

Our economy would probably be a lot better off right now if people
were better about haggling when it came time to buy a house. It
isn’t very smart to pay more than you have to.

Steve Walker

Just playing Devil’s advocate here…if one routinely raises prices
on all items in anticipation of a relatively small percentage of
customers who demand a discount…isn’t one then overcharging one’s
’good’ customers who don’t make demands of one’s ego? And if you’ve
done that, hasn’t the haggler been right in assuming the initial
price was not fairly arrived at?

Really though, if one looks for discounts on their jeweler’s
supplies and materials, is it fair to get upset when someone who
wants to give YOU money for a change would also like a lower price?

I’ve found a good way to stop a haggler is to make one price
concession but don’t make it a percentage, make it an oddball dollar
and cents amount. As in “ticket says $150.00 but for you, today only,
$122.77 final price. Plus tax. Will that be credit or cash?”

How about turning it around?

Tell the haggler that for them the price is 20% higher since they
look prosperous & can obviously afford it.


As much as I don’t want to agree with some others on this list, I
have to!

Haggling is a time honored tradition!

Marking all your stuff up 10% and knocking off 10% to your good
customers (who don’t try to haggle) while allowing those who do “a
little off the top” is a heck of a lot easier than trying to educate
the public on labor costs and justify a profit (how do they expect
you to stay in business with a profit?)

I just don’t have time for all that debate! Too much work to do!