6 Tips To Help You Haggle Like a Horse Trader

Haflinger Draft Horse

 Keen bartering and trading skills are fundamental to American rural life.
And without a basic understanding of the skills and the attending attitudes and behaviors of trading in the boondocks, it’s often hard to make a satisfactory exchange – for either the buyer or for the seller. Sometimes new rural transplants from the city and suburbs are clueless about this basic country living skill .

What follows below is a brief list of 6 tips and suggestions for buying and selling that I learned from an old horse trader many years ago.
These skills take some practice and experience.
As with most things in life, when you know the rules of the game it is easier to play.
If you have other tips or suggestions that I didn’t mention or forgot, please don’t hesitate to share them.

First and foremost –

Cash Is King
Never forget it.
No matter where you are or what you are trading on or who you are trading with.
Checks, money orders, an article of agreement, lay-away or any other type of payment system simply doesn’t cut it if you want the best price as a buyer. 
And as a seller you are a chump to take anything less (unless it’s a swap or barter and that’s a whole other post).
People who have something to sell or trade want real money so make sure you show up with enough cash, silver or gold.

“Party Manners”
Use your best ones.
Dress down, be humble, be polite and try to understand who you may be dealing with. Ditch all assumptions. The vast majority of country or backwoods people in America are very tolerant, long-suffering and are loath to tell you to your face that you’re an idiot or acting like an asshole.
Don’t be rude.
Many city or suburban people give offense to country people without realizing it. Talk low, don’t talk too fast and don’t try to impress us poor country rubes. If you must go into a house take off your shoes. Don’t ask to use the toilet and don’t comment about the house, antiques, living arrangements, decor or anything else about the interior. Comments about pets, the weather or the roads are safe topics.
As a buyer know what you’re looking at and give a very qualified admiration.
If you go to buy a goat or a tractor you better know something about goats or tractors or bring someone with you who does. As a buyer never run an item down or disparage it. Find something nice to say about it, but don’t be too keen or excited. And if the item is not what you want simply say so. People appreciate not having their time wasted. As a seller don’t hold back important information about the item. Be honest – but don’t advertise every little fault. If you know that the goat has bad feet or the tractor burns up battery cables -say so.
Caveat emptor – “Let the buyer beware.”

Offer a Fair Price
To begin the bargaining process try to find common ground with the seller and don’t be too enthusiastic.
As a buyer, the general rule of thumb is that a used item is worth half that of a new item no matter what price the seller is asking. So for a top of the line chainsaw that retails new for $1500, an offer of $750 or less is a good place to start.
An animal without pedigree or papers is considered to be “grade” and is also worth only about half or less than that of a papered one.
As a buyer before you make an initial offer try to understand the seller’s motivation.
Consider if the seller needs the cash, is fishing for fools or just needs the room the item is taking up.
The sellers’ motivation will influence the final price you pay.
Life experience has taught me to never walk into somebody else’s domestic quarrel when you are a buyer. You’d be surprised how often she’ll sell his corn planter or he’s got her horse for sale. Walk away from a problem.
And one last piece of price advice – as a buyer don’t take advantage of poor or ignorant country people. Many times I have not quibbled or haggled and given full asking price for an item or the fair market price when I’ve stumbled upon a sad or unfortunate situation.  If you know that the melt value for silver is $32 an ounce – don’t offer a poor old widow lady $15 an ounce or $100 for her dead husband’s original 1860 Henry rifle. There is a special place in Hell for people who trade like that.
What goes around comes around.

Show Them the Cash
This is probably the most important single bit of advice that I can give to you as a buyer to get the lowest price. Before you make your offer, no matter how low, put the cash in your hand so that the seller sees it. This works best if the cash is back dropped against the item.
About 8 out of 10 times the seller will agree to the price even if it is low, and take the cash.

Do You Really Want It or Not?
Lastly, if you really want a particular item give ‘em their price.
I learned this lesson the hard way 25 years ago. I was at a flea market in Ohio and a vendor had a little porcelain statue of Boo Peep. Now I’m not one for bric brac or banal kitsch, but this particular statue caught my eye. The seller wanted $3 for it and I offered him $2 and wouldn’t go any higher. So I walked away, but kept thinking about how great the little Boo Peep was.
Well you know how the story ends…by the time I returned to the vendor’s table Boo Peep was gone. Somebody else gave the man what he wanted. So 25 years later I still have my $3 – but don’t have that Boo Peep. The moral to the story is if you really want it – don’t quibble if the seller is firm.

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