Filipina in America · Marriage

Haggling: The Asian Art of Negotiating-Why It is Important and How to Do It

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”


The first time my American husband saw me haggle, he almost died.

We were buying furniture from a warehouse and  the owner quoted,  $800. Immediately, I  asked for a discount.

Photo credit to Deeconometrist

Dave’s jaw dropped. He looked at me and said – the price was ok. I didn’t budge. The owner sensed I was serious and said– if I paid in cash (not credit card) he’d take off $65. I looked at Dave. Though still uncomfortable, I saw his surprise.

But I was just getting started. I asked, “Can I get a free lamp with my new bed?” Dave kicked my foot and glared. The owner politely said – No, he makes little profit.

I pushed a little bit more. I told the owner, it was almost my birthday. He greeted me a happy birthday. Dave turned beet red, slapped the table and said – That’s it! – and walked out. ( I worried about the blood pressure!) I didn’t get a free lamp but we still walked away with $65.

I found the situation so hilarious. I didn’t realize that haggling was something Americans don’t do! That was Dave’s first taste of “tawad” (haggling). He was confused, uncomfortable, embarrassed and shocked ( almost had a stroke) – all in matter of 15 minutes.


Haggling is the Asian art of negotiating . As an Asian, I am a natural at haggling- it’s our regional sport. It is expected and it is fun. Both vendor and buyer enjoy the push and pull.

It is not about the money. It is our desire to see that people we deal with, in business (or life) are willing to negotiate. Pinagbigyan ka. It is a Filipino thing.

To Dave (from capitalist America), I was ripping off a small business owner.

I explained to Dave that businesses have profit margin — if they really can’t give discounts-they’ll simply say, no. A vendor has the right to refuse if it will be a loss on his part.

Haggling is the Asian art of negotiating. It is not about the money. It is our desire to see that people we deal with are willing to compromise.


I learned to haggle well in Shanghai. I was checking out a cheongsam and the store owner asked in broken English – How much you want?

I shook my head and told her it’s too expensive. She smiled and said something I could’t understand. The tour guide told me- She’s asking you to haggle.

Photo Credit: Budget Travel

The most important rule in haggling – Don’t haggle if you won’t buy!

The Chinese tour guide gave us tips. The most important of which is – Don’t haggle if you have no intention of buying. Simply said, if you get your desired price, you cannot say – I changed my mind.

YOU CAN ALWAYS WALK AWAY. Skillful hagglers or negotiators clearly know at what point they should give up and vendors know this.

ASK NICELY. Do not demand. There is one thing I learned well when I was a single mom- the power of asking.

CONSIDER IF IT IS WORTH YOUR TIME. On a one month trip to Europe, I didn’t know that my phone company turned on my roaming automatically. I was shocked when I got my bill. I called up my provider and complained. At first, they insisted that I pay. After an hour of negotiating they canceled the full roaming cost -$4,500. It was worth my one hour of haggling.

BE KIND. Don’t haggle to a point where the other party does not make anything. It should be a win win situation.

CASH IS KING. If credit is an option, sellers usually give better discount when offered cash.


Photo credit:

So, was haggling for $65 discount for our couch worth my time? In the bigger scheme of things, haggling is more than that free umbrella from the car leasing company or getting a 50 yuan discount from that vendor in Shanghai.

Knowing how to negotiate can be a game changer in our finances. During these difficult times, it can spell the difference between keeping your home or getting evicted.

Haggling or negotiating skills can be very useful, especially during this uncertain times. When we want to hold on to our cash, a lot of things can be negotiated.We can negotiate payments with credit card, mortgage, car financing and  insurance companies. Until we get a better grasp of the economic situation, we should take all our forbearance options.

Are you stewing because your employer has not given you a raise for years? Haggle.

Have you recently lost your job and can’t meet your credit card bills or rent? Haggle.

Haggling teaches us the power of asking. During these difficult times, it can spell the difference between keeping your home or getting evicted. If you don’t ask, you don’t get anything.


Dave at Silang Public Market

Dave learned fast. These days, whether we are in a car leasing office or in a flea market, Dave shuts up when I start haggling – (or negotiating as I gently remind him). He’d whisper to me -I’ll let you do your magic- and then he’ll walk away.

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