It happens every day. Kids see a price tag, shell out some cash or swipe a card, and don’t bother to think that maybe they could have gotten an item cheaper if they’d just asked. By showing your children that prices aren’t always fixed, you set them up for excellent financial security in both their personal and business lives.
What Culture Says About Cost
Pricing is a flexible phenomenon, meaning that the cost of items fluctuates based on the value people assign to those items. The basic principles of supply and demand say that when something is scarce or in high demand, cost rises. When something is readily available or in low demand, cost goes down. Even though this rule is static, perception of price flexibility varies from culture to culture. In many regions where vendors and handmade goods are more common than industrially-made goods, people see prices as relatively unfixed because they know that vendors often will take a lower price than risk no sale at all. In fact, bargaining with vendors is expected in some cultures, with vendors sometimes purposely pricing high because they know they’ll get talked down.
In the United States, children have a hard time seeing prices as flexible because most of their shopping experiences are not through small business vendors. Instead, kids shop at major retailers or online, where changing a price would require authorization from several levels of management. As a parent or caregiver, it’s your job to give your child a more global perspective of cost and teach them how to bargain and when it’s appropriate.
Where to Bargain
A good place to teach your child about bargaining on price is garage sales. These are great options because garage sale items usually are priced fairly low to begin with, meaning your child won’t have to part with a whole lot of money regardless of how the bargaining experience turns out. Additionally, people often are willing to negotiate on garage sale items simply because they want to “clean house” and get rid of clutter.
Garage sales usually are summer attractions in most communities, so if the weather isn’t right, consider visiting arts and craft shows or similar fairs. These events usually have the artist present, making it easy for your child to present an offer and get a direct answer.
Farmers’ markets are another good option. Local growers usually represent the market. Go at the end of the day or week when the growers may need to clear produce that otherwise would risk spoilage.
With kids using the Internet to a large degree at home and on mobile devices, eBay and similar sites also may be a platform you can use to teach bargaining. Your child can communicate with sellers via email or site messaging systems. This gets details surrounding a sale in writing, which is important should anyone try to scam your child.
Negotiating price at retail and online stores is not impossible, but it’s less likely your child will get a reduced rate. If your child does want to give price negotiation a shot, have him do it on items that may have minor aesthetic flaws or which have been used as display models.
Even when your child has good places to negotiate prices, he still has to do it in a courteous, socially acceptable way. Teach him these 5 basic steps of negotiation to keep bargaining situations polite:
- Do some research. Know the market value of what you see so you can show you know what the price truly should be.
- Express some interest in the item you want to the vendor/item owner or store representative.
- Present data or a rationale as to why you deserve a discount. State what you are willing to pay and ask if the vendor/store representative will take that price.
- Raise your offer or remain firm based on the vendor/store representative’s answer.
- Thank the vendor/store representative for considering your offer. Pay the vendor/representative or politely explain you will look elsewhere for what you need.