Don't be afraid to haggle on prices

That dresser would look great in your bedroom, but it's a little more than you're willing to pay, with the weak economy and fears of job loss in the back of your mind.

But before you walk out of the store, why not see whether you can get the merchant to bring the price down a little?

Maybe you don't want to pay $1,000. But what if the store owner is willing to knock a couple of hundred dollars off the price?

Doesn't hurt to ask. Worst they'll do is say no. But in this sluggish economy, more are likely to say yes rather than lose a customer who is willing to spend.

A recent survey by America's Research Group found that during this past holiday season, about 72 percent of customers haggled with a retailer, compared with 56 percent the year before. About 80 percent of those were successful at getting a better deal, compared with about half of those who were successful a year earlier.

"I think retailers are so desperate to get a sale, they're not going to pass it up if they've got a good customer," said Britt Beemer, president of America's Research Group.

Beemer said your approach can make all the difference in haggling. Make sure you're nice about it.

"The more confrontational you are, the less likely a retailer will do it," Beemer said.

If you remember seeing an earlier coupon from the retailer but don't have one, mention it. Ask if they'll give you a discount for buying in large quantities. Also ask if they'll beat a competitor's price.

Beemer said you'll also have better luck haggling with independent retailers, who have more control over their pricing. If they won't cut back on price, you might ask for free delivery.

Just remember: Buyers have the upper hand in this economy.

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