How to save 20% by haggling online - through web chat

Emma Woollacott
Cropped shot of telecommunications workers sitting at their desks
Cropped shot of telecommunications workers sitting at their desks

It's one thing haggling in a souk on holiday - but did you know you can successfully argue prices down on a company's online chat service?

According to Which?, it's possible to save up to 20% this way.

The consumer watchdog has spent the last couple of weeks trying to negotiate prices down with dozens of online customer support staff members – and was offered discounts on several occasions.

Haggling big deal for Brits - but mainly on holiday, says survey

"Just by asking for a lower price, we were able to knock almost £200 off the cost of a £1,629 Dell laptop," the researchers say.

"We also haggled our way to discounts worth between 5% and 20% at the likes of Boden, The Perfume Shop and O2. On many other occasions, we were directed to discount codes, offers and incentives that appeared on the retailer's website, but weren't immediately obvious."

It doesn't work everywhere, of course. The researchers also tried haggling with the Body Shop, Carphone Warehouse, Cotswold Outdoor, Debenhams, Dyson, JoJo Maman Bébé, Not On The High Street and Schuh - all to no avail.

However, they add: "Although we weren't offered a discount with these retailers, we'd still encourage others to give it a go. Many staff members there were no discounts available 'at this time'."

Top tips to make you richer

So how do you go about it?

Which? has produced a guide to haggling that should improve your chances of getting a good deal. First, it says, try and build a rapport - staff aren't obliged to do anything for you, after all.

"Our researchers always mentioned how useful the chat service was and joked about how useless they were at online shopping," they say.

Similarly, if you show interest in the product and keep the staff chatting, they're a lot more likely to want a result at the end of it. Only then should you ask for a discount: "I like this product – but it's just a tad outside my budget. Is there any way to arrange a discount?" seemed to work well.

You can also ask for a discount code.

And when you do get a result, says Which?, it's often worth pushing things even further. For example, when researchers were offered a 12% discount at Boden, they managed to bump this up by mentioning a friend who had previously been given 20%.

In the same way, telling staff at Dell that they'd seen a better deal elsewhere got an initial discount of 8% increased to 12%.

"We weren't successful on every occasion, but it's still well worth haggling where an online chat service is available as the outcome is likely to vary depending on who you speak to and when you make your enquiry," they say.

It pays to haggle over insurance, says Which?

The big successes

Boden: Given a 20% discount code valid on all full-price items

Dell: Offered a lower price (12%) on three separate occasions

O2: Offered a £14 discount (5.2%) for first three months of contract

The Perfume Shop: Given a 10% discount code valid on all items

The minor successes

Allbeauty: Pointed out price match promise and free gift pages on website

Appliances Direct: Explained how to get £20 discount. Details clearly visible on website

Chain Reaction Cycles: Pointed out a £10 off discount code (when you spend £75). Clearly visible on website

Feelunique: Explained how to get a 10% discount code. Details hidden elsewhere on website

Mac Cosmetics UK: Pointed out a 10% discount code. Details hidden elsewhere on website

Missguided: Pointed out a £20 off discount code (when you spend £80). Clearly visible on website