Tricks buyers will use to increase their bargaining power

You'll find these universal tricks, tactics and bluffs being used by everyone who comes to your garage sale. You've probably used some yourself. The trick to maximizing the amount you make at your garage sale is to recognize the strategy being used and know how to counter their bluff. It's then up to you to decide when you want to accept their offer or walk away.

They'll point out all the flaws in the item as the reason it isn't worth what you're asking.

"But your husband said it was only $5"

If your sale is busy, you're doing the right thing with you being the only money-person and you have a lot of helpers running around, a shopper will use this chaos to their advantage by trying to rush a sale through by saying the person "who was over there" said I could buy this for $5. They are hoping you won't have time or be bothered to check. If the price seems low, always check.

Take the money and run

This happened to me recently and was surprisingly effective as they nearly got away with it. They were obviously experienced at this trick and came early when it was busy and fairly chaotic. They came up to me quickly, held a couple of items up so not looking that they were hiding anything and said they're $5 and pushed some coins and notes into my hand and quickly started walking off.

I immediately thought a quick sale is a good sale but as I glanced down I realized it will take awhile to count the coin to check they had actually given me $5 and then I wasn't sure how much the items they flashed in front of me were actually priced at either.

I was able to catch them before they left my property "to take the price stickers off" for my records (to avoid offending them). This gave me the opportunity to check the prices and count the money in front of them. Not only was I asking more than $5 for the items but they had only given me a few dollars in notes and coin. Realizing they had been caught out, they staged being offended, took their money and left.

"This is all I've got"

Near the end of the haggling process, to try to get you to move from your "rock-bottom, can't go lower" price, they'll pull out a pocket full of coins or a crumpled bill and say that this is all they've got. They're hoping you'll weaken so as not to miss out on the sale. They probably have a wallet stuffed full of money in their back pocket or back in the car. If you want to counter their "this is all I've got" bluff, tell them where the nearest ATM is to get the extra they will need and add that you'll be happy to sell it to them then if it hasn't already been sold.

Your prized possessions are used against you

The buyer sees that you are attached to your prized pogo-stick so they will use it to get a good price on other items they want. They will come with a collection of items, say, your prized pogo-stick for $20, a vase (they want) for $10 and 10 miscellaneous items for $1 each. The total value you are asking is $40. They will offer $20, you counter with $30 and all agree on $25. What just happened? You're happy because you got the $20 you were asking for your prized pogo-stick but you let the other $20 worth of items (including the vase they wanted) went for just $5! If you have any items you want to get the best price don't include them in bulk sales like this. Keep them separate so they don't influence your negotiated price for the other items.


Squeeze it a bit more

When they know they've got you down to a price you can't go any further they'll say "You drive a hard bargain. I tell you what, if you throw in this (another small item), you've got a deal." Not only will they get the item/s you have haggled on at a rock-bottom price but they'll get another item for free! Often you're worried about losing the sale and give in. It's also often that the extra item they asked for you to throw in was the item they wanted in the first place - and they just got it for free.

The sucker punch

They'll pick up an item and offer about half what you're asking. When you refuse or lower your price a bit, they won't counter offer and put it down. They will do this a few more times conditioning you to think you'll miss out on selling something if you don't come down to their price. They'll finally come to you with the actual item they secretly want to buy from the start and you're now desperate to make a sale - they win. If you spot this, be strong and hold out on your original price.

The slow sucker punch

For big purchases, made up of either a lot of items or a single high-priced item, they will haggle and haggle and haggle by adding in new items or taking out items or giving you a long detailed explanation on why you should come down in price. The idea is to get you to invest a lot of your time on the sale to a point where you don't want to miss out on the sale and waste all that time. Be on the alert for this and before spending too much time, tell them politely "I have other customers to attend to so can you excuse me while you think about it."

How customers will punish you if you don't give them a good deal and how to turn the tables on them

This is a real under-handed, but effective trick that experienced shoppers will try on you.

They'll collect a number of items off your tables and pile them up in front of you so you start thinking that you’re going to make a big sale. They then go back and get a single high priced item and make a ridiculously low offer for it. You haggle a bit but they aren’t coming up anywhere near you rock-bottom price. When they sense they have gotten you down as low as you can go, they'll say "Oh well, I'll just put these other things back on the tables."

You immediately realize you're going to miss out on big sale over a few dollars for one item. If you cave in and agree to their last "below your rock-bottom price" offer they, of course, will accept it and then they will decide not to buy the other pile of items or, at best, only a few. You would make nowhere near enough to counter the loss you just made on the first item – the one they really wanted.

To counter this strategy, "call their bluff". When you can't come to an agreement on the first item, suggest you leave it for now and work out a price for the other pile of items. Once you have made the big sale you can decide whether you've made enough to 'make a loss' the first item.


Good cop / bad cop

You'll always be able to spot the good cop/bad cop routine and have a little chuckle to yourself when you do. The wife will show the interest in the item to make you feel you might have a sale and she'll do the haggling and the husband will come over and say "It isn't worth that much. Come on let's go." The idea is to make you feel that you might miss out on the sale if you don't drop your price more.

A method to counter this is to say to the husband, "I don't think you'll hear the end of it if she isn't able to snap it up at this price." You can also look unconcerned and mention that another shopper showed interest in it too.


If it's near the end of your sale, they'll say something like "Not to insult you, but if this was worth anything, it would be gone by now". Politely say "I would rather donate it to a charity for a possible tax reduction than to just give it away."

Silence is Golden

This trick works best when there isn't anyone else around and they have your full attention. They'll make a ridiculously low offer for an item and when you counter with a slight concession on your asking price they'll remain silent. They might skeptically look at the item, think about your offer for a second then look straight back at you at remain silent. They'll show no sign of a counter offer and just look at you expecting you to cave in to break the deafening and awkward silence and counter offer your OWN offer with something down near their ridiculously low offer.

You can't both just stand there looking at each other in silence waiting for the other to break. I haven't tried this but I'm sure it would look very silly.

If there is another customer browsing behind them, just say "I have other customers to attend to so can you excuse me while you think about it."

If no-one else is around, politely say, "I'd really like to sell it to you for that price but I'm selling it for my mother who really needs the money."

They'll offer to GIVE you money!

Beware of customers trying to GIVE you money. You'll lose money every time.

A customer will bring an item to you and show the exact money in their hand (say $5) and say "Can I give you $5 for this?" They're hoping to sway you with:

  1. the polite question, the offer of 'giving' you their money,
  2. giving the impression there isn't any more money
  3. and waving the money in front of you as a "take it or leave it" offer.

Be strong and if you want more, assume they have more in their pocket and counter offer with "I really would like $7 for it".


They'll make you an offer for an entire collection or even everything!

Ooh, that offer sounds enticing. You can sell everything and go back to bed again! Be careful. You can probably make more by holding out and selling your items individually during your garage sale. If you want to make as much money as you can then use your inventory list to add up the total cost you're asking then take of a quarter or third off to get an idea of what you could get by selling it individually. How does there offer compare? Can you get them up closer to your total?

They'll make you think your item is going to a nice home

They'll say something like how much the lamp makes them remember the holiday cottage they stayed at during their honeymoon or some sentimental nonsense. This will make you feel that you can safely sell your lamp knowing it will be going to a "nice home" and you'll also probably feel compelled to drop your price to help them buy the lamp. Be strong and resist the urge.

They'll try to get you to sell the item to them rather than them buy it from you

They will look at an item, turn it over and around, spend a few minutes inspecting it trying to decide whether to buy it or not. They are hoping you will notice their indecisiveness and come over and suggest a lower price to try to sell it to them. They have gotten a discount already without even trying and also know your starting price for further haggling. If you notice someone interested in an item, by all means try to sell it to them by describing it features, how it could be used, etc but not by dropping the price.

Garagesalefinder made some suggestions for shoppers when haggling.

The following are some responses you could give to shoppers using these tactics: