Online chat services can be used to secure significant discounts with a wide range of retailers, new Which? research has found.
In February 2017, we virtually haggled with dozens of online customer support staff members – and were offered discounts on several occasions.
Just by asking for a lower price, we were able to knock almost £200 off the cost of a £1,629 Dell laptop.
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.
The table below includes a full list of the retailers we contacted and how we got on in our efforts to haggle.
Find out more: haggling – see our etiquette tips, field-tested scripts and video guides
|Online haggling: major successes|
|The following retailers offered us discounts that couldn’t be found anywhere on its website.|
|Online shop||Discount offered||How the discount was applied|
|Boden||20%||Given a 20% discount code valid on all full-price items|
|Dell||£195.48 (12%)||Offered a lower price on three separate occasions|
|O2||£42 (5.2%)||Offered a £14 discount for first three months of contract|
|The Perfume Shop||10%||Given a 10% discount code valid on all items|
|Online haggling: minor successes|
|The following retailers pointed out discounts that were advertised elsewhere on the website. Some of these discounts were hidden, while others were immediately obvious.|
|Online shop||Discount offered||How the discount was applied|
|Allbeauty||n/a||Pointed out price match promise and free gift pages on website|
|Appliances Direct||£20||Explained how to get £20 discount. Details clearly visible on website.|
|Chain Reaction Cycles||£10||Pointed out a £10 off discount code (when you spend £75). Clearly visible on website|
|Feelunique||10%||Explained how to get a 10% discount code. Details hidden elsewhere on website.|
|Mac Cosmetics UK||10%||Pointed out a 10% discount code. Details hidden elsewhere on website|
|Missguided||£20||Pointed out a £20 off discount code (when you spend £80). Clearly visible on website.|
We also tried haggling with: The Body Shop, Carphone Warehouse, Costwold Outdoor, Debenhams, Dyson, JoJo Maman Bébé, Not On The High Street and Schuh. 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’.
How to haggle using online chat services
Many of the tips illustrated in our comprehensive haggling guide – which explains how to cut the cost of services such as car insurance, broadband and mobile phone contracts – also apply when negotiating with online support staff.
It’s important to build rapport, show a genuine interest in the product and mention better deals you’ve found elsewhere whenever necessary.
Our step-by-step guide to online haggling explains more.
Step 1: Build rapport
Sellers aren’t obliged to cut the price of their products, so you’re better off being friendly and making an effort to build rapport. Our researchers always mentioned how useful the chat service was and joked about how useless they were at online shopping.
Step 2: Take your time and show interest in the product
Staff are often more keen to complete a sale if they’ve invested time and effort into explaining the benefits of a product. Make sure to ask a couple of questions about the item, rather than asking for a discount right off the bat.
Step 3: Show interest and ask for a discount
I like this product – but it’s just a tad outside my budget. Is there anyway to arrange a discount?
This line worked well for our researchers
Sales staff are more willing to cut the price of a one-off purchase if you suggest you’re ready to buy the item or service.
Our researchers made it clear they would be able to buy the product there and then if they could secure a discount.
On some occasions, the sales representatives would respond immediately with a better offer or a discount code. However, all is not lost if they don’t.
Step 4: Mention discount codes
My friend told me to ask about online discount codes – do you know about these?
This line commonly helped us get a discount
Online discounts are usually given via codes which you enter during the checkout process, but these codes aren’t always publicised on retailers’ websites.
With many of our successful haggles, the salesperson gave us a discount code we couldn’t find online. On other occasions, they pointed us to codes hidden on a separate page of their website.
Search online for the retailer’s discount codes before you begin negotiations. Even if the code has expired, it will still give you an idea of how much money you might be able to knock off the price.
Step 5: Push a little harder
At this point, the sales representative will usually either explain how you can get the product for cheaper, or make it clear that there’s nothing they can do to help you.
If they do offer you a discount, don’t accept the offer straight away. It’s worth investigating if they can reduce the price even further.
A good way to do this is mention a better deal you’ve found elsewhere, or a better discount code that you’ve spotted in the past.
Boden originally gave us a 12% discount code. Rather than accepting the deal, we mentioned that a friend had previously used a 20% discount code. This prompted the staff member to reveal this code.
Dell initially cut the price of the laptop we were looking at by 8%, but went on to reduce the price by 10% then 12%, after we mentioned a cheaper deal we’d spotted with a competitor.
How to save money online: other tips
Don’t worry if you’re unable to haggle your way to a discount. There are many other ways to secure discounts on your online shopping.
Our guide on cashback sites explains how you can earn money back on your online purchases just by clicking through to online retailers from websites such as Quidco and TopCashback.
If you’re shopping online for services, such as insurance, telecoms services or mobile phone contracts, see our advice on making the most of price comparison sites.
Our list of 50 ways to save money also features plenty of tips to help your secure online discounts.