B1 Speaking Skills – Getting a discount

On Wednesday we took the role of antiques collectors in the activity where we were bargaining, haggling and trying to negotiate a discount on antique items.  We looked at how the language people use in such situations often moves from being more indirect to more direct as they get closer to an agreement or to making an offer or to a decision.  Here are some examples…

More indirect at the start of the negotiation:  Would / might you be interested in this antique table?     Would I be able to interest you in this antique table?    What if I told you that it was the table at which Shakespeare wrote his most famous works?    Would you be able to offer me a discount on that?   Would you be willing  / able to lower your price?   Could you do anything on the price?   I’d be willing to pay €150 but I couldn’t go any higher.   What would you say to €180 (instead of €220?)   If you were willing to give me a discount, I might be more interested.

More direct towards the end of the negotiation:  Do you want the table?   Are you interested in it?   Are you going to give me a discount?  Can you lower your price?  I’ll pay €150 but no more.    How about €180?  If you drop your price by 15%, we’ve got a deal.

The indirect to direct movement reflects how the language used becomes more informal as we get closer to a decision.  At first we are more distant.   Circling around the subject, tentively and politely asking, trying to understand the position exactly.  Later we can be more direct, affirmative and decisive. 

Grammatically, the longer and more complex examples are the more indirect ones.  This reflects our distance from being decisive.  Everything is more hypothetical at this point and there’s more attention to politeness.  This explains the use of words like might, would, be able to, be willing to and the II conditional structure.

Listening and watching – video I:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/video/2008/nov/24/haggling

In this short film the presenter visits some of her local shops and tries to get a discount.  She visits a hardware shop (where they sell kitchen items, things for cleaning, tools, things for gardening etc.), a newsagent’s (newspapers, magazines, chocolate, cigarettes etc.), a second-hand store where she finds an old umbrella, and an (independent not chain) cafe. 

Before watching:  Predict in which of the shops you think she will get a discount.  Then, watch and check.

Watch again and find out details:  For each shop where she gets a discount:  What is the discount?  How difficult was it for Tanya to get a discount (1= easy / 5=difficult)?  What is her strategy for getting a discount (e.g. shop one – she says she is a regular and loyal customer and she wants to support a local shop instead of going to a big supermarket (Tesco) even though it has the item at a chaper price).  Where she does not get a discount:  What reason does the shop assistant give for not agreeing?

After watching:  Write and leave a comment below about any of the following points or your own reaction to the video…

  • In the introduction and the conclusion Tanya says that asking for a discount is not common in The UK because ‘it’s not in our nature.’  She says British people lose self-respect by asking for a discount.  At the end she says that asking for a discount is an embarrassing thing to do.  How similiar is this attitude to that of people in Spain?  Would you be embarrassed bygoing into a local shop and asking for a cheaper price?  How does this attitude compare to other countries you have visited?  How do different cultures view the art of haggling for a cheaper price?
  • Are you an expert negotiator / bargainer / haggler?  What advice would you give someone who was going to the Rastro in Madrid?
  • Tell an anecdote about a time you tried to negotiate a discount.  Where were you?  What was the product?  Were you successful?

Listening and watching – video II:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/fast_track/8931769.stm

In this video a guide shows the presenter around the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  The guide gives three pieces of advice for haggling / bargaining a deal in the market place.  Watch and find out what they are.

After watching:  How does this illustration of Turkish bargaining in the Grand Bazaar compare to a) the video made in The UK and b) your advice for getting a good deal at the Rastro?  Again, feel free to leave your thoughts below.

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Filed under B1 Speaking Skills August 2010

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