Haggling while shopping is usually something associated with south east Asian markets or north African souks, but shops on Grafton Street – the sixth most expensive street in the world to rent premises on – are open to an offer. Any offer. With sales down, a recession biting at the nation's wallets and the population heading to the North for bargains, the Sunday Tribune went Christmas shopping this week in six different outlets on our capital's up-market shopping street to see if we could convince retail staff to cut their marked prices.
Our first stop was the Camera Centre at the top of Grafton Street. The shop was virtually empty and the sales staff were keen to shift the top of the range compact Canon digital camera we had our eye on for €410, including a leather case and 1GB memory card. The camera was already on special offer, but we were able to convince the assistant to give us a 2GB memory card as well, even though the camera was offered with a specific package. "If you twist my arm, I'll throw it in," the assistant said. One successful haggle down, five to go.
At the high-end Weirs jewellery shop, we fancied a diamond Gucci watch. At €875, it was a bit beyond our price range, so we started the bargaining process by asking if there were any special offers on in the shop. The sales assistant told us they never have sales or offers on their stock. But with further prompting, she retreated to a manager to see if she could cut us a better deal – and returned just a few minutes later with the offer of €800, a remarkable instant climbdown of €75 off the original retail price.
With further haggling, and a tough battle, which included at one stage a literal smack on the hand for the Sunday Tribune, we eventually got the price down to €790, a 10% discount, which is pretty good going from a shop that 'doesn't do sales'.
Next up, we decided to go for a handbag, so dropped into the nearby Chesneau handbag shop. As the Sunday Tribune has expensive tastes, we set our sights on a rather fetching black leather bag for €370. The sales assistant encouraged us to buy it, but we said we'd like it more if it was priced a little lower at €315. The assistant shook her head, and when we asked to buy it for €350 she admitted, "I'm sorry, I don't have a say in that." No sale.
Following our first bargaining fail of the afternoon, we headed to the Swarovski crystal shop across the road, a mecca of bling and shiny jewellery. At this point, the Sunday Tribune decided we wanted to purchase a pair of sparkly earrings for our mother, which were €95. After chatting to the sales assistant for a while, and showing intense interest in the product, we asked if she could get us a deal and sell them for any less. We were met with a steely stare and a statement that "we don't do discounts".
With two failed attempts at bargaining on Grafton Street, we switched our tactics and went shopping for shoes, imagining that they weren't traditionally something we could get a discount on. In Thomas Patrick shoe shop, we picked out a pair of black leather boots for our mother again. They were priced at €385. When we asked for a discount, the male sales assistant said there was nothing he could do. When we said our fictitious mother really wanted them, he said he could knock off a fiver, but if we spoke to another sales assistant ("I think she was talking to your mother the other day about these boots") we would be able to get them for €370. Another bargaining success, with €15 off.
Finally, we thought our imaginary splurge wouldn't be complete without some top of the range electrical goods. In the Sony Centre on St Stephen's Green, a 20-inch HD LCD flat screen Sony Bravia television for our kitchen caught our eye. It was priced at €449.99. Our sales assistant was adamant that the TV was going for full price, but now in full swing bargaining mode, the Sunday Tribune wouldn't take any of that guff. We got him down to €420, and eventually down to €415.
Six shops later, we had secured notable discounts in four of them, and could have continued in the same style all afternoon.
Clearly this Christmas, whatever the price label on the item you want, it pays to bargain.