Tokyo-ites are really quite adverse to haggling. Even for big-ticket items, like a fridge or a computer, people will normally pay the sticker price with no questions or counter-offers. After all, getting into a confrontation about money would just be… unseemly. I’m not sure if this extends to cars, though. The thought of buying a car at sticker price makes me feel a little ill.
It’s interesting to see how different cultures have unwritten rules when it comes to negotiations. In contrast to Tokyo, haggling in Japan’s western Kansai region is much more accepted than in Tokyo. Or, if you go to a lot of places in South East Asia, not only is haggling common, it’s expected for just about everything (never accept the first offer!). On the other hand, in Australia we’re generally happy to negotiate for white goods or cars, but we wouldn’t negotiate for a steak, even if it cost $60 for 100 grams like the marbled loveliness below. Why? Because, is why.
I used to be very nervous about negotiating when I was younger, but by reading around and adjusting my philosophy of what negotiation is – not a conflict, but a compromise – I’m somewhat capable, though still with lots to learn. The hardest part is often knowing when it’s appropriate to negotiate. For that reason, one thing I like about Tokyo is that the appropriate time to negotiate is easy: never.
In spite of seemingly not having much latitude to haggle in Tokyo, I got a Masonic-handshake-quality insider tip from a Japanese TV show recently. If you’re in a big electronics store, buying a new camera, do thusly: casually, yet obviously, touch the price tag. According to this show, the shop assistant will immediately give you an unspoken “At once sir!” look, scurry away to get the floor manager, and come back with a healthy discount knocked off the price.
Asking around actual non-TV Japanese people here, there was some skepticism that this would actually work. “The price is the price” was one philosophy I was offered. Getting a discount for very little work sounds a little good to be true, so in the name of science, I hereby declare I will buy an unnecessary, expensive piece of electronics and see if this works.