As I’ve said to my friends and family traveling in 2010, “the world is still on sale.” My strategy of “getting past no” basically mimics the tactics of ”negotiating for cheap electronics on Canal Street in New York.” First, inquire about the price of the product. Then suggest 40-50% of that price to be paid in cash. Show the cash to the vendor, and assume you’ll get a guffawed rejection. This audacious first move is simply to let the vendor know you’re serious about negotiating and won’t be bullied. While still physically showing your cash, offer 30-40% off of the asking price. Vendors will usually offer about 20% off the price. Walk out the door. Most likely, the vendor will stop you right as the door is shutting, and suggest a close to final offer of 30% off their original price. At this point, you can haggle as much as you want.
In the case of VRBO, this communication is far less confrontational, as it happens via email or on the phone. To “show your cash,” simply state that you typically rent a similar house in the same location, which is being offered at the price you desire, but you’d prefer to rent the one being discussed. Admittedly, this strategy works 50% of the time, as VRBO owners are a bit more principaled than your average hawker on Canal Street, so you should have several haggles going at once.
The downside of negotiating this way is that you typically end up paying a significant deposit on the house up front. The strategy can be altered to account for this discrepancy. When visiting a off the beaten track place that you’ve never been before, research several different perspectives on the place (see the Frugal Traveler’s essay on research here). Set up one or two nights accommodation in a simple hotel close to tourist services. Once you figure out where to lay to your head at night, begin the negotiation with the rental agency for the house or owner.
This strategy paid off for us in Naxos, Greece brilliantly. We were able to negotiate a 140E/night suite in one of the most charming hotels in Hora to 95E/night. One of the hotel’s managers was a delightful native who later helped us find a cheap, quiet, private studio close to St. George’s beach for 50E/night, well below the walk in rate of the neighboring studios. The success of this was also a consequence of us forming a quick friendship with the hotel manager, a former tourist office director. The reduced price allowed us to spend our time in Naxos quite leisurely, cooking our meals in a simple studio and avoiding steep car rental costs (40E/day) by leveraging Naxos’s extensive bus service for day trips.