Negotiating Your Carpet and Flooring Price
Note: this article was originally written specific to carpet, but the principles stand for all flooring
It’s been stressful enough shopping for flooring, now you get the invoice.
You had no clue carpet would cost this much.
Maybe it’s not in your budget, or maybe you just have a hard time stomaching giving up a big chunk of your hard-earned money for a home improvement.
Either way, you should consider negotiating your floor price. Most retailers are willing to work with you if they know you’re ready to pay.
Before giving you tips on how to negotiate, let’s cover some concerns about negotiating that you likely share with many people.
Is it awkward to negotiate? And is it even worth the stress?
Note: I wrote this post title before the book Never Split the Difference (click here to checkout more details on Amazon) came out. Long story short, it’s written by an ex-FBI hostage negotiator who consults for businesses on negotiation. It’s my new favorite book on negotiating. Since we all negotiate (dinner plans, kids “screen” time, cars, home remodels etc), I think this books worth anyone’s bookshelf space as a reference and entertaining read.
Is it “normal” to negotiate at a flooring store?
Let me start by telling you this: it doesn’t make you cheap or annoying to negotiate flooring.
Also, it doesn’t make you annoying or seem like a tightwad to the salesman.
That’s what they’re there for. To get the sale. And this may mean that they have to lower the markup (their profit) on the carpet a bit.
Many people pay lower than the sticker price for carpet. The retailer won’t find it unusual if you ask (especially if you use our tips below). They know carpet is a big investment, and there’s plenty of other things you could be spending your money on. They’re people too.
Will all flooring stores negotiate? Even big-box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot?
The short answer, yes.
Okay, I can’t say all stores. There probably is a store out there that has a firm no-negotiating policy, but this is rare. I personally don’t know of any.
Even the big-box stores will negotiate.
True, at a local store, chances are you’ll talk to either the owner or someone who is a phone call away from the owner. And that means no limitations on how far they can lower your price.
But big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s typically give their salesman some freedom to lower the price or throw in free extras for a savvy shopper. All it takes is asking.
Negotiating seems stressful. Is it worth it?
First off, hopefully now that you realize negotiating (in a civil manner) is normal and often expected, it doesn’t seem stressful.
But sure, you’re still a little hesitant to talk to the retailer about price.
So let me give you a little more motivation. Negotiating flooring saves you way more money than you think.
Let’s start with the fact that many Americans love using buy one get one free coupon on Big Macs. I get the love for Big Macs, but let’s say that saves you $5 (depending on where you live, a generous estimate).
How hard do you think it would be to negotiate $5 off your carpet purchase? Probably as easy as saying, “Can I have $5 off my carpet purchase?”
No retailer is going to turn that down for a sale.
Flooring is such a big investment that it’s simple to save $5-$50, and you may even be able to swing $500 or more off. There are stories of even talking retailers down over $1,000.
So is it worth it?
It takes about 10 minutes to read this article and putting yourself slightly outside your comfort zone to potentially save $500+. The equivalent of an 8 hour day on a doctors salary after taxes.
Worth it to me.
4 steps to negotiating your floor price
Now that you’re in the right mindset to negotiate, it helps to know how to play the game.
So let’s talk about how you should negotiate. These tips come from a mix of watching other people be successful in negotiating, my own successes, and most importantly reading books by experts on the subject.
What books? Fearless Negotiating by Michael Donaldson or Getting to Yes by Robert Fisher and William Ury were two of my favorite, and recently, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chris Voss takes the title as my favorite negotiating book.
Here are key strategies for negotiating your floor purchase:
Experts recommend being friendly with the person you’re working with. This does multiple things. It makes it a comfortable, less stressful situation. But more importantly, people aren’t willing to give you a good deal if they don’t like you. I’ve seen it time and time again where someone went against their business or personal best interests just not to give into someone they didn’t like. Be respectful of the salesman, and they will likely help you out as much as they can.
Show off your knowledge.
Earn the respect of the salesman and keep him on his toes by making it clear you know about carpet or the floor you plan to buy. This will make him much less likely to try to pull the “wool over your eyes,” and much more likely to respect your requests for a fair deal. So what knowledge do you need? Start by checking out our simple carpet buying guide.
Know when to ask.
This is related to the first tip, but asking when the salesman isn’t busy is just considerate. If they have a line of people waiting, they’re less likely to spend the time working with you on price. To take it a setup further, figure out the best time to buy flooring, and you can strike when the retailer is eager to sell carpet.
Use game theory.
Game theory technically is the study of mathematical models to predict the choices of competing decision makers. In our case, it is getting retailers to compete against each other on price without knowing how low the competing retailer is going. How you make this happen?
- Figure out exactly what type of carpet (or floor) you want. This includes the carpet material, face weight/density, twist level, color, etc. For example purposes, we’ll use the marble-colored, 2500+ density, 7+ twist level, brand name nylon frieze carpet described in our most durable carpet page. For other types of flooring, I recommend checking out our unbiased guides. You’ll know exactly what you need for hardwood, laminate, etc after going through the quick guides.
- Make a list of all carpet retailers within a 20-mile radius (or whatever distance it takes to get at least 10 carpet retailers in your town/city)
- Start making calls/emails. Use some form of this script, “Hi, I am going to buy a ‘marble-colored, 2500+ density, 7+ twist level, brand name nylon frieze carpet’. I am calling other retailers throughout the city and asking their price. I am going to buy at 5pm today from the retailer who gives me the lowest price.”
Captain’s parting words
Negotiating is a powerful tool to make sure you don’t spend more than you should on your new carpet. But be careful. Power can be a dangerous thing. It’s important not to get greedy (especially with the game theory). Because at the end of the day, the best deal isn’t necessarily the one with the lowest price. The best deal is a fair price from a retailer you trust. You’ll lose any money you “save” from a sketchy business as quickly as you can say “poor after-purchase customer service” or “scam.” But the good news is reputable stores are willing to give you a fair price. And when you break down negotiating it’s simple: Be knowledgeable. Find a retailer you trust. Make friends with them. Ask for a fair price at a good time. Watch the savings add up.