Make Your Editor Cry: Bargain or Haggle vs. Barter

Make Your Editor Cry:  Bargain or Haggle vs. Barter

When you offer to trade something tangible in payment for something else, say your Levi’s jeans for a handwoven shirt in Mexico, or a week of dog-walking in exchange for a home cooked meal, you are engaged in barter—no money is involved. One tangible thing or service is traded for another tangible thing or service.

When you offer to use cash to purchase a thing or service, but for less money than the vendor is asking, you are engaged in bargaining or haggling—not bartering.

I think the cause for the confusion is twofold. First, among recent generations at least, folks who are reared in the USA neither barter nor haggle very much anymore. Therefore, I think many simply lump these two words into the mental category of “that undesirable and often unpleasant activity that some people engage in when trying to obtain things at a reduced price.”

Secondly, part of bartering could involve appraising the value of the traded commodities in question, and that can often include some haggling. Therefore, there could be some natural confusion because both often occur at the same time.

Bottom line: The words bargaining and haggling mean different things and should not be used interchangeably.

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