By Sarah Skidmore, AP Business Reporter

PORTLAND, Ore. — It may feel pushy or even rude, but haggling is becoming much more widespread — and acceptable.

About 72% of American consumers have asked for a lower price on their purchases in the past few months, according to consumer survey organization American Research Group. And they were successful about 80% of the time.

That's significantly more negotiating — with better results — than in prior years.

Businesses are more willing to bargain now that sales are down, experts say. So here are few tips on how to save on everything from shirts to televisions:

1. PREPARE YOURSELF. Your first and most effective step is to research your potential purchase. Information about the product, its features and pricing around town and online can be leveraged in negotiations. And you'll know what your options are if you want to walk away.

Max Edison, a former pawnbroker and the author of "How to Haggle," recommends checking reviews and prices at Amazon, eBay and other Web sites.

"EBay is the New York Stock Exchange of new and used products," Edison said.

2. PRACTICE YOUR PITCH. If you are nervous or embarrassed about haggling, rehearse your approach, either in your head or for real. Try a garage sale, where the stakes are lower, said Tom Hayman, owner and CEO of Negotiation Expertise, a negotiation training company.

"The biggest obstacle to overcome is the reluctance to even ask," Hayman said.

3. BE POLITE. Keep the interaction friendly. Most people prefer doing business with people they like, and negotiations tend to break down when people get combative. Remember this is a business deal that can benefit both parties: They want to sell something and you want to buy it, just at a lower price.

Haggling can be as subtle as asking if the item will go on sale soon, offering to buy a display model or asking, "Can you do any better than that?"

4. CHOOSE CAREFULLY. Don't haggle for gasoline, groceries or cigarettes as a rule, Edison said. Pick items with a higher markup because fatter margins give the retailer more wiggle room. Items on close-out may also be up for discussion because retailers usually want to clear them out.

Also pick the right person to bargain with; the salesperson on the floor may not have the power to cut you a deal when a manager might.

5. SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW. You have the facts to back up your negotiating stance. So let your sparring partner know if you can get a better deal next door: He or she might match it. If there is a ding on the door or a stain on the collar, point that out and wait for a counteroffer. It's hard to argue against something concrete.

6. USE YOUR PULL. Recognize the leverage you have. You can offer to pay cash to save retailers the fee they pay to your credit card company. Or ask if buying more than one item will help lower the price; they may be willing to work out a better deal if you offer to buy a dryer along with that washer.

Be prepared to walk away, but be aware that you're weakening your position significantly if you need to come back.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at