Buying and Selling

  1. It is forbidden for a person to ask the price of an article
    when he has no intention of buying it. To do so is simply to trouble and
    disappoint the merchant. The Meiri points out that it may also cause the
    merchant a loss. Others might overhear him asking the price and interpret his
    not making the purchase to mean that, in his opinion, it’s not worth the
    price the merchant is asking. It seems to me that from the Meiri we learn that
    although it is permitted to bargain, it is not permitted to say that
    merchandise is not worth the price the merchant is asking when it really is.

  2. When a person’s intention is to buy an object at the best
    price he can find, it is permitted to shop around and ask how much the article
    costs in several stores, for that is the way of the world, and he will return
    to the shop which sells the article at the best price.

  3. If a person tells the merchant that he just wants to know
    the price, he can ask him how much it costs even if he has no intention of
    buying it. In order to avoid disappointing merchants, it’s a good idea to
    say that you’re checking out prices even if you intend to buy it if the
    price is right.

  4. A person should avoid causing another customer to pay more
    for an article because he thinks that you might be interested in it also, and
    that if he doesn’t buy it quickly, you will snatch it up. Similarly, a
    person should be careful to avoid causing a loss to the merchant by creating
    the impression that there is something wrong with his merchandise by
    bargaining and then, at the last moment, deciding not to make the purchase.
    People will assume that you realized that there was something wrong with the
    merchandise and won’t want to buy it.

  5. Just as a customer may not mislead the merchant, the
    merchant is not permitted to mislead the customer. He may not say that an
    article is for sale to prevent people from going elsewhere to purchase it
    when, in fact, he has no intention of selling it. A merchant may not say that
    he is giving a special reduction unless it is true.

  6. A sale is not completed by verbal agreement alone, and even
    after a verbal agreement, both the merchant and the customer can withdraw from
    the sale. Even the curse of “He who punished the generation of the flood
    etc.” does not apply unless money has been exchanged. Nevertheless, Chazal
    disapprove of a person who does not keep his word, for a person should do what
    he agrees to do. He should keep his word. “The remnant of Israel will not do
    wrong and not speak falsely.” But if a person changes his mind at the very
    moment that he expresses his intention to make the sale (toch kday dibur),
    it is as though he never agreed, for the statement that he changed his mind is
    considered part of the statement that committed him to the sale. From here we
    see how important it is for a person to stand by his word and do what he says.
    Once a person agrees to a sale, he should not take it lightly even if he has
    not done anything else to finalize the transaction.

  7. If a person enters a shop to buy an item and takes it into
    his hand with the intention of purchasing it, he is permitted to change his
    mind. Nevertheless, a person who has yiras Shamaim should be concerned
    to carry through the decisions he makes, even when no one else knows about
    them. Similarly, if a merchant decides to sell an item for a certain price, he
    should be concerned to carry through the decisions he makes and, for that
    reason, even if he is offered more for the article, he should sell it for the
    price he set in his heart.

  8. To fail to keep a promise to give a gift is a breach of
    faith, but only if it is a small gift, because a promise to give a big gift
    is, in any case, not taken seriously. Nevertheless, a person should not
    promise to give a gift which he does not intend to give. That would be deceit,
    which is forbidden by the Torah. The promise of even a big gift must be
    fulfilled if it is made to a poor person, for then, the promise is actually a
    commitment to give tzedaka and has the force of a neder. Indeed, there
    are those that hold that even the unspoken decision to give tzedaka is
    binding. Some hold that if the promise of a large gift is made by a number of
    people, they are bound to keep their promise. Since the promise was made by a
    number of people it was taken seriously.

  9. Even if the seller takes complete responsibility for any
    loss that the customer may incur, it is forbidden to sell real estate or
    moveable goods upon which others might have a legal claim without notifying
    the purchaser. The purchaser does not want to have to deal with a court case
    after he has made his purchase, even if, in the end, he will suffer no loss.
    We learn this from the passage in Yechezkel (18:18) “And that he did that
    which is not good among his people.”