Hilchos Choshen Mishpat
Volume II : Number 32
Price Shopping With No Intent To Buy
A. Reuven has listed his home in a certain neighborhood for sale. Shimon
also has a similar home in the same neighborhood that he is interested in
selling, but is unsure of what price he can reasonably request for his
home. He would like to call Reuven and, posing as a potential buyer, ask
Reuven how much he is requesting for his home. Is Shimon Halachically
permitted to do so?
B. Reuven and Rachel received a wedding present from a relative, Leah.
Leah is now getting married, and they would like to purchase a gift for
her of equal value to the gift that they received from her. Are they
permitted to call the store where their gift was purchased to find out
how much their gift cost, if they have no intention to purchase this item
from that store?
- A. It is prohibited by the Torah to ask someone who is interested in
selling or leasing something, how much he or she is charging for that
item, if the person asking has no interest in purchasing the item and is
only interested in knowing the price for other reasons. Similarly, a
person may not ask a worker who is interested in a job, how much his fees
are, if the employer has no intent to hire this worker to work for him.
A person who does ask in the manner stated above, transgresses the
prohibition of (Vayikra 25:17) "V'Lo Sono Ish Ess Amiso - And a man may
not oppress (by misleading) his friend." By asking the price, he is
raising his friend's hopes that he has a potential customer, only to be
disappointed when he realizes that his hopes were raised for nothing.
This is forbidden even though the person asking has no intent to
disappoint the merchant or salesman. (1)
If you were to inform the merchant or salesman at the beginning of the
conversation that you are only calling to price an item but have no
intention to purchase it, it would be permitted.
- B. It is permitted to price shop if your intention is to determine which
merchant has the item you wish to purchase for the cheapest price.
- C. According to what we stated above, it is forbidden in both situations
(Questions A and B) to ask the seller the price of the home or item,
unless it has been previously made clear to the seller that there is no
interest in actually purchasing the items being asked about.
- D. If a person is interested in purchasing a home for a lower price than
is being asked, he may not call first or send other "potential customers"
to haggle with the owner over the price, and then refuse to buy it
because of the "exaggerated price", in the hope that the owner will then
accept his lower bid.
This is forbidden even if the homeowner is actually asking an exaggerated
price for his home, and the lower bid that will be offered is the actual
(1) The Gemara in Bava Metziah (58b) explains the Possuk of "V'Lo Sono
Ish Ess Amiso" to be referring to Ona'as Devarim, verbally causing
someone to suffer. The Gemara points out that such Ona'ah is more grave
than financial Ona'ah, since there is no way to really compensate the
person for physical, mental, or emotional suffering, whereas it is
possible to compensate a person for financial suffering. This is also
stated in the Shulchan Oruch, Choshen Mishpat (228:1-4).
The situations discussed in Answers A and B are explicitly discussed in
the Gemara and Shulchan Oruch there.
However, if the person inquiring about the price is really interested in
purchasing the item in question, and each store that he calls has an
equal chance of receiving his business if they can quote a price that is
right for him, we can not say that he is causing suffering to the
merchant or salesman, since he is offering them the opportunity to receive
his business if the terms are right. This is what business is all about!
A merchant can not argue that he is only willing to provide prices to
people if they will buy for him. However, he _can_ argue that he has no
interest in providing prices to people just calling to price, since this
takes up much of his precious time that could be used for generating
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This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av
Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His
Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in
Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission
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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat
situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each
individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the
presence of all parties involved!