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What difference is there between ディスカウント and バーゲン?

In English, the verb "Discount" is commonly used when talking about a corporate store deciding without any negotiation with the buyer to reduce the price of products without any negotiations taking place with the customer. (Though it isn't unheard of to be used in other contexts) By contrast, the verb "Bargain" is generally used for the seller and the buyer, usually at a non-corporate store, arguing about what the price of an item should be.

The noun "Bargain" can be used about an item bought for a low price, regardless of whether the low price was the result of a negotiation, or not the result of a negotiation.

However, I've been told that "ディスカウント" and "バーゲン" don't have the same relationship in Japanese. That is, "ディスカウント(する)" as a verb can be done by the seller after negotiation between the buyer and the seller, and "バーゲン" can be the result of a corporate store reducing prices without any negotiation. Is this true?

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shouldn't you add する to your first line since that's what your discussing rather than using the nominatives? –  virmaior Aug 19 at 11:42
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バーゲンセールとかディスカウントセールとか言うときはあまり違いがないかも・・・でもディスカウントストアーはあるけどバーゲンストアーってないですね。 –  Choko Aug 19 at 12:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Answering the question without looking at anything....

Let us start with 「バーゲン」 because it is the simpler of the two in terms of meaning and usage. Quite simply, it means "a store-wide clearance sale" in retail. It is a considerably larger event than a 「セール」, which may be limited to certain sections or items in the store. We have another common word 「バーゲンセール」, which means exactly the same thing as 「バーゲン」.

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Except for when the likes of critics, economists and such use terms like 「バーゲニングパワー」、「バーゲニングチップ」, etc. in their technical discussions, the word 「バーゲン」 would only mean what I stated above in Japanese.

Now, on to 「ディスカウント」, which is somewhat more complicated than 「バーゲン」 as far as usage. Unlike 「バーゲン」, which is only used in retail, 「ディスカウント」 can be used at all levels of business --- direct sale by producer, wholesale and retail. You sell something at a reduced price, that is called 「ディスカウント」.

As a verb phrase, you can say 「ディスカウント(を)する」 instead of using the more traditional 「[値引]{ねび}きする」. Unlike a 「バーゲン」, where items are sold at reduced prices WITHOUT negotiation between seller and buyer, 「ディスカウント」 can occur both ways --- with or without negotiation. In this sense, there is some very rough overlap in meaning between the two words. There is, however, basically no interchangeability between the two words.

As @Choko mentioned in the comment, 「ディスカウント」 is often used in the compound 「ディスカウントストアー」. It refers to a business like ドンキホーテ where things are sold at reduced prices all year around.

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I am not sure if those are used as separate words other than as parts of the words ディスカウントストア and バーゲンセール. Even if they are, I think the meaning carries over the meaning of these more common words, so that ディスカウント implies things sold at low price regularly at particular stores while バーゲン implies a temporal sale at any kind of a store.

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My dictionaries, 大辞泉 and プログレッシブ英和和英 are consistent with my own idea of each:

ディスカウント

Indicates a reduction typically based on fixed percentage,in other words a 割引(if unit of 10%) or 値引き (if otherwise). This is consistent with its use in finance (eg discounted cash flow).

The word gets used in other expressions such as ディスカウント・ストア although I am not sure to what extent they apply a formula to keep all their prices down.

The word can also be used as a verb, as you suggest:

「値札から三割ディスカウントする」| to take 30% of the marked price

My feeling is this would normally be initiated by the seller ("offered at a discount") although I don't see why someone should not "ask for a discount"; I have and it was understood although I have feeling there is another word for the "extra bits" you sometimes get from a good salesman in a place like 秋葉原. (I also have a feeling that it is (was?) also possible to "bargain" in 秋葉原 for a ディスカウント but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me.)

バーゲン:

I think of this a something bought at a very good price representing value you would not normally be able to get,typically but not necessarily, at the end of a sale when the seller is trying to clear their stock. This is quite close to the definition in 大辞泉:It describes a バーゲン as 掘り出し物 which it in turn defines as 「思いがけなく手に入った珍しい物。また、思いがけなく安い値段で手に入れた物」. It also uses the word 見切り品 which refers to remaindered goods (to be cleared).

So far this is consistent with my use of the word in English but there is also one other use: バーゲン is an abbreviation for バーゲン-セール (bargain sale).

I have never heard バーゲン used as a verb and it is not listed as one. (激しく交渉する/はげしくこうしょうする is probably the correct word.)

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