My longtime friend, Edith, and I found heaven on earth, and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA, racking up a military discount all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30 percent on those tickets.
First, we received a military discount on tons of chocolate for our chocoholic friends and family. After leaving, we were astonished that three hours of free parking grew to $45 for the six hours we were there. Before paying, Edith asked for a Veteran’s discount. We breezed through the exit with a 100 percent discount off parking.
My grandma Laudeman quoted a Bible verse that stuck with me my whole life. It said, “you have not because you ask not.”
I have a friend who is a newly-single mom. Her part-time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figure she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investments. She speaks to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”
Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.
So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89 percent of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.
Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.
Everything is fair game.
Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re a Veteran, use the Scout app to find those military discounts.
Find something wrong.
A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repairable are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30 percent discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.
Do your research.
Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon. It has a barcode scanner that lets you find the item online and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it.
Use your expertise.
If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. Build rapport by asking them questions and letting them be the expert as well. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.
Don’t let professionals with titles intimidate you.
Just because someone is an MD, CPA or lawyer doesn’t mean they can’t get a big discount. For example, one lady I know was told her eye surgery was going to be $10000. But, she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor it was too much and could he work with her to get it for less. His response was, besides the big city practice, he also had a smaller office in a neighboring city. The doctor was able to reduce his fee to $1000 by using the smaller clinic, plus a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist. The new price on the surgery? $2400.
Buy everything in bulk—even services!
It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard cash. I learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. At my Mail & More store – where I have a PO Box – I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere. I ended up with two months for free by paying the full year. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I prepay for anywhere from five to 10 services at a 30 percent discount. Then, we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.
Get discounts on existing service by mentioning the C word.
Take those sale circulars you get in the mail and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Once you connect, tell them you want to cancel or talk to the cancellations department. They will likely transfer you to someone with more authority who can offer freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing on one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on current service.
Be willing to walk away.
Whether you’re in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, think about what your “comfortable” price is before negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you don’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words when discussing prices are, “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then, the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if they don’t follow me out with the promise of a bargain? That’s okay, too. I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat.