I‘m a huge believer that you can and should negotiate the price of everything. I love haggling and finding a bargain. Most people are embarrassed to ask for a better price; I take pride in knowing that I am able to get something for cheaper than 99% of the population. I negotiate with my cell phone company, the cable company, and the bank.
It’s a great feeling to know that I’m not getting ripped off today (20 cents for a text message? Come on. The cost to them is 0 cents). Here are three short stories about my experiences negotiating the other day and how easy and effective it can be.
Negotiate for Freebies
I stopped by the liquor store to get a bottle of whiskey because I was having some friends over for a meal on Friday night.
One of the guys working at the store came over and asked if I was looking for something specific. He helped me pick out a nice whiskey.
The price wasn’t bad, but in D.C., everything is expensive, so I thought that it wouldn’t hurt to ask for a little discount something extra.
I visit the same liquor store every few weeks, so I asked if he had any giveaways. He was gracious enough to throw in a few glasses and a tiny bottle of something I had never tried before. Sweet!
Not that I needed it, but he definitely got my continued business and I got to show off my fancy new glasses to my friends. He made me a happy customer and I was ecstatic about getting free stuff just for asking!
Negotiate for Personal Services
After the liquor store, I stopped off to get a haircut. Several months ago, I negotiated with the barber and we agreed that if I starting coming every four weeks (as opposed to the usual 5 or 6), he’d do it for $15 instead of $20.
The problem is that the guy doesn’t speak much English, is well into his 70s, and every time I sit in his chair, he asks if I’ve ever been there before.
I got nervous that maybe I’d throw away that $5 savings. After the haircut, I gently said, “Do you have change for a $20?” and when he gave me a funny look, I reminded him that about our arrangement. That jogged his memory a little bit and he was happy to give me a $5 bill back.
We both win in this situation. He gets consistent business in his little underground barber shop that is always empty and I save money and look my best more often.
Negotiate Free Shipping on Returns
Finally, I got back home, turned on my Xbox360 and found that it was flashing the Red Ring of Death. Gosh, was this really the end?
It had been about three years, so it was hard to complain too much, but of course, it’s always best to ask. As it turned out, the warranty was extended for this specific problem for an extra two years, which just so happened to expire 7 days later. Jackpot!
I called up and they said they’d pay for shipping, and all I had to do was pay for a box and shipping materials.
I asked to speak with a manager, who listened to me rant about how they produced a defective product and as a loyal customer, I shouldn’t have been responsible for having to pay to have my item fixed.
It shouldn’t have broken in the first place and they should have paid for all costs associated with fixing the console.
He understood that I shouldn’t be held responsible for their error, so he agreed to pay for the shipping costs and materials, both ways.
The Power of Negotiating Your Price
These three interactions cost me about five minutes of my day and saved me about $10 on shipping, $5 on a haircut, and got me free drinking glasses. Definitely worth the effort.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for a little something extra or a discount for being a good customer.” @DanielPackerClick to tweet
You’ll be surprised to see how often you’ll both save money and be in a great mood after getting a great deal. Plus, when you go out with friends, you’ll be armed with terrific stories about how your awesome negotiating abilities got you special privileges (when all you really had to do is ask).
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Tips for Being a Better Negotiator
You can certainly take some lessons from the three examples above, but here are a few more things to keep in mind as you go about trying to become a better negotiator.
Be Nice When Negotiating
Don’t set out to offend anyone. I have a hard time doing this with car salesmen. 🙂 Seriously, show your appreciation for the product, whatever it is. Merchants will reward you if they think you might be back and if the selling process is pleasant.
Many people assume that in order to be a successful negotiator, you must be assertive or even aggressive. While you certainly don’t want anyone pushing you around, you also don’t have to take the stance that you are going into battle with the salesperson.
It’s ultimately a business transaction, and politeness and a smile work wonders. Wouldn’t you prefer to help out someone pleasant? So would your salesperson.
Buy Three, Get One Free?
If you are buying several items, ask whether you can get one more thing for free or at least at a discounted price. Even if you intend to get more items, start negotiating with less and see if you can get a deal on the remaining items.
Cash is King in Some Negotiations
I don’t do much shopping at these, but apparently small, independent stores and boutiques will often agree to waive the sales tax if you pay cash.
Retailers and service providers have to pay a fee to credit card companies and must wait for checks to clear, so nothing is sweeter than cash in hand. Many merchants are happy to accept a lower price for an item if it means they can bank the money immediately.
Look For Even Deeper Discounts at the Sale Rack
Go straight to the sales rack. If you find something you like, ask for an even better price. They’re trying to move these items fast and will be more prone to lower the price versus something on the regular racks. Look for items with duplicates available.
Timing is Everything
Late in the season and late in the day are your rules of thumb here. Apparently, sales people and managers would be more prone to give you a deal later in the day, when they’re looking to boost their commission. And, it’s a good idea to buy your winter coat in the spring.
Start with a Reasonable Offer
While the art of negotiation suggests that you should lowball the first offer to get closer to what you are willing to pay, please don’t be insulting to the merchant. Remember, if they regularly undercut their profits to make the sale, they won’t be in business long.
Know what you are shopping for, and recognize what a reasonable price is. And if the merchant offers you what you’re willing to pay—buy!
Simply ask (remember, nicely!). There are sometimes deals or coupons you might not be aware of, or that might not be advertised in the store. Some deals you may not even need the coupon for. Find the nearest sales person or manager and find out what the deals are.
As a regular customer, you’ve earned the right to ask for a deal every now an then. Most retailers will offer these up first. If they haven’t, be sure and ask.
Be a Serious Buyer
Finally, make it clear to the salesperson that you really do want to buy and aren’t just curious. You’re much more likely to get a deal if you make your interest clear.
In addition, you won’t make many friends if you go through the haggling process and then say “I’ll think about it.”