When was the last time you negotiated for a better price on something? Charles Lankau, a business professor and expert in negotiation at Wake Forest University, says in this economy, consumers should be assertive when shopping for just about everything. “Price, terms, perks or extras–most of the time they are there if you just ask,” says Lankau.
Here are 7 ways to negotiate for a better price on nearly anything.
- Ask about unadvertised coupons. Big department stores often have coupons in their Sunday circulars which they email or snail mail to customers. When you get to the register, ask the person checking you out if there are any coupons that he/she can apply to your purchase.
- Use online prices to get a better deal in person. Last week, I picked up my new contact lenses at my local optometrist, who had told me that he would match online prices as a way of keeping local business. I asked about the 1800Contacts price-matching, and he honored my request. So instead of paying $189 for my contacts, I paid $174. I know that my vet will do that with pet meds, too–match an online price to keep customers buying from him.
- Find out if memberships or associations can help lower a price. Are you a AAA member or a member of AARP? I hope that whenever you check into a hotel, you ask about the rates that members can get–which are often a lot less than the “rack” rate that most hotels offers. You may find that membership in these and other kinds of organizations and associations can get you discounts on car rentals, meals, and more!
- Ask “Is this the best you can do?” Sometimes simply asking, “Is that the best you can do?” will elicit a positive response and one that works in your favor. Who knows what kind of discount the clerk can come up with, just because you asked “Is this the best you can do?” I know plenty of people who, on a regular basis, call their cable or phone provider and ask “Is this the best you can do?” and end up getting their monthly subscription amount lowered.
- Point out any flaws. How many times have you found an article of clothing or piece of furniture with a stain or ding in it–and you put it back because it was flawed? If you really want that shirt or love seat, and there aren’t any others on the sales floor, bring the damaged goods to the front register, point out the flaw, and ask for a discount. “My mother never hesitated to point out a flaw, if there was one, in a blouse or sweater,” says Lankau, “and she almost always received at least a 10 percent discount.”
- Ask if paying cash will change the price. I know that when it comes to buying gas, many gas stations will offer a discount for paying with cash. Turns out this works with other purchases as well. My dentist, for example, will give a small discount if you pay your bill in cash. Always ask if paying cash will lower your price.
- Walk away if necessary. This is the trick that most people know about when buying a car. Your feet can often speak louder than your voice. This method isn’t limited to car sales either. We are trying to renegotiate our mortgage rate right now, but our bank isn’t budging on the enormous amount of money they want to charge us for the “convenience” of modifying our interest rate. So I’ve sent in my counter offer, and if they balk, I’m going to walk away and find another bank where I can refinance.
Finally, if negotiating or haggling don’t work, as I learned when NPR came along with me a few years ago as I shopped for new appliances, at least you know you tried. Then your final decision is if buying the item or service you tried to negotiate is worth it in the long run.
Leah Ingram is the founder of the Suddenly Frugal blog and the author of 14 books, including Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less (Adams Media, 2010) and Toss, Keep, Sell: The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Clearing Out Clutter and Cashing In (Adams Media, 2010). Leah appears regularly in frugal-living segments on the “10! Show” on NBC10 in Philadelphia and is a blogger for the NBC Universal website Home Goes Strong. Recently, Leah launched a new frugal venture called Philadelphia on the Cheap. This site focuses on deals, discounts, and freebies in the Philadelphia area—where she lives with her husband, two teenage daughters, and dog. Follow her on Twitter @suddenlyfrugal