I and other financial writers often tell people to ask for discounts, particularly on large ticket items, because you just never know when a retailer might be willing to cut you a break. Many people are reluctant to try it, however. Some are afraid of being embarrassed and some think it just won’t work. The first I can’t help you with, although here are some tips for haggling. You just have to decide that it’s worth it to ask and not care what the other person thinks. For those who think it will never work, let me share a true story with you.
I recently had to buy a new battery for my car. Now, you have to understand that my car is designed in such a way as to make getting the battery out as difficult as possible. First, you have to remove one of the safety crash bars. Then you have to remove the windshield washer fluid tank. The battery lies underneath all of that stuff. Then you have to remove the battery and ,since the terminals are located on the back, sandwiched between the battery and the radiator, you should prepare to bend your arm in unnatural positions. All of this makes changing the battery take close to an hour. Most other cars take just a few minutes.
Anyway, I got the old battery out and went to Advance Auto. When I got there, the salesperson brought up my cars’ information in their computer so he could get the right battery. He turned the screen toward me so we could both look at the information. On the battery page for my car model is a note that the salesperson can see. It says, “Please note that changing this battery requires about an hour due to its location. Advise customer of the wait time.”
I laughed and told the guy that he didn’t have to advise me of the wait time, since I was doing the work myself and my car was currently in little pieces all over my garage. I didn’t miss the look of relief on his face at that news, especially since it was raining outside. He said, “Yeah, I’ve done those before and it’s a pain in the butt.” So he went off to get my battery. When he came back and started to ring it up, we talked a bit more about what a pain my car can be.
When he gave me the total, I jokingly said, “Since I’m saving you from spending an hour out in the rain, maybe you could give me a discount.” I was half kidding, but from where I was standing it wasn’t a bad offer on my part. Advance will install a battery for free, so if I’d wanted to make him do the work, I could have brought the car to the store and made him do it. As it was, I was doing some other work on the car anyway and changing the battery was part of a larger project so I opted to do it myself. Sparing him the misery of dealing with my car seemed like it should be worth something.
He thought for a second and said, “You’re right,” and he knocked $20 off the price of my battery. All because I made a half-joking comment.
The moral of this story is that you never know when simply asking might net you a discount. You should never demand, but always ask nicely or throw in the suggestion as part of a conversation. If you can build a rapport with the salesperson, as I did, and get them on your side, you might have a better chance of success. If they don’t want to do it, don’t get mean or huffy. You asked, they said no. That’s the end of it. If you’re upset about it, take your business elsewhere, but don’t cuss them out or call them names.
It’s always worth it to ask. It may work on everything from electronics to travel to even car batteries. Just simply say, “Are there any discounts or coupons that you might be able to apply to this order?” Or you can negotiate, maybe offering to give up a feature or perk that you don’t need for a discount off the price, for example. However you approach it, asking costs you nothing and might net you something.
(Photo courtesy of gtquast)