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How to Ask for Discounts

Written by Matt Jabs - 14 Comments

When’s the last time you asked a seller to reduce their asking price? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a long time. In fact, maybe you’ve never done it.

“Haggling (bargaining) is common in some countries, such as China, Turkey and Egypt. If you don’t haggle, it is highly likely that you will get ripped off, because vendors expect a bit of haggling and state their prices higher than what they expect to receive.”

Why we don’t haggle

In general terms, many Americans are reticent to haggle. Why? I can think of a few reasons.

  1. Not a cultural norm. If you’re interested in saving more, you have to be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. Although haggling is a very normal and celebrated custom in some cultures… It isn’t a widely used practice here in the United States. Unless we’re purchasing a vehicle or a home, we typically pay the going rate without even thinking of asking for something better.
  2. Avoiding confrontation. Personality types can have a powerful effect on our willingness to confront a seller on the matter of price. For example: I’m not afraid of a little confrontation, and if I know I might get a discounted price, I see it as my duty to ask. My wife, on the other hand, would rather simply pay the extra cash than experience the social discomfort of confrontation. If you have a hard time with this concept, defer to your spouse, or work on improving your skills by practicing. You may surprise yourself!
  3. Embarrassment. We often overpay because we want to avoid potential embarrassment. But let’s get real here… A penny saved is (at least) a penny earned. While discounts are not worth anger or malice, they are most certainly worth a little embarrassment. I promise you’ll get past this quickly once you start saving money. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount!
  4. Pride. Maybe you don’t think you need the discount. Maybe you don’t want people to think you’re short on funds. Maybe you’re just too cool. Maybe you just need to get over yourself. ;-) Seriously, rich people don’t get rich by paying full price. They find great deals, seek out opportunities to win, and usually land a deals that appeal to them. Don’t be proud… Start acting like a millionaire and go ask for a discount!

“We find what we expect to find, and we receive what we ask for.”

-Elbert Hubbard

Tactics to employ when asking for a discount

Since so many of us are uncomfortable asking for a discount, I thought I’d share a few tips.

  1. Be courteous. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Put yourself in the salesperson’s shoes – how would you want to be treated? I could go on and on here, but I think you get the picture… Acting like a jerk is never the right thing to do. Many times you can make someone’s day just by being nice to them – once you win them over, you’ll be surprised just how far they’ll go to help you out.
  2. Flash cash. Don’t finance your purchases. Let me say that again… DO NOT finance your purchases! If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. If you have cash for your purchase, are educated about what you want, and know how much you’re willing to spend, then you’ll be in a position to buy what you need on your terms. I’ve recently made this change myself and it feels really good.
  3. Use the silent treatment. You may remember me giving a similar piece of advice for salary negotiation. The truth is, it works! This nifty yet rarely used trick works wonders in a myriad of situations. Properly applied, the strategy of silence when negotiating a price can deliver a lot of wins. This is one of my favorite tactics to use… right or wrong, I love to watch a salesman squirm! :-)
  4. Use the phrase that pays. If you’re not happy with the price, simply asking “Is that the best you can do?” can work wonders. Put the ball in their court and see what they’ll do in the interest of winning your business.
  5. Be willing to leave without buying. If they can’t meet your price, walk. Period. Be ready and willing to exercise disciplined patience and take your business elsewhere.
  6. Understand who holds the power. You have the moneym and they are selling a product. Get the picture? Don’t just pull out your wallet and slap down the asking price… Take control of the buying process, and dictate your own price. Before you interact with the sales person, settle on the maximum price you are willing to pay for your item and never exceed that price.

“Ask and you shall receive. You must, yourself, do the asking. Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.”

-Walter Russell

Go get started

Now it’s time to put these things into practice. If you don’t have cash on hand, open up a high yield savings account and start saving toward your goals.

From there, you just need to make a conscious decision to take control of your buying experience. Don’t worry… Haggling isn’t un-American.

What do you think?

Are you ready to start asking for discounts? :-)

Published on December 10th, 2009
Modified on October 4th, 2011 - 14 Comments
Filed under: Frugality

About the author: is a thirty-something IT manager and blogger who wants to help himself and others get out of debt. He writes about personal finance and debt-free living at Debt Free Adventure.

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14 Responses to “How to Ask for Discounts”

  1. 1
    Daniel Says:

    I love haggling and getting a better price, it feels amazing. Some people may feel that pride holds them back from trying, but my pride comes from what I’m able to save by asking. I’m always looking to hear some good negotiation stories, so if you have them, send them my way!

  2. 2
    Bodark Says:

    If you have a job – you’re hagglin’. Your company negotiated the 401(k) fees, the fund line up, your Health Coverage Providers (HMO, PPO, etc.)and if you have a DB Plan that too is negotiated(insert Jimmy Hoffa).

    Love the suggested tactic of “Flash Cash” and “Silent Treatment”… WORKS WONDERS!

    If you live in a border state, practice in Mexico. I am pretty sure this is a pastime, only second to football (soccer to us north of the Rio Grand)

  3. 3
    Srikks Says:

    There is no place for haggling in Super Markets, Gas Stations, Restaurants, Departmental stores or for that matter any online store because you have to pay the listed price. There are very few places where we can haggle in United States. For example while buying a car, house or buying certain things over the phone.

  4. 4
    Daniel Says:

    I posted about a month ago about how I was able to bargain with my barber to get a discount on haircuts in return for my regular business. I never thought of it before, and I’m sure there are plenty of other times we can apply this. You can bargian with a landlorn over rent. Also, at department stores, there often is a way to bargain: buy the floor model or find a slightly damaged item. My roommate was able to save a few hundred dollars off of a tv by negotiating with a manager at Bestbuy. You just have to find the right person to talk to.

  5. 5
    Jim Says:

    I don’t really haggle much at all but I think its just fine to do so. Nothing wrong with it at all. You can haggle anywhere you want to. Just don’t expect it to always work. I would never expect haggling to work at a gas station. But you could successfully haggle at department stores or restaurants but its not too typical. You just need to know how to go about doing it and it depends on the store in question. Anytime you’re dealing with a salesperson (who is likely on commission) you have someone to haggle with. If you can talk to a manager they may have freedom to haggle on anything.

  6. 6
    Master Allan Says:

    I agree with #3. Years ago while in college I worked electronics at a Target store. A few times a week customers would try and haggle using some of the tips from the posting. Unless the item is broken or clearly improperly labeled I had no interest in hitting the override key on the cash register. I went to work focusing on providing excellent service but my hourly wage was fixed like the prices in my mind. If our department was #1/10 or 10/10 for sales my salary never changed. Unlike other countries or other retail models there was little motivation to “do what it takes to make the sale”. The store manager cares for their career and a possible end of year bonus but mere peons, the bulk of the workforce, do not consider it a priority.

  7. 7
    Matt Jabs Says:

    The statement, “You never know until you try” still cannot be debated. So for those who care & wish to try saving $ here & there… ask. For those who don’t… don’t.

  8. 8
    Torrey Says:

    I can totally related to this. I just hired movers 2 days ago and save about $150 by negotiating and having cash. In addition, I also like to say, “That’s just not good enough.” Then I remain quiet until they respond. That works a lot for me as well. Great post.

  9. 9
    SR Says:

    I hope we don’t become a nation where every purchase has to be haggled. Typically I feel LESS satisfied with a purchase I have haggled for because I end up feeling I could have paid less.

  10. 10
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @SR: What? That comment was lost on me. Does anyone understand what he/she was trying to say?

  11. 11
    SR Says:

    Not that difficult to understand if you take the time to read it.

    Why is car buying one of the least satisfying major purchases? Because invariably one haggles.

    And it may not be so for you but most people come out of a car buying experience feeling less satisfied because however much research they may have done, they feel they did not get the best price possible.

    So for a lot of us, haggling is an unsatisfying process. So this is not to say that you should not haggle but you always come back wondering if you should have been more aggressive or more demanding and perhaps the price would be better.

  12. 12
    Matt Jabs Says:

    @SR: I did read it, and I didn’t understand it… but I do now that you clarified, so thank you. It wasn’t an insult to you, just letting you know that I didn’t understand.

    With haggling, practice makes perfect, although I will say that the process is usually best used by certain personality types while better left alone by other personality types… so we should identify our strengths before going in.

    Also, I would argue to say that car buying is one of the least satisfying major purchases, not because of haggling, but because the majority of the time people are going into debt for the purchase.

    Save money, haggle price, pay with cash = happy.

  13. 13
    bodark Says:

    Sorry to post twice on the same thread.. is that allowed?

    Anyhow, the comment about buying a car. It does make me wonder…If you are going to finance the car, you know the payment before you even look for the car. (E.g. Bankrate.com, your FICO, =PMT, Edmonds or Ebay).

    Every car dealer has that same knowledge as well, so you are going to “haggle” and see where they can make a little money, and you get the car you want.

    If the numbers work, you drive away in your new ride. If not, you leave the way you came. Nothing “unhappy” about that.

    Of note, if there is an impending event (you must buy today, or the deal is void). Leave immediately, if they treat you with intimidation before a sale, it will likely not be any better after the sale.

  14. 14
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