Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Using Negotiation to Get What You Want and Save Money

I've been shopping at yard sales and flea markets with my mom for most of my 35 years. Not so long ago, I was embarassed at her attempts to wheel and deal.

Why, oh why, can't she just pay the sticker price? I'd ask myself, while rolling my eyes and turning my head in shame.

But my Mama isn't embarassed to ask for a better deal and because of that she's pocketed a lot of savings throughout the years.

These days, I'm not afraid to bargain because I've learned that prices are often negotiable. And not just at yard sales and flea markets.

But you'll never know unless you ask that all important question: "Will you take less?"

I've even tried that strategy at big box stores like Target. I once found a knick-knack on the shelf that had some minor (but very easily fixable) damage. It was the only one left on the shelf, so I boldly asked the manager if he could do better and the price.

Guess what he said? "Yes."

So, the next time you're shopping and see a shirt with a missing button or a book with a wrinkled cover, ask, "Will you take less?" You may be surprised by the answer.

You can use negotiation to save on lots of things, especially if you can convince the seller that you'll both benefit from the transaction.

  • Let's say your babysitter's hourly rates are a little pricier than you'd like to pay. Ask her (or him) if she'll charge less if you can guarantee a certain number of hours every week.
  • A car dealership may give you a price break if you pay cash for your vehicle. (Try this trick with small merchants, as well. Credit-card processing and check processing are huge expenses for retailers and many may offer a discount to customers who pay cash.)
  • If you buy multiple items from the same eBay seller, ask for a shipping discount. Many sellers will oblige if you ask, but they may not automatically offer shipping discounts on multiple purchases.
  • If you're at a store like Old Navy that often has Buy 2 for $20 deals (or purchase one at the regular priced) ask for a price adjustment if the store is sold out of the size or color you need. The manager may have the authority to give you the discount anyway. But you'll never know if you don't ask.
  • If you think something is overpriced at your local farmer's market, tell the vendor that you wanted to spend less. I did that a few weeks ago with some sugar-glazed pecans. I thought the original asking price was too high and said I didn't want to buy them for that. The vendor gave them to me for less (probably because I was buying a lot of other items.)

Sometimes, people are going to say no when you ask for a price break. But I don't believe there's any harm in asking.

We're hoping to replace some carpeting in our home with high-quality laminate flooring, and I just got an estimate yesterday that was higher than I want to pay. Other companies have given me lower quotes, but I really want the higher-priced company to do the work because I have the most confidence in their abilties. So, I'm going to show them my other estimates and ask them if they can meet the price or at least come close. I have a feeling that the answer will be "Yes."

Please don't feel that you're insulting someone by asking if they'll charge you less than the sticker price for their product or service. If you make a fair offer -- not a lowball one -- most people will consider it. Depending on their own expenses and overhead, they may not be able to give you a price break, but I've rarely met anyone who got angry because I asked.

And I'll tell you that I've even offered discounts to people who have asked me for one. I'm a writer and public relations professional by trade, and my rate for services varies greatly, depending on the scale of the project and the client. I just recently wrapped up a writing job in which my client asked me if I could cut my rate to meet his budget. I did because I wanted the work and his rate seemed reasonable.

I'm preparing to start on another such project for a longterm client who wanted to switch from a retainer payment to an hourly arrangement because he was lookiing to take tighter control of costs. I value this client and know that he'll give me a lot of work in the future (and he pays very fast), so I discounted my hourly rate by 15 percent. He's getting a deal, but I'll be getting more work from him.

It's a great deal for both of us, and it's all because someone had the courage to ask, "Will you take less."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. I am getting better at this stuff, but I still can be shy when it comes to negotiation.

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