Speak Up and Save

by Margaret Marquis


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Mastering the Art of Haggling

The Art of Asking

Modern Haggling

Most savvy consumers know to ask salespeople "Am I getting the absolute best deal you can offer me?" when purchasing big-ticket items. That simple question can knock big bucks off of cars, hotel rooms, and airline tickets.

However, the art of being vocal can translate into dollars saved on everyday purchases as well. Despite being a regular customer at the same grocery store for years, I still have to remind the cashier (often the same cashier) that I get a pennies-off discount for each canvas bag I bring to the store to re-use. A smile and a non-accusing attitude help me get a store-sanctioned discount every week that I might otherwise miss out on.

Senior citizens and military professionals know to ask for savings based on their status as such; "ordinary" folks should know that their professions or organizational affiliations might entitle them to discounts as well. Teachers, law enforcement, and safety officials can get cost savings on products and services if they simply make the clerk aware of their jobs. Various memberships or connections can yield discounts, but to get those discounts, you have to ask! After all, the cashier can't possibly know that you are a member of AAA or are attending a local university and therefore eligible for additional savings unless you tell him or her.

While who you are can save you money, what you're actually buying can in itself present opportunities to cut costs. When shopping at retail stores, remember that you are paying for what you get. If an item is damaged or even simply smudged or dirty, be sure to ask for discount on it. Store cashiers generally have discretion to offer up to 10% off items with no managerial approval necessary. Of course, if the item is the last in stock or if it is intended for something special, like a gift, don't hesitate to ask for up to 20%. Exercise caution. Don't buy visibly damaged food, and make sure that anything with parts is actually operational. However, if the damage is cosmetic, politely request a price cut.

Most customers are shocked to discover that they can also ask and receive discounts at secondhand or thrift stores, even when they're already getting great deals. If you have developed a familiarity with a particular store, don't be afraid to ask for a loyalty discount every now and then. Because of the small-business nature of these companies, the person checking you out typically has full authority to offer any discount he or she sees fit. When you're purchasing a large quantity of items, ask if any special deals can be made.

Being direct isn't the same thing as being confrontational, so have no fear speaking up to ask for your savings. Store managers and clerks are frequently more than happy to comply with a reasonable request for a discount and will always operate with an eye toward keeping your continued business. Perfecting the art of asking can be as powerful a tool in your money-saving arsenal as any manufacturer's coupon, with no scissors necessary or expiration date to keep track of.

Take the Next Step:

  • Begin to perfect the art of asking and learn to have no fear about speaking up to ask for your savings. This is a powerful money-saving tool.

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