Sunday, May 18, 2014

Practical Pearl: All You Have to Do is Ask

Chapter 24 of Pearls from Sand is titled "Everything Is Negotiable." I described some techniques for negotiating constructively with merchants of all types that often can get you a better price on a product or service. In fact, reading that one chapter will more than repay the price of the book! Here's an update on some of the ways I've applied those principles recently to my advantage.

Some months ago I saved $325 on my cable TV, Internet, and telephone service for the next year. The price of my combination service had gone up by more than twenty dollars a month because the last special rate I had negotiated with them recently expired. Before I called the cable provider today, I checked into what a comparable package of services would cost from a satellite provider. It was about thirty dollars per month less than my new cable rate. When I presented that competitive information to the customer retention agent I spoke to at my cable provider, she immediately gave me the same promotional rate that they were now offering to new subscribers. Plus, I got some additional channels thrown in and free Showtime for three months. I had to make a two-year commitment, which is no problem for me, and the rate will go up somewhat in the second year. Still, I'm saving $475 over the next two years for a better package than I have at present. All I had to do was ask. This is the third time I've negotiated a better deal from my cable provider. I'm not sure how long I can keep this up, but I’ll keep trying.

I recently went to a jewelry store to buy an opal ring as a gift for my wife. The ring was on sale at a pretty good discount. I asked the young saleslady if that was the best price they had for the ring. She conferred with her manager, who rummaged around in their back room and found a coupon for twenty-five dollars off, which she gave me. I was amazed that my negotiation strategy worked in this case, but I happily took the coupon.

In Chapter 24 of Pearls from Sand I mentioned one magic phrase that I have found to be helpful during negotiations. Since then, I've learned a second useful question to ask: "Do you have any flexibility on the price?” It turns out that often vendors do have some flexibility, especially if you can suggest some reason to justify it.

I recently made hotel reservations for a three-day trip to Seattle, including a Friday. The corporate rate at that hotel for the company I'm visiting is $145 per night. However, I learned from the Web that the hotel has a standard reduced rate on weekend nights of just $109 for the type of room I requested. I asked about this, and the agent at the hotel reduced my Friday night rate to $109, thereby saving me $36 plus tax. I'm glad I asked.

I engage a nationally known lawn care company to apply organic fertilizer and other treatments to my lawn and landscaping several times a year. When I received the latest proposal for next year’s services, I wasn’t happy to see that prices had gone up by nine percent. I called the office and without any hassle at all, the man I spoke to agreed to cut the increase in half. That one brief conversation saved me $25.

Two weeks ago I spent a few days doing some wine tasting in one of the many wine regions in the Pacific Northwest, one of my favorite pastimes. At one winery I really liked a bottle that cost $40, but that's outside my usual price range. I asked the owner, who was pouring samples for me, if he had any flexibility on the price. He replied, “I can give you twenty percent off,” and I was happy to pay $32 for this excellent bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. At another stop I bought two bottles of a fantastic Syrah. Even though the wine already was reasonably priced, I asked the tasting room manager if he had any flexibility on the price because I was buying two bottles. This simple question earned me a ten percent discount.

This strategy doesn't always work, though. At a third winery I was greatly impressed with a $52 bottle of wine, but there's no way I was going to pay that much. I asked if I could perhaps get it at the wine club price. The owner pointed out that this would not be fair to the members of their wine club. This is absolutely correct (although no wine club members were there to complain about it), but I thought I’d try anyway. She did not come down in price, and I did not buy a bottle. Did she win the negotiation, or did we both lose? I didn't get a better price, but neither did she make a sale. I think it was a lose-lose outcome, but it's certainly her decision whether to modify the price or not. After all, the winery is a business and has to make a reasonable profit; I respect that.

Since I wrote that chapter in Pearls from Sand describing how successfully many of my negotiations have gone, I've continued to politely try to get better prices on a variety of goods and services. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. No one has ever seemed offended because I asked, and I have indeed saved quite a lot of money. Sometimes all you have to do is ask to get a better deal.

No comments:

Post a Comment