The down economy has created a fertile landscape for bargain hunters at nearly all levels of retail. Asking for discounts is socially acceptable nowadays: Even on an episode of TLC’s Say Yes To the Dress, one father managed to haggle the price of a wedding dress for his daughter down by $9,000. Granted, it was exorbitantly priced to begin with, but the bold move proved that even the most upscale stores are open to negotiating. Whether you’re in the market for a new mattress, a pair of shoes, or new skis, discounts abound. You just need to know how to ask.
Here are the best ways to effort a discount at various types of stores. In all cases, it’s best to ask for a discount from the floor or store manager if the sales associate you’re working with is not able to help.
1. Flash The Cash
Each time we swipe a credit card, the merchant must pay a fee of about 1% to 3% of the sale to the credit card issuer. These fees often hit smaller merchants hardest, since bigger retailers can better soak up the costs with their greater sales volumes.
Try it at: Small mom and pop retailers, hair and nail salons, the tailor, shoe repair, car dealerships, gas stations, furniture, and mattress dealers.
Potential Discount: At least 10%
2. Buy In Bulk
We know that we can get discounts for buying in bulk at wholesale clubs like Sam’s, Costco, and BJ’s, but buying multiples of an item at a regular store can also earn us a discount since it allows the store to unload inventory. Mention to the store manager that you plan to buy five or more of a particular item and ask for a discount or a “buy four get one free” deal.
Try it at: Video game stores, department stores, local bookstores.
Potential Discount: A freebie or up to 20% off
3. Clothing Or Furniture Stores: Point Out Imperfections
Whether it’s a loose thread on a sweater or a small dent or crack on a piece of furniture, you shouldn’t pay full price for a semi-perfect piece of merchandise. Sales associates can’t argue with a visibly defective product.
Try it at: Furniture stores, chain and local clothing stores.
Potential Discount: At least 10%
4. Cite The Competition
When we went into one electronics store with a circular that advertised a sale at a competing store, we found a digital camera that was discounted at the other store. So, the sales manager agreed to beat that other store’s price by 10%. Another time, we knew of a 25% sale happening at Saks on all designer handbags. Its competitor Nordstrom was not having any sale, but we were told we could also earn 25% off any designer bags at Nordstrom after mentioning the Saks promotion to the floor manager. There was no sign advertising this. We had to ask.
Try it at: Electronic stores, department stores, furniture stores, car dealerships, mattress dealers.
Potential Discount: A match of the competition’s lower price…or better
5. Dig The Display
Display items eventually end up in the “as is” section, where they’ll usually get a 20% to 50% markdown. Before that happens, offer to take the item off the store’s hands for a small discount. At Restoration Hardware, we got a 20% discount on a floor sample leather couch last winter. At a luggage store, we scored 10% off a display Swiss Army carry-on bag.
Try it at: Furniture stores, car dealerships, luggage stores, athletic gear stores, shoe stores.
Potential Discount: Free delivery for big items or 10 to 15% off
6. Gather A Group
You should always ask for group discounts when dining, traveling or buying multiple tickets for an event, like a theatrical show or museum entrance. For the merchant, this is the equivalent of buying in bulk. Once, when making dinner reservations for a party of 8, we asked the restaurant manager if he had any special pricing arrangements for big groups. He offered us a $34 three-course menu that would have normally cost $45.
Try it at: Restaurants, movies, theatre, museums, hotels.
Potential Discount: 15% to 20%
Tell us in the comments: Where do you have the most success negotiating? And where is it a wasted effort?