The Art of Asking for Discounts

It might seem like an exclusive perk of the brazen or the connected, but the truth is, anyone has a shot at a discount. Below, pro strategies on how to go for it—without coming off as a total cheapskate.

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Photo by Eight Hour Day

Furniture

“Just because a price tag displays a certain number doesn’t mean it’s final,” says Nicole Lapin, a financial expert and the author of Rich Bitch. You can research online prices and ask if a store will match that—or try for a discounted floor sample.



What to do: Strike up a conversation with a friendly salesperson, and lead with a compliment: “I love your store and really want to buy this piece. Is this the best price you can give me today? What if I take a floor model off your hands?”

Good to know: Appliance stores will often discount floor samples.

Clothing

There could be specials running that you know nothing about. Charm will get you everywhere.

What to do: Ask at the register if the store has any coupons or deals running that you can take advantage of, suggests Lapin. If you left a coupon at home, just say so. Often the store will honor it anyway.

Good to know: If you’re trying for a discount on a damaged item, stay positive: “I like this top, but it looks stretched out. I shop here all the time. Is it possible to get a discount?”

Cable Bill

Many cable companies offer introductory rates 
 for new customers, but over time your bill can skyrocket, says Laura Adams, a personal-finance expert and the author of Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. If you call and ask for a lower rate, the company might comply, even if you’ve had the service for a while.

What to do: Be direct. “I need to cut expenses, and I’m not happy with what I’m paying for my cable service. Do you have any promotions right now?” If you don’t make any headway, tell the customer-service rep that you’re a loyal customer but your friend has a better plan with another company. Still no luck? Call back and try again with someone else.

Good to know: Similar strategies may work for your cell-phone bill and credit-card interest rate.

Medical Bills

Some doctors and hospitals will negotiate. Says Lapin, “A little research is a valuable weapon.”

What to do: Request an itemized bill, and make sure there aren’t any errors. Then go to fairhealthconsumer.org (a health-cost resource similar to the Kelley Blue Book for car prices) and look at typical costs for treatments in your area. Next, call your doctor and 
 ask for a rate reduction. If you’re in a particularly bad situation, you can claim financial hardship.

Good to know: “You can’t stick your head in the sand. You have to act within 90 days,” says Lapin. “Once a bill goes into collection, it’s much harder to negotiate.”