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How To Ask for a Discount

Wedding planning can be complicated…and expensive. When my wife and I got engaged, we decided that planning and budgeting the event was something we would do together. We believed it was important for several reasons, but that included financial ones. We did not want an elaborate ceremony but did have a few things we deemed important.

One of those important things for my wife was she wanted to have some live music at a reception and be able to dance with her father. I agreed to this. As we investigated how to make this a reality, we had several venues narrowed down to finalists. It turns out, and was news to me, that a dance floor is required for these sorts of things. It also turns out that venues like to charge for these sorts of things. When we narrowed the list down to the spot my wife wanted and worked with our budget, I offered to make the call to book. As I gave the dates and other details to the booker, I asked for the dance floor to be included with no additional charge. My then fiance was sitting beside me and immediately gave me a look of panic and nausea.

I finished the call and before I could share the details and the outcome, she immediately asked “why did you do that?” I asked what she meant. “Why did you ask them to not pay for the dance floor? What if they said no or decided they didn’t want our business at all?” she asked. I took her hand and calmly let her know that we had the venue for our date plus a dance floor at no additional charge. She pondered this for a moment and then decided she could live with this.

 

Why does this sort of thing create anxiety for so many of us? It seems reasonable, but many of us experience extreme discomfort at the idea of negotiating a price. Why is that?

 

“to arrange for or bring about through conference, discussion, and compromise” -Merriam Webster Dictionary’s entry on Negotiation


Is it wrong to ask for a better price?

 

Commerce is addressed frequently in the Bible. Asking for a few cents off on a cup of coffee is not addressed though. There is still some insight that we can apply here. The Bible portrays all manner of figures doing business and there is a common thread: honesty in business dealings is something we should aspire toward. What does this mean? This passage sums it up nicely.

 "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." -James 4:17 ESV

This passage points out that the right path is not just about avoiding wrong things, but also about doing what is right. In other words, our business dealings should be done with honorable intentions. If you ask for a discount, be honest in your request and any conversation around it. Don’t say you can’t afford a price if that is not indeed the truth.

 

Where to get started?

Part of the challenge with this is the fear many of us have of being told no. We have a natural inclination to avoid the change of rejection. To help get over this, lower the stakes. In other words, start with something small instead of a major purchase. The next time you buy a cup of coffee, just ask for a discount. If they say no, will the rest of your day really be so bad? If they say yes, then you have a small victory and something to build on.

 

 

What kinds of situations are appropriate to ask for a discount?

Use your imagination. Your gym, cable bill, Italian restaurant, or piano teacher are all places to ask.

 

 

Where should I not ask?

Some cases and expenses we face are not amenable to this tactic. One example is government regulated businesses we deal with like utilities. Sorry, getting a discount on this month’s water bill is not likely. Also, recognize that the person you are speaking with may not have the power to discount your bill. Lastly, be mindful when dealing with small businesses about the overall picture. I purposefully buy bagels from a local shop. It’s owned by a faithful family and I’m happy to pay them a bit more for cream cheese than the big chain down the street. This is not to say you should never ask them for a discount, just be mindful.

 

How to ask?

I’ve included some wording below you can use. If you’re wondering, I have used every one of these before at one time or another.

 

Club Discounts

“I’m a member of [insert club name], what discount do you have?” This can work for groups you are a member of such as AAA or local clubs.

 

Affinity Discounts

“I’m a [insert affinity group], what is your discount for us?” This include veteran status, homeschoolers, teachers, firefighters, or a number of other groups that businesses choose to reserve a discount for. Even if they don’t offer one right now, you may have planted a seed for the future.

 

Time of purchase discount

“If I come at your slow time, what discount can you offer me?” Does everyone want to go bowling on Friday night? Ask about what discount is available for a Thursday bowling time for your family.

 

Beat the competition

“I saw that [insert name of competitor] has this for {insert price]. What is the best price you can offer me?” Doing a bit of looking around can make a strong case.

 

Cash is king

“If I pay in cash, what discount would I receive?” Merchants pay a percentage to the card companies when you pay with a card. Sometime, offering to pay in cash and helping the merchant avoid those fees can help yield a discount.

 

Bundling and bulk

“If I buy three of these today, what sort of discount would I receive?”

 

All the Rest

“Is this the best price you offer on this”

“Because I’ve been a loyal customer for {length of time], what discount is available for me?”

“What options do I have for a lower price on this?”

“When does this item go on sale?”

“What is your Tuesday discount on this?” Yes, really

 

What if someone is offended?

If you are polite and confident when you ask, what is there to be offended about? It is perfectly reasonable to politely ask these sorts of questions. It is also perfectly reasonable for the other party to politely decline. I’ve been doing this since before I could drive. In all those years, I’ve only had one case of the other party being upset by my asking.

 

 “A penny saved is a penny earned.” -Benjamin Franklin


Give it a try

I encourage you to give this a try. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s all right. Be polite, honest, and confident and it will be fine. Also, remember Ben Franklin’s words and the power of keeping a few extra cents in your pocket.


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