Updated on 09.11.08

The Courage to Ask

Trent Hamm

Help is on the way, elevator, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL.JPG by gruntzooki on Flickr!When you ask for a bargain, the worst thing that can happen is that they say “no,” which is effectively what happens if you don’t ask at all.

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that it’s almost always worth your while to ask for a bargain, almost everywhere you’re at. Here are nine quick examples of what I’m talking about.

Ask for bulk kid clothes discounts at a yard sale. The cheapest place to buy clothes for your young children is at yard sales, where you can find tons of barely-worn kids’ clothes for cheap. You can make them even cheaper by asking – make an offer for all of them, save an additional 50%, and not have to worry about clothes for your tykes.

Ask for soup bones for free (or for cheap) at the butcher. Buy something at a butcher shop? Ask for any extra soup bones they might have – and literally use them for soup. Toss them in with some chopped meat in a pot of boiling water along with some vegetables – delicious.

Ask for package deals at the pottery store. I visited a potter’s barn recently and asked if I could get a package deal on three items – they were happy to oblige to make the sale. It gave me the opportunity to support a local craftsman and business while still shaving some dollars off my bill.

Ask for a lower price and/or for free amenities at the car dealership. Go in near the end of the month when salesmen are trying to meet their quotas and negotiate hard, asking for a very low price for your car. The sticker price is just the starting point – ask for something much lower.

Ask for extra toppings on your deli sandwich. I used to get a foot long sandwich at Subway. Now I just get a six inch and ask for some of every vegetable (and often for extras of my favorites, such as black olives). Ask and they’d be happy to load you up.

Ask for extra ketchup or hot sauce packets at the fast food restaurant. One of my best friends never buys condiments – he just asks for extra packets of anything he can when he visits fast food restaurants on occasion and stores them in his fridge. Again, ask and ye shall receive.

Ask for a raise or more flexible scheduling from your boss. If you’ve been doing good work, ask your boss for a raise – or, more likely, a bit more flexibility in your schedule. An employer is more likely to give you some flexibility if you show yourself to be a solid employee – but you’ll never know unless you pipe up.

Ask for help on something that’s personally challenging to you from a friend. Having trouble kicking a habit or adopting a healthy new one? Need someone to talk to about your problems? That’s what friends are for – ask them for help. You’ll be surprised how helpful a good friend can be when you need help – just ask, and be willing to help in return when they need it.

Ask for cooperation in repaying your debts from your creditors. Having trouble getting rid of your debts? Give your creditors a ring and simply ask for a more palatable repayment plan, one that gives you the room you need. You can ask, or you can keep struggling to get through.

Again, when you ask for things, the worst thing that can happen is that you hear “no” for an answer. “No” isn’t a bad thing at all – at the very least, it’s where you were at before, and you often have a better idea of the person or organization you’re dealing with.

Building Up the Courage to Ask
The biggest problem with this philosophy is that it takes courage and self-confidence to be able to always ask for what you want. Most people feel comfortable asking in some situations, but not in others – and the comfort zone varies from person to person.

Whenever you ask for help, you’re continuing a value exchange that is at the basis of every relationship. It might be the value exchange between friends, between employer and employee, between client and business, or between customer and business. When you ask for something, you’re simply requesting some additional value – and that’s your right. The other person has the right to agree or disagree, of course, but you never open the door to that value if you don’t ask to begin with.

Here are some things you can do to help build up your confidence to ask – and know when it’s appropriate, too.

Put extra effort into identifying “asking” situations.
Many people don’t mind asking, they just don’t think about it at the times where it can be useful. Spend a day or two focusing entirely on identifying situations where asking for a bit more might come in handy. Look at all avenues of your life – where you eat, where you shop, where you work, and who you spend your time with.

Get comfortable asking for small things and sure “yes’s.”
One good place to start is to ask for extra condiments at a restaurant, or to ask a friend for a small favor. Both of these are likely to receive a positive answer, reinforcing your confidence to ask for things in life. Build up your confidence by asking for other things, like bulk buys, and eventually move on to big things, like asking for a raise, negotiating a car deal, or kicking a habit with the help of a friend. The key is to build up confidence.

Be giving when others ask.
When you ask for more things, there will inevitably come a time when others are asking you for a bit of extra help. When that time comes, give of yourself easily and freely, especially if the request is simple. Giving your friend some strong advice and support when they need it (as well as a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on) can help cement a relationship. When someone needs a bit of professional assistance, assist them. If you show that you’re willing to help when asked, others will be much more willing to help you when you ask.

DON’T ask just for the sake of asking – and accept “no” when it’s clear.
Many people enjoy the rush of getting “something for nothing” (in their mind) and take it too far, constantly asking for things above and beyond rational reason and expressing irritation when they do not get their way. Life doesn’t owe you anything and neither does the person you’re interacting with. You’re merely hoping to shift the value of the relationship a bit – it’s not your right, and believing that it is will cause many problems. If you ask for a small thing and are rejected, let it be – walk away without worrying about it. If it’s a bigger thing, one that merits attention, and you believe you have a real reason for getting what you asked for (like a raise, for instance), don’t hesitate to ask for a meeting about it, but don’t let your request unfairly eat up the time of others. Standing in line at Subway and complaining loudly about how they won’t put an extra pickle on your sandwich not only won’t get you that extra pickle, but it will irritate the person behind the counter and everyone standing in line behind you. Moderation and respect for others is always key.

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  1. Lynn says:

    Asking for extra condiments to stock them at home? That is just wrong. It is not your local restaurants responsibility to stock your home condiment supply – I have no problem if you are given a quantity that you do not use with your order – fine, take those home – there is no need to waste them. But to ask for extra…?

    Sorry – this is just an issue that bothers me – Don’t even get me started on tape disapearing from our office around the holidays….

    Love your blog otherwise…

  2. Lynn Kent says:

    Ask for extra condiments to avoid buying them for your home use? Are you kidding? I have no problem saving packets that I am given with my rare take out food order – but to ask for extras to save money? Since when is my local restaurant responsible for providing condiments for my home? This is just wrong Trent.
    Love this blog but your friend is not being fair..

  3. HA!
    That’s really funny about the Subway comment – I do the exact same thing and love Subway.
    It never hurts to ask; often times a polite request and a smile will get you exactly what you want!

  4. Johanna says:

    Very good post, especially the last paragraph. Courtesy for others is key. And although holding up the line at Subway might not get you your extra pickle, making the staff afraid that you will hold up the line if you don’t get your extra pickle might get you your extra pickle – but that doesn’t make it right.

    Once I was in line at Chipotle, and the girl in front of me was ordering a burrito bowl with extra rice, extra meat, extra cheese, extra salsa, extra everything. The woman behind the counter would spoon on much more than the usual amount of rice, and the girl would demand, “More rice.” She probably got at least three meals’ worth of food for the price of one, all because the staff thought it would be easier to give it to her than to argue with her. I found her behavior very rude, but unfortunately, it got her what she wanted.

  5. Great post, Trent. I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice that this is secretly a post about building self-confidence. In this situation, the key to developing the courage to ask is to have confidence that you have something to offer (a sale) in exchange for the deal that you are asking for.

    This is a great self-growth exercise as well as a money saving one.

  6. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “this is secretly a post about building self-confidence”

    Self-confidence is a pretty big part of financial success, I think.

  7. Amanda says:

    For some reason, I’ve never been shy, and I have no problem asking. But I always try to be really nice about it.

    For instance, I have some crazy idea that the front of the plane is safer than the back (I realize this is totally irrational!) but I generally approach the gate agent, ask nicely, and nine times out of 10, they’ll give it to me. When I just bought my recent car, I asked for an extra set of floor mats, wheel locks for my wheel and a coupon for a detail later on. I got it. Like you said, it takes the confidence to do, but it can garner fantastic rewards!

  8. Diane says:

    Stocking your fridge with condiment packages from fast food restaurants is kind of sleazy though. Those are a courtesy meant to be used for food *from that restaurant*. All that really is is theft. If everyone did this, the restaurant would be out thousands of dollars.

  9. Gina says:

    Excellent post! My husband gets so embarrassed when I ask for discounts, he’s more of the “we have to pay the price tag” kind of guy, but it has worked out for us time and time again, and I’m always careful not to take advantage. I talk to women all the time who are afraid to speak up for themselves at customer service if a cashier doesn’t take their coupons. Once you build up your confidence (and know your rights), it’s easy to assert yourself. You’ll feel better AND save money.

    And, I wish my mom would read that last paragraph. :)

  10. Jen says:

    @Johanna: that’s the catch-22 of customer service. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to give in to customers who were blatantly wrong just because they would raise a big stink and try to reach the owners of the company (who give customers anything they want in the name of keeping business). It’s one of the most stressful aspects of my job knowing that I’m here to be walked over–a professional doormat, if you will.

  11. Lisa says:

    It’s amazing how often just asking for something works. I recently called Verizon and simply said “I think I’m paying too much for my phone service.” After the obligatory attempt to sell me FIOS, they just lowered my rate by about 30%.

  12. Anne K says:

    I just bought a push mower last week, it was the last one they had and it was the floor sample. I asked if I could get some money off- and I bought the mower for 15% off. Very happy I asked! It’s something new that I’ve been working on, talking to people I don’t know.

  13. Jenna says:

    To this I would add:

    Ask your credit card companies to remove your over-the-limit fees, late fees, membership fees, and reduce your interest rates.

    All credit card companies have plans in place to do this, but they will never do it unless you specifically ask.

  14. No Debt Plan says:

    I noticed the sandwich thing, too. I wish they would give me a discount for not getting all the veggies because I’m happy with just the meat and cheese!

  15. Shanel Yang says:

    Asking simply for a discount (without specifying how much) is not as effective as offering to pay X amount of dollars if, e.g., you pay cash right now. That’s creating a win-win situation. Ask yourself first if you would find such an offer appealing. In selling anything — from an old used car to a brand new house — cash up front is the best way to get a huge discount! : )

  16. Luke says:

    I partially disagree with your first statement: “the worst that can happen is they say ‘no’.”

    I personally hate being an exception and that’s the biggest thing I have to overcome. That is the main thing that keeps me from asking for things that are not offered. Part of that, I suppose, is related to self-confidence, and part of it is related to courtesy. I just don’t like asking others to make an exception for my case.

    Thus, I usually evaluate a situation carefully before asking to be an exception. Sometimes it’s fine and doesn’t really put anyone out. Sometimes, people are more than happy to give you a deal. Sometimes though, making yourself an exception to the rule can make someone else’s life very difficult and that’s what I try to avoid.

  17. Angie says:

    One big place many may not think of which has netted me about ~1,000 over the last year. Is ask for compensation from your apartment complex or landlord when you aren’t getting what you paid for.

    Everytime something goes wrong at my apartment. I call to get it fixed and then go right to the office to negotiate compensation. Since it is a large company and there is almost always people in the office looking to sign a lease. You have a lot of leverage in your court.

    -I was once able to negotiate a whole months rent refund for the a/c being broken (although it is warranted since it was August.)
    -A 30 day extension to decide if I wanted to resign my lease.
    -$100 for them accidentally towing my car

    I’m going down today for a separate issue and have already been offered $250 off the bat for outstanding maintenance requests..

    Although I admit I still have a problem finding the right words to call and ask for a discount on my cable bill. How exactly are you supposed to call and bring that up?

  18. I agree that asking for something specific is better than simply asking generally for a better deal. That way, you sound like its something you need rather than sounding like a bargain hunter.

  19. Angie says:

    Actually I guess that adds up to WAY more than $1,000.
    Exact amount – $1,870.

  20. cv says:

    I think the Subway one is a bit funny – I’ve always thought that all veggies were automatically included in the price of the sandwich, and I’ve never felt that asking for all the veggies was something that required any sort of courage.

  21. Faith says:

    One story that I love to tell about asking is when I found a pair of shoes that I really wanted, but they were a little bit out of my price range. I had a coupon for $20 off, but I still wanted to save a little more.

    So I went up to the cash register and said to the clerk “I’d like to buy these shoes, but I’d also like to not pay full price. Can I please have a discount?”

    He offered me $20 off the full price. With my $20 off coupon I managed to get the shoes I wanted for less than $5. I was thrilled!

  22. Faith says:

    Correction: “He offered me 20% the full price.”

  23. DivaJean says:

    Two thoughts I can ‘t avoid verbalizing–

    The condiment thing bugs me on some level. When you buy a burger and get ketchup, the implication is that the ketchup is for that burger, not to provide you with ketchup for your every need. Similarly with other condiments. When you get down to it, those who don’t take ketchup and condiments are softly paying a portion of the benefit for those who do. I get mad when I see cheapskates with buckets of old ketchup packets or sugar packets that are taken in this way.

    The Subway sandwich issue is a different story. The costs of all the veggies are built into the overall scheme of sandwich cost. Ask for as much as they’ll give.

  24. Andy says:

    Your post is great, but I agree with Diane that asking for the extra condiments for the purpose of taking them home is a bit questionable in the ethics department (at least for me). Now if they give you more than you use without asking for more (or you ask for extra, and happen to have some left over), then certainly take them home with you.

  25. Angie says:

    That doesn’t quite make sense… Ketchup is part of the burger, just as is veggies part of the sandwich. A few people asking for more veggies adds more $ onto the overall sandwich in the same way as ketchup.

    If you were a true cheapskate (as ketchupers) you could just as easily ask for as much veggies as possible, put them in a ziplock bag, and eat them for a snack later!

  26. Jon says:

    Excellent article! I’m printing it out and having our 11 and 12 year old boys read this tonight. While these specific situations don’t apply to them yet, I think it’s a great illustrative example for them. I’ve been trying to explain to them that it’s okay to ask and one of them has just been too shy to do so, even at yard sales or having just seen someone else successfully negotiate a better deal for themselves. Maybe seeing that it’s not just my suggestion will influence him.

  27. BonzoGal says:

    One way to get discounts or concessions from cable, phone, and internet companies is to look out for deals from competing companies and then call your company and ask for a similar deal. My husband called our internet/phone provider and got our monthly bill cut by 40% doing this. He didn’t threaten to switch service or anything, just said “Hey, your competitor is offering this deal- can you match that?” and the rep not only said yes, she told my husband that she wished more people would ask, because she’s not allowed to offer!

    I agree on the condiment thing- that’s a bit in the gray area. I wouldn’t do it; those are meant to be eaten with that particular food order. At my work, whenever we have parties or events with food, I see some employees hoarding food to take home, and it really irks me!

  28. MoneyBeagle says:

    Good idea. Here’s a tip: When you call to order pizza, ask if they are running any specials. Often you’ll find out about deals that they won’t just tell you about. It never hurts to ask!!!!

  29. rstlne says:

    I always ask for every topping at Subway. It’s one of their standard choices.

  30. Maha says:

    Regarding the use of condiments, I’ll ask for some, if none was given. Whatever we don’t use, I take home and keep in the pantry for my kids’ lunches if they’re having hot dogs or whatever that day. Also, if we do drive-thru, I use bottled ketchup at home, and save the packets for lunches. I don’t think that’s cheap or sleazy.

  31. Bettsi says:

    This is a good post and so timely for me! (How do you always do that?) I’m in a position where I HAVE to ask for considerations from my credit cards… or default on them. It’s nice to be reminded that I have the right to do so.

  32. Kim Siever says:

    I order a foot-long at Subway and ask for all veggies.

  33. michael says:

    When I worked in retail people would occasionally argue with me over a $1-$5 discount they thought they were entitled to (working at Borders, teachers were the absolute worst — they already got a discount, but it was never enough). It was unbelievably annoying. If they refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, I’d just give them the $$ out of my own pocket, saying, “Here, sounds like you need this more than I do.”

    Thank GOD I’m not in retail anymore. Those people should be paid a fortune for the daily annoyances they put up with.

  34. kz says:

    I have to agree with those that are uncomfortable with the extra condiments issue. Ultimately, every customer ends up paying extra for their selections because the restaurant must make up for an exorbitant amount of packets being taken.
    I like those places that charge extra for the extras. It makes you, as the consumer, really connect with what it is that you want and only pay for that.
    I suppose that if you’re *asking* for the extras, rather than merely taking them, that’s better, but the person giving them to you likely doesn’t care about the restaurant’s bottom line.

  35. Anne says:

    Very timely post for me; I really like how you positioned this as a confidence issue.

    I’m pretty shy and not particularly aggressive but I’ve been getting better at just asking. It’s not that I mind hearing “no”, I just don’t want to waste anyone’s time. But I just got a big home goods store to price-match the manufacturer’s website and then apply the store’s coupon. Saved $30. I’m very proud of myself!

    You’re absolutely right that – if this is a problem – then hearing “yes” a few times helps quite a bit. Even if hearing “no” isn’t the problem, the victory of getting a discount gives the process a nice mental positive association.

  36. Heidi says:

    In addition to the last paragraph, never forget that by asking for more, you’re implying that you have some additional value to provide. It may be repeat patronage, or positive word-of-mouth, and that may or may not be valuable to the other party.

    When I’ve worked in retail and customer service, the thing that bothers me about these situations is people assuming that they deserve a discount that no one else is entitled to, particularly if they have no value to swing back our way.

    Always, always remember that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

  37. Ram says:

    Comment#2: “I found her behavior very rude” It was probably not rude as she just asked and not really demand for more, correct? Okay, other side of the coin, if the staff had refused and said it is not allowed to give extra rice in the package, and if the girl had demanded for more, then it would have been, as you said, argument and rude.

    @cv Comment#15: I thought so as well, that all the vegetables were included for the price mentioned for sub sandwich, ever since i first ate sub-sandwich several years ago. So, I would ask for all the vegetables except pickles and mayonaisse there; and my wife would excluce even the olives. There was one instance, a friend of mine said, if we don’t go for one vege, we can ask for more of other vege, i haven’t tried that. but we have always asked for extra jalepenos.

    Looks like most comments here have been on condiments and sandwich :)

    My personal experience:
    I usually do not pay the finance charges on my credit card. Last september, I made an online payment on the due date and perhaps due to timezone issue the payment was made the following day. So that showed a finance charge of $30 on my following monthly statement. I called to ask for a waiver, ‘coz i had never paid the finance charge, and this one was by mistake that the payment was received a day later (though it was monthly statement balance pay off), staff didn’t agree. Anyways, i paid that charges in the following month. I called the company again 4 or 5 months later and explained the situation and requested for a waiver. Although he didn’t waive off completely, but together agreed to meet half way and waive off $16/- out of $30. It wasn’t complete waiver but still, ASK/REQUESTing for waiver helped.

    In general, Right On! ASK for help, When in doubt ASK, Never make Any Assumptions has been my everyday quote these days. I know most people have this feeling of, “What would they think of me if I ask for help?”, in my opinion, give it a try, the utmost thing happens is hear “no”. If “someone” think otherwise, i think it is that “someone”‘s problem. :)


  38. gr8whyte says:

    Read a news story about a person who routinely called frozen food companies to complain about fake problems with the food. The companies invariably sent her coupons for free replacements. I think she made k$s at it.

  39. Procrastamom says:

    I recently asked for a raise, after fretting about it for MONTHS! I was deathly afraid of the “no” answer, but I’m not sure why because, really, that no would have made my mind up for me about looking for another job. I wish now that I hadn’t waited so long, because after finally meeting with my boss, showing him my backup documentation (salary scales, other job ads that paid more) and asking for the raise, he agreed wholeheartedly that I deserved every penny of what I was asking for and they loved the work I do and wanted me to stay forever.

    Damn, I wish I hadn’t waited all of those months…my yearly gross could have been higher!

  40. Johanna says:

    @Ram: The reasons I found her behavior rude are as follows:

    1. Her language was not that of a polite request, but of a demand. Not “May I have some more rice, please?” but “More rice.”
    2. She requested extra rice and was given extra rice, and then she demanded even more. There is a line beyond which requests are just unreasonable, and I think she was pushing it, even though she got what she wanted. You don’t go into Subway and say “I want you to give me three sandwiches for the price of one,” do you?
    3. There was a long line of people behind her. Whether she meant to or not, she was using all of them (or “us,” since I was one of them) against the staff, because the implication was “If you don’t give me what I want, I will make a fuss and hold up the line, and all these people behind me will be very angry with you for it.” If she had been the only one in line, it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad.
    4. She was talking on a cell phone the whole time.

  41. FamilyMan says:

    I tend to have a hard time asking. maybe I don;t want to be a bother, I don;t know. I will say though for me this post came a t a perfect time, THANKS!

  42. Yuri says:

    Teachers are ademant about the discounts because they try to get the most for their bucks to buy supplies and assist the students who cannot afford it. And at the same time live off of the measly salary they make. Teachers end up spending about 600 to 800 a years on extra supplies for their classrooms and they only get 250 tax deduction from uncle sam. I notice this during tax season when I do taxes. If parents were responsible enough to get their children what they need teachers wouldn’t be asking for a dollar discount…

  43. Sally says:

    I think the first one applies to just about any yarn sale item ot items. My family has learned to expect people to bargain when we have yard sales. It’s usually best to add up all the items ask for a lower, round number.

  44. Kate says:

    The best tip I ever recieved on buying a car is to be prepared to walk out. I never realized how valuable this piece of advice was until my husband and I went to buy a used car due the impending arrival of our child. I was 8 months pregnant and had just gotten off work. To say the least I was not in the mood to wait a long time while the salesman ‘negotiated’ with the sales manager for the price I wanted. Finally after 30 minutes and ever increasing back pain from uncomfortable chairs, I looked at my husband, snatched the keys off the table and said, “we’re leaving now.” The sales guy bolted out of the door just as we climbed into the car, waving the new proposal.

    It was still more than I wanted to pay for the car and by that point my patience had reached it’s ultimate limit. I, politely, told him it wasn’t acceptable and thanked him for his time. My husband didn’t even have time to turn the key before he said he’d fax me a new price if he could get it approved.

    Sure enough, I walked into our office and there was the sheet with the price I wanted.

  45. Amy says:

    My webhost waived my domain registration fee for the first year as a promotion. I always requested it in advance every year thereafter until this year, when I forgot until getting the invoice. I asked anyway, and they gave it again!

  46. Jessica says:

    Regarding vehicles – and windshield replacement
    We have four vehicles that need new windshields – when I called, I asked if there was a bulk discount since I had 4 vehicles that needed new windshields – I was told, let me see what I can do – I ended up getting an average of $50 off per vehicle for about a $200 savings!

    So maybe look at going in with your neighbors and only giving them one payment (not one for each vehicle) for a volume discount!

    My motto, is if you don’t ask you will never know! worst that can happen is you are told ‘no’.

  47. I’m glad to see that you’ve suggested that people ask for freebies or bargains when they buy a car. However, when I worked in the industry I was often asked for things that I couldn’t easily come up with. Dealerships are very compartmentalized, so if you start asking for free hats, extra keys, etc. (which come from the parts department) you’re probably going to hear “no.” Here are some freebies you can ask for AFTER you’ve negotiated the deal that you’ll probably get:

    1. A full tank of gas. This is little or no problem for your salesperson to take care of.

    2. Touch-up of scratches and/or dents. You’ll have to come back to the dealership at a later date, but they can get this stuff done cheap.

    3. A new windshield. Same as above.

    4. The option to buy any sort of part or accessory at a dealer cost – just make sure you work out exactly what dealer cost is before you leave.

    5. A discount from a local accessory shop. Find out who they use and ask about a discount.

    6. Financing just about anything into the deal. For example, if you’re paying 1.9% on your car and you owe $5k on a credit card at 19.9%, ask to have it rolled into your auto loan. Just make sure you pay extra every month.

  48. BonzoGal says:

    @Kate, #32: Right on!!! What a great story.

  49. Angela says:

    Great post, Trent. As others have mentioned, I really appreciate the confidence building element.

    Loved Kate’s comment – don’t mess with a pregnant lady! That said, I took a seminar given by a recovering car salesman and he told us about a tool that car salespeople use. Its called the Four Square because the document is split up into 4 squares with a number in each square (for instance, $3,000 in top left square and $15,000 in top right square, etc). Each of these squares represents a dollar figure and therefore a point of negotiation. Unfortunately, I can’t find my notes from the class, but I found a reasonable description at http://www.eautoadvantage.com/purchasing/3-3-1-foursquare.shtml. I recall the teacher saying the four square is only used in new car negotiation. He also mentioned that shopping for cars mid-week, end of the day, end of the month, and on windy days is a good strategy. So if you can combine that – shop on Wednesday before the end of the month, an hour before closing time on a windy day — and you’re willing to walk out — you’re virtually guaranteed a good deal, eh?

    On garage sales – Its often effective to chit chat with the person giving the sale ABOUT the sale to get a sense of their satisfaction with the sale. That helps me know if the primary motivation is to make money or to get rid of stuff, which guides my negotiation strategy. In addition, as someone else mentioned, it creates an opportunity to practice talking to people you don’t know (I have a hard time with that too). I’ve had several garage sales myself and I’m typically trying to get rid of stuff. I often end the sale with a $5/bag fire sale – put as much as you can in a bag and take it for $5. It might be worthwhile to bring a your own bag and propose that to the sale-giver if it is near the end of the day – especially if you’ve talked to them and know their primary motivation is to get rid of stuff.

  50. See My Money says:

    When asking for something more substantial, such as a reduced price for medical bills or a new car, do your homework. Come prepared with reasons why you deserve a discount and have some information/reasons to back it up.

  51. Aunt Jenny says:

    Good article, however I feel like I need to chime in about asking discounts from craftspeople. I make my living as an artist and I do the outdoor show circuit for a living. In general, artists (potters, painters, etc.) are lucky if we are making minimum wage when you take into account the materials and labor that go into our pieces (not to mention the very high prices that we pay to get into the shows to begin with). These are not mass produced items that we sell. When you ask an crafts person to give you a discount, they may give you one, not because their markup is so high, but because they are perhaps worried about making rent for the month.

    I’d ask people to put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and ask yourself how you would feel if you had worked a hard 8 hour day and the boss says “Hey, I gave you a lot of hours of employment today, surely you won’t mind shaving a few bucks off your paycheck for a volume discount?”.

    Just some food for thought, I enjoyed the article.

  52. JReed says:

    If you sincerely want something, fine, ask…a few extra veggies, whatever. If I’m already getting a deal a a yard sale, I don’t ask for more discount. I’m happy to support my local potter at his full rate; I don’t want to take money from him and I don’t want discounts at famers markets. Part of my giving to society is not shaming people into lowering their well earned rate just for the thrill of a bit extra off. I hope I never get to the point that I have to beg for ketchup just to “feel confident”.

  53. Kaylan says:

    “Ask for extra ketchup or hot sauce packets at the fast food restaurant.”

    Ugh. My mother. Does that. And napkins! The woman probably hasn’t bought napkins since the mid-80s since she always takes an inch-thick stack home from fast food restaurants.

  54. Michael says:

    I think the term that needs to be discussed is “consideration” in the contractual sense. Basically I don’t have a problem asking for a discount if I’m giving something in return such as bulk purchasing (buying more in return for a discount), but taking extra condiments or using threats such as holding up the line and making the job harder is not giving something back it is being a jerk and crossing the line from frugal to cheap.

  55. Michael says:

    My friend Steve is a professional mechanic and does side jobs after hours to prepare for a child on the way. A truly honest mechanic. Anyways he takes a side job and has the price agreed upon before the work begins. When the job is done the guy asks for a discount even though he knows he’s getting a great deal. I’m glad Steve didn’t back down and threaten a mechanics lien and got the agreed upon price. Sometimes you should have the decency not to ask.

  56. Ram says:

    @Johanna (Comment#30)
    I understand the situation now; i agree with you in that circumstance.

    My wife with our 3yr old and I happened to stop by subway this evening, after a long time. It has been several months since we went out to fast food restaurants, and I remembered this post as we were at the line to get a vege-delite sub sandwich :)

  57. reulte says:

    Ask politely — remember to say thank you. That’s great advice.

    Also, in some countries, there is a charge for extra packets of condiments.

  58. Sam H. says:

    I, too, think it’s wrong to ask for more ketchup or condiment packets if you’re not going to use them on that specific meal. There’s thrifty, which I’m all in favor of, and then there’s CHEAP- and not in a good way. Someone I know always asks for extra ketchup and then opens them up and empties them into her ketchup bottle at home. I find that so repulsive.

    Again, I’m all for being thrifty, but some money-saving methods just go beyond the pale. I like the rest of your tips, though.

  59. Carla says:

    I ask people for their produce that they can’t use. For example, this summer I canned over 20 pints of cherry jelly, syrup, and juice, and blackberry too, because I asked the fruit owners if I could pick their trees. People are almost always delighted to give you the produce because it is ready all at once, and they do not want it to go to waste. The last 2 weeks I have been canning tomatoes and homeade spaghetti sauce with almost 2 bushels of free tomatoes from a friend. She had planted a large garden, got exhausted from the summer, and had a garden full of produce that was going to rot, so I just asked her if I could can it. She was very pleased to give it to me, including many beautiful green and red peppers–all free for the picking! I always give them some of their own food back as a thank you, such as a pint of jelly from their own tree. They love it.

  60. Debbie M says:

    I’ve heard that if you don’t agree with something your medical insurance company has done, you should contact them and you should do it more than once. I’ve heard that some of them have a policy of always saying no the first time. I hope that’s not true, but it is true that asking more than once for things that are very important can make a difference.

    There’s also the tactic of asking one person and then either calling back to ask a different person or asking the first person to let you talk to their boss.

  61. An important thing to remember when asking for a discount or something extra is to first ask for the decision maker. Sometimes the person you are speaking with is not the person that can make the decision.

    Don’t be afraid to push to speak to the decision maker directly.

    I have a list of other situations where you can ask for savings: http://www.theshoppingqueen.com/view_shopping_guide.php?shopping_guide_id=10

  62. BW says:

    I just bought a year’s supply of soft contacts from my eye doctor’s office. When I ordered over the phone, I asked if there were any discounts. This was the first time I’d ever asked for a bargain, and it worked out great! They said there was a deal where if I bought a year’s supply, I’d get two boxes free, which saved me around $60.

  63. Mary says:

    Some of you mentioned this as a problem specifically for women. Absolutely true. I was raised by a strong single-mother who didn’t hesitate to request discounts, better pricing, etc. She never took advantage and judged others who did.

    Now, as a single-mom myself, I’m very similar. I’m not as good with saving my money as she was, but I’ve gotten better depending on my needs at the time. But, when I hear what some others do, omg – what are these people thinking?! Some of my co-workers seem to think the world is just waiting to bend over for them. From frivolous lawsuits to manipulating everyone to returning used clothing to refusing payment at lunch, ugh.

    Anyway, everyone needs the confidence to haggle a bit. In the past few weeks, I bought an hdtv finally and only because I wanted one. I haggled with the salesmen and haggled with Directv for the HD DVR. Why pay full price for a dvr when you’ve already got your eyes on Directv’s upcoming new Tivo DVR expected next year? It’s a reasonable request.

    Chipotle’s great. I ask for extra rice every time I go. “Extra rice, please” or “Double rice, please” is typically my wording. If they charged for it, I’d still ask. They do charge for extra chicken, so I pay that charge. Also, newbie Chipotle employees are skimpy spooners sometimes. I have had to ask for a little more salsa, corn, or sour cream before, but it’s rare. In a place that makes custom dishes according to customer demands, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make your demands known! I’m surprised someone considers that rude, but I understand this lady may have gone overboard. I’m sure if Chipotle considers themselves abused, they’ll start charging for extra anything. I personally would gladly pay for extra rice, too.

  64. Trent,
    I’ve always felt embarrassed to ask anyone anything. Even asking my friends was for me. Of late, I notice whenever I ask anything, I almost always get them. I’m also letting go of my embarrassment. They are after all my friends and they’d also feel like helping me just like how I feel. Your post will positively reinforce asking more. Thank you.

  65. deRuiter says:

    This is for other women who are buying a car at a dealership. I love to haggle, and am great at it, EXCEPT in a car dealership which is still the “good old boys’ network.” I can walk into a dealership, walk around the cars, making notes, and the salesMEN (and they are all men) do not see me, I am invisible. If I buttonhole one and say I want to buy a car, he will cooperate and even make a show of haggling. I get HIS ABSOLUTE BEST POSSIBLE PRICE in writing. I leave and return with a man. The man doesn’t have to be young, he doesn’t have to be handsome, not a captain of industry, or brilliant, he must only be MALE. I let him take my paperwork to the SAME salesman who gave me his BEST PRICE and I stand by and admire my manicure. Invariably the man negotiating for me gets a better price by $500. to a thousand dollars. This OUGHT to drive me wild, but it doesn’t, it’s just a fact of life. For anyone who’s interested, a White man gets the best discount, a White woman gets the next bext price, and a Black woman gets the worst price from the same salesman, in my experience. I never consulted with Black men about this so I don’t have an opinion about where they would fit in the haggle / price / success heirarchy (sp?). Used cars from a dealer work the same way. Don’t let pride get in the way of thrift ladies, negotiate that car deal AND THEN BRING ON THE BIG GUNS (that’s how the car salesmen see it) and get an extra discount on your next vehicle. It’s found money.

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