I come from a family of proud non-negotiators. My parents, who avoid confrontation at any cost, have paid the sticker price on every tourist souvenir, flea market find, car, and, yes, house, that they’ve ever purchased. I spent years following their example, feeling obliged to pay full price for everything — even when I was obviously getting ripped off — out of a misguided sense of politeness.
But I’ve since learned that with few exceptions, sellers welcome negotiations with their customers. Most retailers would rather sell you an item at a discount than lose the sale altogether. Just about everything is negotiable — including computers, Wi-Fi service, jewelry and apparel, medical bills and even your rent! When you’re ready to start paying less for the things you buy, here are some tricks to help you negotiate deals.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE FOR ELECTRONICS
In a recent survey of electronics retailers, Consumer Reports found that 59 percent of in-store shoppers who negotiated for laptops, TVs or other electronics found success. The survey found that the overall most effective bargaining tactic was to tell your salesperson you intend to “shop around” for lower prices — and be ready to walk away. Experts also recommend coming to the store armed with competitors’ prices to beat; asking for floor-model discounts; haggling in the less-busy morning or evening hours; and offering to pay cash to save the merchant a credit card transaction fee.
Even online (yes, you can haggle online), 69 percent of hagglers from the survey struck bargains. Use the “chat” function to negotiate, or try leaving the item in your shopping cart for a few hours. If a store representative reaches out to see if you have “any questions,” that’s your opening to ask for a better price.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE YOUR WI-FI AND CELLPHONE BILLS
When it comes to negotiating your Wi-Fi or cell phone bill, expert negotiator and “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” author Ramit Sethi gives this crucial advice: Do your research. Break down exactly what you’re currently paying, and find cheaper plans on a comparison site like WhistleOut. Armed with that information, call your provider and explain to the representative that times are tough for you, and you’d like to be paying less. The rep should try to work with you — after all, it costs their company less to keep you than to acquire a new customer. If the representative balks, explain that you could be saving X amount with their competitor, but you’re a loyal customer, and you’ll stay for that better deal. If they still balk, ask for the cancellation department. That should do the trick!
HOW TO NEGOTIATE FOR JEWELRY AND APPAREL
My husband, Ted, is one of the politest people you’ll ever meet — he’s also one of the best bargainers I know. The first time I saw this in action was at an upscale jewelry boutique in Barcelona, Spain. I’d fallen in love with a ring that was selling for the price of our entire meal budget for the week, but Ted was determined to buy it for me — for less. He played the long game, returning to the store several times during our visit to establish a connection with the owner. The fourth time he went back to moon over the ring, the owner put him out of his misery, offering a 25 percent discount.
Another tactic Ted has used with success: Ask about coupons or upcoming sales. If a sale is on the horizon, some stores will pre-sell your desired item at the sale price — though you may have to return to pick it up on the sale date.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE MEDICAL BILLS
Medical Billing Advocates of America, a healthcare industry watchdog group, encourages all consumers to pre-negotiate their medical costs. The first step, say it with me: Research! Healthcare Blue Book is your go-to resource for finding the going rate for any medical procedure. Once you know the fair price, contact your care provider’s billing department and ask for a written breakdown of what they’ll ask you to pay. If it’s higher than the Blue Book rate, negotiate! And remember, get it all in writing. MBAA also advises:
• If you are insured, make sure that you will be seen by doctors in your network.
• If you’re being seen at a hospital, find out if your doctor also works at an outpatient facility. If so, being treated there could mean a significant cost reduction.
• If you are experiencing financial hardship, let your doctor know in advance. He or she may be able to work with you to keep your costs down.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE YOUR RENT
So, you’ve found your dream apartment, and in your mind, you’re already hanging the curtains. But you can’t quite afford it. Are you going to walk away that easily? Heck, no. Yet again, Ramit Sethi repeats his favorite advice: Research first! Find examples online of similar places going for less. Then bring your potential landlord those examples, and ask for the appropriate reduction in exchange for a concession on your end. Your landlord may be willing to lower your rent if you prepay in advance, sign an extended lease, give up your parking space or offer to make referrals if they have other units for rent.