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October 01, 2009


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Thanks for this article and the links to previous related articles. I need to practice the "is this the best you can do" skill more often.

For law school this is very common. I got a scholarship to one school but nothing from the school I wanted to go to, so I sent a letter to the school I wanted to go to and told them about the other school's scholarship. They decided to give me $7,500. Not bad for an hour worth of effort.

So this has been talked about here many times before with many people posting success stories.

I have always been skeptical of this. No one ever seems to be willing to give me a discount.

I have a recent example of exactly what almost always happens to me.

I recently purchased a ring for my wife for our anniversary at a reasonably respected jewlery (not a mall jewler). The sales clerk asks me if there was an occassion and I told her I had an anniversary coming up (so she knows that I am probably going to buy something somewhere eventually). I picked out a ring with a sapphire (september birthstone) and then told here I wanted to browse at others and think about it and of course she is telling me about how if I come back she can't guarantee me if the ring will still be there etc etc etc. Typical sales tactic. I pay no attention to that but I try to give the impression I am still thinking about it and I ask her if that is the best price they can do. The terse answer is no, we have the best price in town because of x,y,z etc, on she goes and thats the price no movement. I wanted the ring the hassle wasn't worth it to me so I paid the price and bought the ring.

2 weeks later I notice they have lowered their prices on most sapphire rings by about 5-8% (end of september sapphire sales probably winding down).

Now if its this easy to get a discount and they are willing to lower their prices only 2 weeks later (albeit probably due to some seasonal factor), why do I find no success asking for a discount 2 weeks earlier.

This is my experience every single time I have asked for a discount. I can honestly say if I ever got a discount by asking, I don't recall it.

So, do I suck at this? Do I somehow give off a vibe that says this rube will pay any price you ask? (which I won't, I have walked away from many deals because they wouldn't move on price).

What am I doing wrong or is this actually not as easy as the anecdotal stories of those who have had success with it?

And to think all I got with my New York Regents Scholarship was a measly $100 for books.

Apex --

I'm not sure if it's:

1. You and/or the way you do it

2. The places you shop/clerks you get

3. The fact that the stories you hear are the successful ones -- maybe people have to ask 10 times to get three discounts (then again, at least you should get some action this way.)

I'll post it as a "help a reader" question in a couple weeks and see what people suggest. Should be fun. :-)

This is a great story, and a good reminder to all of us that it 'never hurts to ask'.

On a different note, what struck me as I read this story is that the dad is a helicopter parent. Is he also going to argue the students marks and talk to future employers?

Even the school wanted to see some involvement from the kid: "Finally, the school official suggested that Sean himself send a request stating that it was indeed his first choice and that he'd like to attend in the fall." Duh.

This is a great example of one frugal truism - it ALWAYS pays to ask for a discount. Most of the time I get turned down, but I ask in a friendly tone and so no one losses face. What is surprising is how often people say yes!

One time I was buying a pair of new running shoes. The salesperson spent a few minutes watching how I walk and recommended some pairs to specifically help my ankles stay balanced. I found a pair I really liked and told him so. My purchase was basically a given - but I asked him what kind of promotions he was running anyway. He said he would give me 10 percent, no problem. I was shocked because I had already decided to buy them. A good negotiating tactic is to ask for a discount before you have made up your mind - the merchant can detect your ambivalence and realize s/he needs to make a deal or lose your business!

I've been readying about being able to get discounts on your insurance rates, and it turns out the agent won't tell you about the discounts you can get unless you ask about them.

This must be why students keep asking me if I can "do a little better" on their grades..! And I always tell them that if they ask again, their grades will go DOWN.

You have to talk to the decision makers like the manager. You are wasting your time with the minimum wage people.

My mother in law did the same thing. She asked for and got additional aid for my brother in law when he went to college.

I'm guessing that this kind of tactic would probably only work at a private school. I can't imagine a state school being so flexible on costs or aid.

When I was accepted to grad school, I found out it was going to cost me a boatload of money (out-of-state tuition, mainly.) I sent a simple e-mail to the head of the department, a single sentence along the lines of "I can't afford grad school without some sort of assistance." A week later I had a teaching assistant position, which came with a tuition waiver worth about $20k/year and about $1500/month salary for 15 hours/week of teaching and grading.

Net result: ten seconds of typing netted me close to a hundred grand (on under 2000 hours of teaching/grading) over three years. That's an hourly rate of $50/hour, all because I took a few seconds to ask.

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