The worst they can say is "no"

Yesterday, I was in a craft supply store where I swear that I was the only person who didn't have a coupon. Instead of brooding about it, I asked the cashier if I could also get a discount. Putting aside my embarrassment (and fear of the word “no”) saved me an unexpected and much appreciated $9.

Bottom line is that it pays to brush up on your bargaining skills. Here are a few basic bargaining rules:

-Do your homework first and know what the item or service is worth.
-Always talk to someone with authority.
-Be polite and do not discount the value of what you want.
-Offer to pay in cash.
-Be prepared to walk away.

It also helps to realize that you can bargain for more than price. For example, next time you rent a hotel room, try asking for an upgrade. Here is some further advice on how to get the best deal possible at various locations.

Garage and estate sales. Whether they are selling a car or an old watch, people tend to attach emotional value to their asking price. Since you do not have a sentimental attachment, there is no reason to pay more. Offer what you are willing to pay in a nice, but firm, manner.

Grocery stores. If a food item’s expiration date is nearing, ask for a price reduction. The same goes for other items that have an expiration date, such as film or batteries. The price of ripe fruit and vegetables may also up for negotiation.

Retail stores. Prices are not always negotiable in a retail shop; however, if you find a similar item on sale (at any store), the store manager should be willing to match the price. Buying in quantity might also qualify you for a 10 percent discount at many stores. Any time an item is damaged or dirty, ask for a reduced price. If you are over age 55, always inquire about a senior discount.

Finally, don’t forget to bargain with your service providers. Plumbers, babysitters, and even doctors may be willing to work with you. Always get multiple bids for any service project. Then, choose the provider that you most want to work with and ask them to meet the best price you were quoted. Be honest about your desire to work with them—for the right price.

For more advice, check out And feel free to share bargaining success stories through the comments section.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

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