Recently I had a revelation of sorts about negotiating and haggling. I’ve known for years that knowing how to negotiate is an important skill to have in life. For years, I paid too much for services like internet and cable because I didn’t ask for discounts. I once earned a lower salary than a co-worker doing the same job because I didn’t negotiate. Later in my work career, I negotiated and got a higher starting salary than originally advertised.
However, my attitude toward negotiating has always been a tricky one. I’m naturally introverted and female, not the best combination when it comes to negotiations. At the same time, fair play is very important to me and I hate the feeling of being taken advantage of. After a few negotiating successues, I’ve gotten more confident about negotiations. In addition to salary negotiations, my husband and I have successfully negotiated for a used car and lowered medical and vet bills, resulting in thousands of dollars saved. Yet it took me months to call up the cable company to re-negotiate our monthly bill.
My a-ha moment happened at a spa. After I paid, the receptionist gave me a discount voucher for a future visit. I knew my husband had not received this coupon even though he visited that same week. I thought about this for a moment and then asked if I could get one for my husband. Such a simple question! The receptionist hesitated a second, probably wondering if I was lying to get an extra coupon, and then gave it to me. For master negotiators, this doesn’t even qualify as negotiations but that’s the point. I realized that negotiations doesn’t only have to be about the big important stuff and it isn’t a big deal. From now on, everytime there is a savings opportunity, I’m going to remember my new motto: “Just ask!”
With this new mindset, I started tracking “Just Ask” moments:
1 ) I asked the spa receptionist for an extra discount coupon. Scored!
2 ) I called the cable company to get better rates. Failed. They stood firm and said they couldn’t offer me any better deals. I didn’t go as far as cancelling so will have to try again.
3 ) I asked a medical clinic for a discount on services. I had already asked and gotten a 5% discount back in March but I thought why not ask again? This time, I got a 20% discount. Success!
4 ) I used an internet coupon for an extra 15% off at the Puma store. This counts as success because the store was already having a 40% off everything sale and I was NOT in the mood to ask the cashier if they would accept a printed coupon. Plus, this coupon wasn’t sent to my email address; I found it on the internet and wasn’t sure if it was actually valid.
We are shopping for a fridge and a videocamera. I have to get some dental work done. Our company hasn’t given raises in two years but things are starting to look up a bit. In other words, I see many opportunities to “just ask” in the months ahead!
I toyed with the idea of doing “one year of negotiations” like some who for one year have stopped shopping, did not buy anything made in China, or did not produce any trash. Then I realized that negotiating isn’t something that is difficult to sustain beyond one year; it’s more of a lifelong shift in attitude.