When I worked in the hotel industry at the front desk we had a policy that allowed us to discount a room by up to $20 per night if we thought the guest would walk away from the hotel and go elsewhere. The truth is that I rarely had to rent a room for less than our published rates because so few people asked for a better deal. They thought the rate was the rate and didn’t ask any questions.
The lesson here is that the answer is always no unless you ask. Put yourself in the shoes of the person across from you doing the selling. He or she is trying to get the best deal for themselves or their employer so they can increase their bottom line. If you think the same way about your own bottom line, chances are you’ll meet somewhere in the middle (and save big along the way).
Want a better deal? Just ask for one
How big of a deal can you get? Well that depends on whether you’re negotiating for a higher salary or just to save a few bucks on your cable bill.
Last year I was upset when my bank increased the minimum balance needed to waive their monthly account fees so I made up my mind to move to a no-fee online bank. I emailed the account manager and asked a question about switching my mortgage payment to come out of a different bank. When he asked why I told him that I wanted to close my account and switch banks because of the minimum balance increase.
He asked if there was anything he could do to change my mind, and I said yes, if he could waive the account fee altogether. Sure enough, he changed my account plan to a ‘student plan’ designation which had no fees, no minimum balance, and unlimited transactions. I don’t know if I’ve stumbled into free banking for life, but it was certainly enough to keep my account open and make me happy.
More recently, my wife and I booked a trip to Vancouver in the fall to celebrate our anniversary. I’m a WestJet Rewards member and I noticed earlier that they had deposited a $50 credit into my account for a limited time promotion. Unfortunately the promotion had expired the day before, but I called the 1-800 number to book our flights and asked if I could still get the $50 credit. The WestJet agent said yes.
There are tonnes of examples on how to get better deals just by asking. I reached out to a bunch of Canadian personal finance bloggers looking for the best or most memorable deal they’ve ever received just by asking. The responses were quite entertaining:
Cell phone plans
Barry Choi – Money We Have
There used to be a lot of negotiating power with cell phone plans. I remember every time my contract was up I would try to negotiate something extra into my plan. I followed pretty much the same script every time threatening to leave for the competition if I didn’t get additional credits. It eventually got to a point where I was getting more credits than what I was actually paying. I knew these plans were always grandfathered so it always benefited me to negotiate as best I could.
Tom Drake – Canadian Finance Blog
One of the easiest deals I get every couple years is when my mobile phone contract is near the end of it’s term. Instead of walking into a store fore a new phone and contract, call your carrier’s retention line. A quick conversation with them, and the willingness to sign a new contract, can easily get me a great plan that’s not available publicly — plus some additional perks like caller ID or voicemail thrown in for free.
Sandi Martin – Spring Personal Finance
Oh boy, I’ve got nothing except a string of years when I made my annual call to Bell to ask them for a $10 discount that expired after 12 months. It makes me angry just thinking about it.
Alan Whitton – Canajun Finances
The best one of these (I always ask, doesn’t always work, but I ask) was when I went into TD to ask for zero dollar banking (again), and the young lady I normally dealt with said, “No, my manager has told me I can’t do that any more”.
I did my usual diligence asking again, and pointing out I could change banks, and she continued to say no, however, she then said, “However I can take 0.75% off your home line of credit if you’d like”. OK!
Further reading: The answer is always no unless you ask
Sean Cooper – Sean Cooper Writer
I got the NSF charge waived at PC Financial when I went over the limit in my chequing account. I mentioned I was a long-time customer and that Tangerine offered better overdraft protection. The customer service representative waived the $65 fee as a “one-time courtesy.”
Barry Choi – Money We Have
I’m a self-proclaimed points whore when it comes to credit card rewards. I’m always looking to signup for cards that offer a generous signup bonus while waiving the annual fee for the first year. Most credit card churners will cancel those cards before their first year is up to avoid paying the annual fee, but I have no problem keeping the card as long as I can negotiate something in return that is worth my while.
Instead of asking for the fee to be waived, I always ask for points; I find credit card providers are much more open to this strategy. They’ll usually offer a small amount first in hopes that I’ll say yes, but I always counter with a specific number which is usually 10,000 points. For the credit card I use, 10,000 points are worth more than the $120 annual fee that I have to pay. That being said, I make it quite clear that I’ll cancel the card if I don’t get the points that I’m looking for.
Dan Wesley – Our Big Fat Wallet
My most recent deal was when I called my credit card company to have my annual credit card fee waived. To do this I mentioned how other cards offer incentives for new sign ups and as a long time client there wasn’t any incentive for me to keep the card (and continue paying fees, when other comparable cards were available with no fees).
I didn’t get the entire fees waived but I did get a credit for almost the entire fee.
FrugalTrader – Million Dollar Journey
We had our eye on a decorative shelf that was a tad bit expensive but it was the one that my wife wanted. We discovered from an employee that the floor model was the last one left. As I knew that my wife wanted the piece of furniture, I asked the employee to call his manager to find out if the floor model could be sold at a reduced price.
They came back with reducing the price by 50%. Half price is pretty good, but half price for no box, no return policy and a couple dings wasn’t quite good enough. So again, I asked the question “is that the best you can do?” Again, the manager was contacted, and they gave us another 10% off.
Further reading: Saving strategy – Ask for a discount
John Robertson – Holy Potato
I’ll go way back to my first (or nearly so) case of asking for a deal.
For me, it was pumpkins. I love Halloween, and so did my girlfriend, so for a date shortly after Halloween one year, I went to the store to see what kind of discounts they had on pumpkins, so we could try carving some more Jack-o-Lanterns based on what we had seen that Halloween night. And the pumpkins were still marked at $4 each or whatever regular price was. So, despite being painfully shy at the time, I bucked up the courage to ask for a deal, and walked out of there with something like a dozen pumpkins for $5.
It was really the first time I had negotiated for something all on my own.
Kyle Prevost – Young & Thrifty
I cut my SiriusXM fee by 60%-70% every year with a single phone call. I just call and ask really nicely. I like the phrase “what do you think we can do about this today.”
It seems that when you allow people to come up with an idea themselves, and then turn down the first two offers, you usually do pretty well.
More serious deals
Marc Felgar – Greedy Rates
The best deal I got just for asking was in MBA school in the United States – going back a few years. I went to the bursary office, and asked if they has any programs for Canadian students. They offered me a non-merit based bursary, not a loan, of $17,000 for each of the two years in MBA school.
It was some wealthy Canadian alumnus who wanted more Canadians to go to the university. It was even first come first served! I was just lucky with timing and my address.
Daniel Teo – Urban Departures
From lucrative mobile retention plans, upgrades to business class and $500 off laser eye surgery, I’ve landed a fair share of deals over the years. That said, the most memorable isn’t one in the traditional sense of saving money. The best deal I’ve ever received was an increase in salary.
I’ve asked for raises a few times with the most successful request netting a significant 45% bump.
Deals on wheels
Janine Rogan – My Pennies My Thoughts
The best deal I’ve ever received was an extra $3,000 off our vehicle when we purchased it. They were offering a large rebate because the new model was coming out and my husband and I did our research and asked for more off than they were offering.
They were clearly trying to get rid of the inventory so it made it easier to get the $3,000 off in addition to the original $7,000 they were offering. The company was Go Auto and we were buying a Nissan.
Further reading: 10 fees to avoid paying
Deals on meals
Stephen Weyman – How to Save Money
My family and I went out to a nice brand new restaurant that was very with our baby daughter and were told our table would be ready “in 5 minutes” more than five times with repeated asking. After waiting about an hour and a half, they finally seated us. We would have walked out had they told us the wait would be anything longer than 20 minutes, but since they kept saying 5-10 minutes, we stayed.
I called the manager over to our table and explained what happened and how his staff was incredibly unprofessional. He offered the entire meal for free. We all had appetizers, entrées, and desserts. The bill was hundreds of dollars and we only paid the tip.
My wife wrote an article on taking advantage of bad customer service with that and a couple more stories.
Deals on Vegas, baby!
Vanessa Page – Vanessa’s Money
We had a rough time in Vegas for our wedding and I asked for a discount from WestJet and the hotel since the fact that we were getting married seemed to have slipped through the cracks between when I booked the trip and when we arrived in the worst hotel room in all of Harrah’s (seriously). I figured that my emails would get ignored but we ended up getting our resort fees refunded and a $200 WestJet credit, just for asking!
And if you don’t ask, well . . .
Desirae Odjick – Half Banked
I wish I had a better response in store for you, but I am – no joke – the world’s worst at all things deal-getting.
Seriously, I am the person at the garage sale who accepts the first price, no questions asked. I once even paid more for an item than asking, simply because they couldn’t make change for the original amount. (I mean, it was $1 versus $0.50, so it’s not like I blew a lot of money on it, but come on. My poor boyfriend hasn’t stopped shaking his head about that since.)
If anything, I’m a cautionary tale of the savings you’re missing out on if you never ask. Until work covered my cell phone bill, I was paying the posted, advertised rate with Rogers. I know. I can hear my personal-finance-street-cred being shredded as we speak, don’t worry.
Maybe it’s in our polite Canadian nature to just accept the first offer that comes our way. But we’re leaving money on the table in all kinds of different situations when we don’t ask for a better deal. One or two questions can make a major difference in your bottom line, especially when it comes to big ticket purchases like a home or vehicle, or better yet when it comes to your negotiating your salary.
Readers: What was the best (or most memorable) deal you’ve ever received just by asking? Bonus points if you can share what you actually said to get the deal.