Not everyone is comfortable with asking for a better deal or for a lower rate. Or for a fee or penalty to be waived. It's a process known as bargaining or "haggling," and for many, it's a lot easier to do that online rather than face-to-face in a store. It feels safer. And it's a great place to practice your skills.
Here's a simple way to give online haggling a try:
Once you've logged in and put something in your shopping cart, find a place on the site to chat with a live agent. Then kindly ask for a coupon code or discount.
Say that you really like the item in your shopping cart but hope he or she can do something to help you out on the price. I can't tell you how many times I've done this, only to be rewarded with a code I wasn't aware of or a personal discount of at least 10%.
Here are useful ways to get a better deal on anything:
HAVE A SCRIPT HANDY
Know what you want, how you will ask for it and how you will respond. Write out your opener so you can relax and get right to the point, courteously.
If you're asking about an overdraft fee you've asked the bank to waive, without success, you could say something like, "I've been a customer since 2008, and I'd hate to leave because of a $20 fee." Right there, you have a 70% chance of getting it waived.
SPEAK TO SOMEONE WITH AUTHORITY
It's pointless to negotiate with someone who doesn't have the authority to cut you a deal. That's why you want to go higher up on the corporate ladder to a supervisor or manager when asking for a discount. That may or may not be the first person you contact. Even Walmart salesclerks are authorized to give on-the-spot discounts up to 10%, especially if an item is scratched, missing a button or in some other way damaged. These days, competition is keen, and retailers want your business.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Asking for a deal is great, but if you have some ammunition to back you up, even better. Know the market; know your prices. Be ready with the facts of an offer you've heard this company offering on the radio or perhaps you've received already.
SiriusXM internet radio is notorious for offering the public super deals, like $5 a month. But they expect you to renew your service at full price? Tell the rep you'd love to get the deal they're offering your friends and neighbors. Then stick to your guns.
Know what alternatives are out there for their product or service. The more choice you have, the more likely you can get a break on the price.
Typically, store managers have authority to give discounts of 10% to 15% on large purchases to keep a customer from walking out of the store. They know that once you leave, the chances that you will come back are slim.
BE READY TO WALK AWAY
Here's the secret of successful haggling: He who's most willing to walk away from the deal has all the power -- that is, the person who is least motivated. If you absolutely have to buy something, the seller (retailer) has all the power. If you don't, then you have the power.
The simple act of calmly and slowly closing (never slamming) a notebook, laptop, briefcase or purse -- or standing up as if you are leaving -- is one of the most powerful tools a negotiator has. Without saying a word, by allowing your body language to speak for you, you allow the other party to fear that you may not continue.
It's super easy to walk away from an online haggling session. Just make sure you have logged into that site before you started the chat. That way, you can leave, but they have your contact information. They can see you left something in your shopping cart, and they know how to contact you.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."