Tom Dziubek, the producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, and I have been having some difficulties with the Acer Aspire desktop I purchased earlier this year. I believe the problem can be fixed, but it will take some time. The problems have unfortunately affected our recording and interview schedule, so when an interview on Friday was cut short due to yet another glitch and more interviews were scheduled for today that were already postponed due to technical difficulties, I wanted to resolve the problem this weekend.
At this moment, it is somewhat difficult to get a powerful desktop computer on short notice. Retail stores are gearing up for the release of Windows 7 and manufacturers aren’t providing the stores with much. The belief here is that consumers would rather wait for Windows 7 to be installed at the factory rather than buy a computer whose operating system will be out of date within weeks, even if it includes a free upgrade.
I spotted one major regional chain electronics store that not only had something better than eMachines, it had the exact desktop model that I probably would have purchased online, with a few modifications, if I had more time. Most of the computer’s specifications were excellent, but the only drawbacks were a 5400 rpm hard drive — too slow for audio recording — and an integrated graphics chip. The graphics chip was probably fine for what we needed but I prefer discrete graphics.
The salesperson and I spoke for a long time, and I eventually got a discount on the purchase — a larger discount than I asked for. Here is how I won this battle of money.
1. I was very knowledgeable about what I wanted. I have been researching the best desktops currently on the model for the past few weeks, ever since the first sign of problems with the Acer Aspire, even though I believed and still believe the problem can be fixed. I knew exactly what I wanted and the price range I wanted to pay for the features I wanted.
The salesperson knew I was knowledgeable because I discussed the system in detail with him and explained my other options. I could tell he wasn’t as technically inclined as I am so I didn’t try to show off; I kept the conversation on his level but I was able to express that I had done my research.
2. I pointed out the flaws. It is true this machine had the two drawbacks I mentioned above. I made sure the salesperson was aware of my observation that these factors were detrimental to my choice and might hold me back from buying.
3. I asked for a discount. On the basis of the machine not matching my expectations exactly, and knowing that a 10% discount is common in retail electronics, I asked for 15% off. The salesperson explained that they cannot offer discounts on computer systems, but they could offer me a rebate if I purchased a printer or possibly some other accessories. I considered this; I didn’t need a printer, but if I could get a good discount on a replacement hard drive or graphics card, I might take that option.
The particular store I visited does not sell these types of computer components, so I wasn’t going to find something I needed. The salesperson did work very hard as we thought about different options that might satisfy me.
4. I was patient. When we couldn’t find a good route for a discount other than, in my mind, the computer itself, the salesperson went back to his manager. Still, the word was that they could not and would not offer a discount off the price of the desktop. We looked online, the salesperson on the store computer and me on my BlackBerry, to try to find other stores offering the system for less.
The store’s system of price matching is designed to wear the customer down. The salesperson has sixteen competitors’ websites bookmarked in Internet Explorer, and the process calls for searching for the product on each website in order to find a store with the product in stock and for sale at a lower price.
As I mentioned above, this is a very bad time for buying a computer with stores keeping not much in stock, so I knew this search would be fruitless.
On my BlackBerry, I did find a better price on NewEgg.com, but as expected, the store would not match an online-only price. The price at NewEgg was $30 better than the price in the store, which would have been a discount of less than 5%.
5. I made my final offer. After about thirty minutes in the store, we still weren’t going anywhere. The sales manager wasn’t ready to budge, and I wasn’t going to pay full price yet, even though I knew I needed a new computer by the end of the weekend. I didn’t let the salesperson know that I needed the computer immediately. In his mind, I could just buy the computer online. I told the salesperson that unless they can give me $30 off, that is exactly what I would do.
6. And then I walked out the door. But I didn’t get very far. As I was walking towards the door, I could see the salesperson and the manager in a frantic discussion, and as I stepped outside, I was called back into the store. There were going to make a deal on the desktop.
Patience still played a key role. I waited for what was probably another twenty minutes as the salesperson was in the back of the store, bringing the computer out. There were obviously some more problems because he came out twice without a computer and spoke to the sales manager.
Eventually the salesperson brought out the computer. The box had been opened, but the machine had never been used. It was not a display model or a customer return; the box had been opened because another customer’s keyboard was defective. They took the working keyboard from this computer and gave it to that customer, so mine was without a keyboard. They gave me the working keyboard from the display model and knocked $80 off the price.
That was more than my final offer, so I accepted. My discount in total was more than 10%. I spent more time in the store than I had originally planned but I got what I wanted for a price that was better than I thought I could have received. Even considering the replacement hard drive and the graphics card I purchased later, I talked my way into a great deal.
In the end, I got what I wanted, and so did the salesperson. Everyone wins.
I am not a very persuasive or aggressive person, so it’s a bit against my nature to work so hard just to save $85.59 including tax. I definitely think it was worthwhile. I always suggest at least trying to bargain, even when faced with resistance.
Published or updated October 12, 2009.