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Always Try Bargaining: Here’s How it Worked for Me

This article was written by in Consumer. 17 comments.


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. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kelly

Well done!
You were extremely patient.
Since most of my shopping is done with kids in tow, I rarely have time for in store negotiations, but I should. It would be valuable for them as well.

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avatar Neal@wealthpilgrim

I like the methodical approach you took.

I think just walking in knowing you had a system you were going to use gave you lots of strength.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

I wish I were organized to have devised this plan before entering the store. This is an observation of what I ended up doing. While i didn’t have a plan, it did seem like a natural progression. I made at least one mistake: I asked how many they had in stock while I was getting ready to leave rather than at the beginning. Although the salesperson said, when I said I was going to leave, that he knew I wouldn’t be coming back, the question about how many were in stock might have tipped him off that I’d just return at a later time if I couldn’t get the deal I wanted — I really needed that computer.

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avatar Jason

” 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. ”

No offense Flexo but 5400rpm hard drives are certainly capable of recording audio…especially podcasts. I’ve been doing multitrack recording for years including with 5400rpm drives. The Macbook Pro I’m using right at this moment does just fine as well and its got a 5400rpm drive in it.

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avatar Jim

I was going to make the same point as Jason. 5400 RPM drives are just fine for most purposes. Its not the fastest drive out there but its more than capable of audio recording. You can get bandwidth of 100MB/sec performance from a 5400 RPM drive. CD quality audio is under 200k/sec. So the drive technology is theoretically about 500 X what is needed for audio.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Well, you’re right, 5400 rpm is probably fine for most one or two-track recordings. I’ve done limited audio on my laptop with a 5400 rpm drive and haven’t had any problems. However, I’ve never met an audio professional who would recommend a 5400 rpm drive for audio recording, editing and mixing. In fact, I’ve used 5400 rpm drives (someone else’s equipment) for more complicated real-time recording and mixing and we discovered the drives won’t perform well in those situations. Reading multiple audio tracks from the drive while recording another track… that is something I would not entrust to a 5400 rpm drive. The podcast is a bit simpler, of course, but who knows what else I’ll be doing with the computer later on.

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avatar Jason

Like I said….I’ve been doing multi-track for years with Cakewalk’s products….no problems. I also bought better drives. I obviously can’t speak for whatever equipment you’ve used in the past but higher density drives with bigger caches always seemed to work for me, and I’m not even talking about SATA here. That being said….I wouldn’t choose 5400rpm over 7200 ;)

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avatar No Debt Plan

I can’t stand haggling for large periods of time… the whole “let me go check with my manager” multiple times thing would drive me nuts. I’m not against negotiating — not at all! — but I don’t want to get the run around from someone either.

I would have been more inclined to say something like “You get one shot at this” and then if it didn’t work, leave. Should cut the waiting time down quite a bit (admittedly at the risk of not getting the deal).

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avatar Financial Samurai

I agree, it never hurts to ask. We don’t have a culture of bargaining in America, which is the COMPLETE opposite of people in Asia.

Bargain away, and bargain aggressively!

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avatar kenyantykoon

have you noticed that you can do very few of these things in online stores?? just a few ways that the Internet steals our freedom and inhibits money saving. i agree with you that one should do their research before going to buy anything, particularly the electronics. a gadget salesman can smell an ignorant customer and they normally bleed then for all they can get. ignorance is expensive

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avatar Tom Dziubek

“The podcast is a bit simpler, of course, but who knows what else I’ll be doing with the computer later on.”

When are we going to start shooting videos? LOL

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avatar GeekMan

I know it’s too late for you, but if anyone else is ever reading this looking for a computer you might want to keep in mind the smaller, boutique PC makers. Places like Maingear, Falcon NW or Velocity Micro have some great options for computers, they build to order at a plethora of price points and have the best customer service you’re likely to ever receive from a computer manufacturer. As long as you can afford to wait a few days for delivery, they can usually get you EXACTLY what you want, without all the bloated extra software installed by the big vendors.

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avatar GeekMan

Sorry for the extra post, forgot to add that I don’t work for a computer company, I just make my living working with computers (graphic design). I’ve owned dozens of computers and so far the best one I’ve ever had came from a boutique vendor, and no, it didn’t cost me a boatload of money. It was less than $1,300 and I’ve been using it for over a year without a single issue. No crashes, no lockups, no extra software I didn’t want, no inexplicable driver conflicts. Nothing. It just works and, better yet, the help phone number I was given when the machine arrived goes directly to the computer technician who actually built it. That’s worth a tiny price premium to me, and I’ll bet it would be worth it to many others, as well.

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avatar Tzcttwit
avatar Tzcttwit

Mmmh….

If you earn around $50 or $60 per hour I really question if bargaining for such amount of time for such a small amount of money is cost efficient.

I would bargain fro no more than 10 minutes and get an small discount which once the value of your time is considered, would feel like time well spent.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Even if you earn $100 per hour at your job, you’re not earning that money for every hour you live. Most likely, you’re doing your negotiating when you otherwise wouldn’t be earning money. I think your analysis is good if you are facing a choice between either (a) working for an hour and earning money or (b) negotiating for an hour and saving money, but that is rarely the case. In addition, even if you want to do a straight comparison like that, you should take the tax consequences into consideration. Saving $80 in one hour might be better for your bottom line than earning $100 in one hour. In other words, even if you earn $100 an hour at your job, your down time is not also worth $100 an hour.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,485 (Platinum)

Even if you earn $100 per hour at your job, you're not earning that money for every hour you live. Most likely, you're doing your negotiating when you otherwise wouldn't be earning money. I think your analysis is good if you are facing a choice between either (a) working for an hour and earning money or (b) negotiating for an hour and saving money, but that is rarely the case. In addition, even if you want to do a straight comparison like that, you should take the tax consequences into consideration. Saving $80 in one hour might be better for your bottom line than earning $100 in one hour. In other words, even if you earn $100 an hour at your job, your down time is not also worth $100 an hour.

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