It never hurts to ask

I saved 12 cents today off my grocery bill! And all because I asked if I could.

That’s a good lesson for me to remember. When asked, many people are willing to help you out. In my experience, it happens more often than not. All I have to do is get over my embarassment at asking.

Where does that embarassment come from? I have no idea. But it’s there all the same!

What sorts of things do I ask for? Well, the 12 cents today happened because I forgot my reusable grocery bags in the car. At my store, each reusable bag you bring and use (instead of a store-provided bag) discounts your bill by 6 cents. I didn’t remember the reusable bags until my stuff was on the conveyor belt to be checked out. So I asked the cashier – Can I be credited the money for bringing my own reusable bags if I just don’t use your bags? She thought for a moment and said “Sure, it sounds like the same point to me.” And of course it was. As long as I don’t use the store bags, it shouldn’t matter to them whether I use my own or whether I use none. So she credited me for two bags and I used none. I put the groceries straight into my cart and took them out to the car, and loaded them into the reusable bags there. Twelve cents saved.

One thing I have less trouble with is asking if they offer a cash discount. This works well with service industries, like car repairs. I hear the total bill amount, and ask if they give a cash discount. Most places do, because if I give them cash, they don’t have to take a check to the bank and they don’t have to pay service fees on credit cards. So they’re often willing to give at least a 5% discount. Plus, with checks there is always the concern that the person might not be able to cover the amount. And with credit cards the concern that the customer will later dispute the charge.

Of course this works best if the person you are speaking with is allowed to make those kinds of deals. Owners, for instance. It’s yet another reason to deal with small mom-and-pop type stores rather than large chains. Yes, WalMart in some areas offers car repairs, and offers them cheaper than the one-man store down the street. But the one-man store down the street is where the owner greets you when you walk in, works on your car, tallies your bill, AND gives you the cash discount which means his final bill is cheaper than WalMart’s.  I saved $20 off a $400 car repair bill last time I took my car in. And I saved $15 off a $115 gas fireplace repair bill just a few weeks ago. It never hurts to ask.

Discounted merchandise is possible, too. I love asking if the store would sell me the floor model of whatever it is I’m looking at. A dishwasher, a treadmill, etc. One can often get 10% or more off the asking price just for taking one that is already out of the box. That discount can be even better if the floor model has something cosmetic wrong with it. A dishwasher might have a paint scratch on the side – it would be invisible once installed, but can be an extra 10% to 20% off the price. I once got 25% off a treadmill. It was the floor model, it had some wear and tear, it had some advertising stickers on it. As the title of the post says, it never hurts to ask.

Sometimes I just have to get over myself. My nervousness, my embarassment. So what if they think I’m a penny-pincher – I am! I don’t want to conform to the societal norm of just paying what’s on the sticker or the bill just because it’s typically done. Asking for a lower price doesn’t hurt, especially because most of the time the answer is “yes”.

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