Last weekend I was at a barbecue with my friend, Jason, who told me a good-news bad-news story regarding a deal he recently got from DirecTV for their extremely popular NFL Sunday Ticket service. For those who don’t know, NFL Sunday Ticket allows viewers to watch every out of market game for the entire football season.
Well, after having that package for several years, Jason finally decided to cancel the service because he felt it was no longer worth the $335 price tag. Much to his surprise, when he called DirecTV to cancel, they proposed knocking $60 off the price. Thinking he got a great deal, Jason quickly accepted their offer. Of course, his satisfaction was tempered somewhat, however, after hearing that a colleague haggled a little harder and, as a result, got his Sunday Ticket package for — get this — $150!
The truth is, most everything is negotiable.
Yes, haggling can be an uncomfortable process for some folks but, trust me, you can do it! The worst that can happen is you’ll be told “no.”
And if you need additional motivation, know that those who are willing to haggle often reap significant rewards — so keep that in mind the next time you’re in the market for any of these products and services:
Satellite and cable television service. It’s not just the price of premium packages like Direct TV NFL Sunday Ticket that can be reduced. Determined customers can often get equipment fees waived, and be included in special promotions they may not otherwise have been eligible for or aware of. If your cable provider has a monopoly in your town, play them against the satellite providers.
Real estate commissions. Yes, real estate agents are expensive, but internet-based FSBO services are encouraging many to accept rate reductions of a percentage point or even more. You can sweeten the offer by letting them represent you as the buyer on your next home — that way they’ll get two commissions.
Healthcare. Insurance paperwork is such a hassle, you can usually get discounts for medical services if you’re willing and able to pay cash.
Jewelry. You should never pay the sticker price on jewelry at most fine jewelry establishments, whether they’re a private jeweler or a chain store; the retail markup is typically somewhere between 100% and 300% — and sometimes more.
College tuition. Forbes suggests that you may be able to extract a discount from colleges and universities if they are attended by multiple siblings. Sounds reasonable to me.
Furniture. Markups are typically upwards of 25 percent. Don’t forget to ask for free delivery.
Musical instruments. While haggling is not generally accepted at the chain stores, mom-and-pop establishments do negotiate. One such store I used to regularly frequent typically shaved 25 to 33 percent off their sticker prices.
Gym memberships. The fact that gym contract terms will vary widely from one member to the next makes them ripe for negotiation. Gyms also realize there are plenty of cheaper ways to get fit. Shop around and be sure to play the best price off more expensive gyms. If you’re new, see if you can also get the initiation fees waived in exchange for you signing the contract.
Cruise tickets. It’s true; the closer to sailing time, the more leverage you’ll have.
Credit card rates. If your mailbox is constantly inundated with annoying credit card offers, use them to your advantage. Call your credit card company and ask if they can match the best rates being offered by their competition.
Airline vouchers. Even though airlines will often offer a measly $200 or $400 voucher to entice folks to give up their tickets for overbooked flights, on two occasions, I have successfully extracted free round-trip tickets from desperate gate agents in need of one more volunteer.
Mattresses. With the exception of Tempur-Pedic mattresses, most other brands typically come with enormous markups. And don’t be afraid to ask for extras like free delivery, old mattress disposal, pillows, bed pads and/or a metal bed frame either — especially if you’re paying cash.
Mortgages. Not only are the rates negotiable — especially for those with credit scores over 750 — but so are some of those ridiculous mortgage junk fees.
Big-ticket electronics and large appliances. Use the Internet to be fully aware of current market prices for whatever you’re interesting in buying, and then ask the manager to beat them.
Slightly marred products. Here’s one where you can haggle after you’ve already bought something. Assuming you catch it before the delivery truck leaves, furniture and appliances with small cosmetic dents or scratches present a golden opportunity to reduce the purchase price even more.
Automobiles. I know what you’re thinking: Thanks for that pearl of wisdom, Captain Obvious. The thing is, if I didn’t include this, I’d be flooded with emails wondering how I could leave cars off the list. Oh, yes.
Car tires. Comparison shop and ask the dealer to meet or beat the best price. And don’t forget to see if he’ll also include extras like tire stems, mounting, balancing, and even an extended tire warranty.
Rent. Here’s a quick tip: If you’re renewing a lease, you can get maximum leverage by opening the negotiations as far ahead of time as possible.
Lawn service. Competition ensures low prices. Here in Southern California, the competition between gardeners is fierce, so it’s relatively easy to play one against the other.
Plumbers. I have successfully negotiated lower prices with my plumber; trust me, that price book they like to pull out is not sacrosanct. For your health and safety, though, always make sure you only deal with a licensed contractor.
Income taxes. Admittedly, this isn’t always possible. But under the right set of circumstances, the IRS will agree to something called an offer-in-compromise. Especially if they think collection of the entire tax debt is unlikely.
See? Even the IRS realizes haggling has its benefits.
Photo Credit: bbaunach