I recently read an article in the New York Times about taking a time out and reassessing where individuals could save some money. Although the article was interesting I probably would not have acted except that I was up for a challenge on this particular day.
It occurred to me that, as a salesman, I interact with customers every single day and am always negotiating one way or another. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to put these skills to use and see what I could do about lowering my various monthly payments and I have to tell you it has turned into full blown FUN!
Perhaps the first challenge is breaking down mental barriers we have that companies do not negotiate and that the price is the price. Sometimes this is the case, but we are currently in a buyers market and businesses want to keep customers. Each business is different in their approach but salespeople such as myself realize that there is always leeway if I can just get someone on the phone and break free from the automated labyrinth.
Secondly, we have to learn to hate the word “Retail Price.” Businesses are in the business of gaining as much money from their customers as possible. I tell you that negotiating can be absolutely exhilarating with enough practice that it almost becomes an obsession. I personally cannot wait to examine all my bills and get their customer service representatives on the phone.
“Retail Price,” is the highest possible price the business wants to charge you. The benefit to this is you just go in and buy without having to do any negotiation. You have to put forth no effort and the business just made a 50-70% profit off you, everyone is happy. But for those looking to get a good deal and feel good about getting a good deal then “retail price” is something you should never ever pay for re-occurring payments or big ticket items.
There are two important things to keep in mind when you start to negotiate:
1. You can do without the item or service. Be prepared to say “No Deal,” and walk away. This is not too difficult as there are always alternate products/services/competitors.
2. You should like people. The people on the other end of the line are just doing their monotonous jobs and most likely just want to go home. They personally do not really care weather they save money for their company or not (customer service reps) but do realize they are graded on customer satisfaction, resolving the customer issue and how much discount they give away. You be nice to them and have a good reason for them to be nice to you and magic happens.
Tips under this point:
– Write down their name as soon as they say it and call them by their name. This humanizes the situation.
– As these are regular human beings the best way to fail is to be angry and yell at the service representative. This is unpleasant for both you and them and to use a common adage “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” My advice is to be a little chatty and instead of saying “I want to lower my bill because you are too expensive,” you say “Well Rebecca, I have a bill coming up and geeze these high prices are starting to break the bank a little. So even though I really like you guys,, even have your Iphone app installed and love your commercials, I’m starting to look around a little to see if I can’t get some relief from a competitor but man, I really want to stay with you guys if at all possible.”
– Come prepared with prices from the competitors. They will most likely ask and find one that is cheaper even if you believe the service to be inferior.
So, on to the meat of this post and how I got these people to lower my bill:
– The people working here are usually teenagers and are on commission. They want to make the sale. Some are more “on the ball” than others so if one is not playing the game just go to another store. Make sure you are at an official AT&T location and not a reseller because AT&T can make pricing decisions, resellers cannot.
– Tell the salesperson that you receive a 15 percent discount from a competitor even if you do not. They have no idea what the competition does or what deals they have in place. AT&T has discounts available for most big companies and even if your company is not on the list you can often find a sales person to work with you (I did). I worked for an airline that did not have a contract but after telling the salesperson I got a 15% discount from Verizon they beat it with a 20% discount. They were able to do so because the salesperson wanted to make a sale and was willing to “play ball.” I asked him if there were any discounts for the city or state government which there was. I told him that Airlines have to deal with governments for permits and other security matters so I should be covered under this discount. He agreed and I got a 20% discount from AT&T.
There are no discount police at the big companies looking to trim normal customers from their discount codes. All the salespeople ask to see is a business card and the teenager simply applies a discount code and there you go.
– Comcast was charging me the outrageous price of $76 per month for high speed cable internet and basic cable service. This was rather high and there are plenty of competitors. Further, I don’t care about TV because with high speed internet I can watch all my shows through the net anyway. Boxee, Netflix, ABC.com and all the other networks often put their stuff online and this will only increase not decrease so no worries. With Boxee I can even use my Iphone as a remote control and watch my shows on demand.
But back to getting the price down, I called them and told them I was looking to “downgrade.” They asked me why and I told them that even though I really like their service this price was too high and there are plenty of other customers which offer a much cheaper service and I could even just use free WiFi to eliminate the cost entirely. However, I did not tell them I do not want to use WiFi because it can be spotty and slow and nothing beats cable.
They asked me which competitors I was talking about and the prices I was offered. I did a quick search and found numerous other companies (AT&T, Webpass, Free Wifi) and showed them how the other prices would drastically reduce my cost. She told me that those services would not be able to offer the outstanding cable services Comcast does. I told her I don’t even watch TV and would just like the internet service. Even if I did want to watch TV I could do it through the internet.
She concurred and my price was lowered to $56. This conversation is most likely in their database but I have an itch to try again and see if I can get it even lower. I will wait a while and see what Google is going to do with their super high speed service and if SF will have it anytime soon. I will also do a check to see if I really do want to switch to another provider because then the onus will be on them to keep me because I really do want to switch so the more pressure the better.
– In San Francisco I was paying $580 every six months for car insurance. This got on my nerves because I do not even drive that often. Therefore, the slim chances of me being in an accident do not justify this price every six months.
I started the conversation about how much I love Geico, that little lizard, Warren Buffet and their commercials. I then told “Mary,” that this price was just a bit too high and even though I really wanted to stay with Geico I felt really pressured to look around but wanted to see what they could do for me first. I also added pressure by saying if I was forced to look around I was just going to buy the first insurance that was cheaper but wanted to talk with them first.
I pointed out my flawless driving record, absence of claims and the fact that I rarely drive. I told her I understood that SF is a high risk city but that my car was parked at the Hilton Hotel which has private security. Therefore, if I am not driving that often, my car is under surveillance and I have a perfect driving record I’m going to need to bring that premium down.
She agreed and I got about $100 wacked off my bill. I checked Esurance just for good measure and they were a whopping $840. I called them but no dice and the rep told me I had a really good rate with Geico. So I ended the search, was satisfied with Geico and purchased the policy.
To close just a couple of pointers to help save money
1. Use technology
– The Iphone for me does wonders. I use Priceline to “shakedown” hotels when I now go on vacation. The drawback is no guarantees and I wouldn’t do it if hotels didn’t have a ton of occupancy. The good news is hotels have all kinds of rooms available, so again, buyers market but the buyer has to be flexible.
– I also use coupons from the coupon apps. These still have a long way to go but I save a few dollars here and there.
2. Be kind to salespeople. They just want to get through the day and are more likely to help you if they like you.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts directly. “Are any discounts available?” Some people are afraid to do this and do not want to seem cheap. For me, I’m in the business world everyday and the word that is used for people who cannot cut a deal is a sucker. Business people are addicted to cutting deals so if you are not a business person just pretend and that should help with the stigma of “seeming cheap.”
4. Know what type of business you are dealing with. Wallmart people cannot lower the price for you but have coupons which can. AT&T salespeople can lower the price but you need the magic password which is “Corporate Discount.” Further, if they ding you with some charge for doing something or not doing something these can be erased with a friendly call to customer service. I was once dinged $150 for going over my minutes but was able to chat my way out of it and make it disappear.
That’s all I’ve got for now but have the drive to dig into all my bills and will post updates when I’m successful with the other companies.