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Since Failing Upward is the umbrella under which my set of personal philosophies exist I wanted to share one of the actions I take to give me a financial edge over the majority of consumers and money spenders and savers out there. I may take the long way around to make the connection, but bear with with me.I will show how asking for the discount is similar to giving yourself a ten percent or more raise. More importantly I will lay out the case why you should do it even if I do an awful job of making the connection with my click-baiting title. Don’t hate. You know you’re intrigued…

Let’s get it out of the way. Just ask for the discount.

“What discount?” you may ask. Any discount, I will respond promptly.

What are some of the reasons people currently do not ask for the discount regularly or at all?:

1. They are embarrassed. Embarrassment is a legitimate fear, albeit a dumb one. Yeah I said it. What is embarrassment aside from a social leash we apply to ourselves to prevent feeling dumb, looking dumb? How dumb do I look spending ten to twenty percent less than every other person in the restaurant or retail store who were afraid to ask?

2. The salesperson or clerk will say no. They might. So what? What did I lose for asking? I lost a sentence and some breath. I still have the goods and they still have my money. They just have slightly more than I anticipate spending. I get yes as a response three to five times as often as I get a no.

3. The clerk or salesperson already said no. This is the secret to math and formula. Very often I get no as a first response. Later in this article I will discuss what a good ask looks like versus a bad one, but do not stop at one “no”. Sometimes even two “no”s doesn’t even mean you will not get your discount. How badly do you want your discount? How badly does the business or proprietor want your sale? The confirmation sometimes can be a negotiation even though the amount of the discount should never be. A car dealership may have a negotiation-free pricing structure. The salesman may grab the sales manager/closer to reiterate the same policy. On the right day when the stars align and Mike is hungry for that next tier bonus and the dealership is about to hit their quantity spiff you just may see thousand(s) come off that no-negotiation sticker price.

4. They do not know how much to ask for. Don’t worry about how much. Getting a discount is not the same as negotiating a price. Negotiating a price is setting a value for goods for purchase below the asking price. It is trying to get to a specific number. This is important for large purchases like cars, houses, boats, and mail-order brides, but not for everyday purchases. I would like to cover the art of negotiation in a future Failing Upward article {1}, but when it comes to the “hook-up” you cannot go into it with expectations more than just getting a discount. Having expectations can cancel out any goodwill built up until this point. Don’t expect reciprocation to ever come exactly as you envision it. all too often you will disappoint yourself.

5. They forgot. This is the only legitimate reason I will accept. One cannot argue with the truth for long.

All the above are legitimate excuses to not ask for a discount. With the exception for number five they are all just us getting in our own way. It happens similarly when we interact with friends, family, and coworkers all the time. You create internal dialogue that someone has a negative response to something we did or said. Oftentimes it was really nothing or something very forgivable and we create a five alarm blaze in our own heads. I see women struggle with this much more than men. Women can hold grudges against their closest oldest friends over insignificant differences of opinion or things said in passing. The grudges can last years, decades, and unfortunately lifetimes. Inversely guys will just punch each other or cuss each other out and then get together later to have dinner or a beer. They’ll probably even have a laugh about it.

I digress. Just get out of your own way and ask for the damn discount. Stop living in fear of some unrealistic retribution or punishment. I solemnly promise you will not go to hell for asking the ten dollar per hour restaurant cash register attendant for a discount. More often than not they really do not care that much either way and have a button on that cash register to give you your AARP, AAA, USAA, NRA, or NAACP discount. How you approach the ask is the primary contributing factor to successful acquisition of your desired dollars off the bill.

I would like to share three recent stories of how I’ve tested out my ask for the discount mentality.

I was at Mad Greens in Boulder after a long day at work. I was picking up dinner for three. I ordered my salads and I used my charming smile and banter with the girl who took my order and the guys preparing my three salads on the prep line. I got down to the register and asked the clerk for the mall employee discount they’ve given me here since they’ve opened in 2010 or so. The clerk looked up and hesitated for a second and then the supervisor on duty chimed in from overhearing the question and asked where I worked. I replied honestly that I worked at a business just caddie-corner from the shopping center. The supervisor replied that that wasn’t in the shopping center and that they were doing away with that discount anyway.

Instead of following my usual tenets of adding value and making things positive I responded by saying that I would respond in kind when he asked me for the same courtesy at my work. He said he would go somewhere else. I said the same of his business. The employees all looked at us/me awkwardly. I paid and left.

The salads were good, but I reflected on the interaction. Even though the supervisor of the salad shop was kind of a dick I created the situation and then responded below the neutral emotional baseline. I’ve been working hard on doing exactly the opposite, but I am a “9” trying to become a “10”. I was not feeling very good about how much of a dick I was in the end.

Inversely a recent successful instance I had was at a doughnut shop near my home called Lamar’s Donuts. They make donuts that are the food equivalent of solid gold. If you have a Lamar’s near you and you haven’t been there yet, go immediately. Just push quickly back away from your desk and b-line it over. They will make you smile with the most delicious fried donuts you’ve ever tasted. No exaggeration. I recommend trying the ANYTHING.

Again I digress. I was channeling my inner Homer Simpson. I went into Lamar’s to buy donuts for my daughter’s elementary school staff and to bring a half dozen home to the family. I was promptly greeted by the manager on duty and I stepped off to the side of the counter to have a brief conversation.

This is a key. If you ask for the discount like an asshole in front of a bunch of customers you force them to deal with the “he got a discount I should get one” mentality or worse yet I will create an indefinite sale on donuts. I just want a deal. I do not want to put my favorite doughnut haunt out of business. I explained to the young lady that I wanted to bring donuts to staff and administrators at my daughters school, but I wanted to know if there was a deal on four or five dozen. She responded politely that there was not.

I was not to be deterred. I knew a half mile up the road there was another donut shop that sold eight dollar dozens and Lamar’s dozens sell for $11.99. Ouch! I explained to the supervisor that the other doughnut shop had this rate and I did not expect her to match it, but I asked her to see what she could do. She smiled and said she could give me the senior citizen’s ten percent discount. I thanked her and honestly told her that she was going to make a lot of people smile that day. I got four dozen of the world’s best donuts for forty bucks. I tipped the difference of the discount as I think should be standard karmatically for my brazen behavior.

We both put a ton of smiles on teachers’ and secretaries’ and lunch room aids’ faces that day. My little girl even got a huge euphoria from being able to bring in the donuts and present them to her beloved staff herself.

In summation if by regularly asking for the discount results in an average of ten or fifteen or twenty percent or more in savings plus tax. It is the same as having an extra ten, fifteen or twenty percent plus tax in your bank account or coffee cans you have buried in the back yard.

Ten or twenty percent on average less spent is the same as giving yourself a raise or lowering your cost of living, so just ask for the discount.

One last time: ask for the discount.

It is not coming out of the clerks’ pockets. Even if they are a commission payed salesperson or the owner of the business providing a good value and customer experience will create lifetime customers out of anyone. A lifetime customer has exponentially more value than a one time sale. The lifetime customer has infinitely more value when considering the effect positive word of mouth has in the modern connected world. Things like social media, Yelp, and Failing Upward, the awesome, yet unknown online blog, are just the tip of the iceberg.

I want to end with one final story that sums up asking for the discount and some of the other concepts I’ve put forth on previous posts.

Recently my wife purchased a cabinet that she thought would help solve our lack of storage in our downstairs bathroom. She purchased it from American Furniture Warehouse, a local large furniture business here in the Denver metro area. They are a no negotiation sales model business. We have purchased countless pieces from them over the years. I have even stopped trying to ask for the discount here. Once in a long while I will find one of these types of business that really test my discount savvy philosophy.

My wife thinks I’m ridiculous about asking for the discount anyway. I think she’s ridiculous for spending more money on the same items. I will not change her mind on confidently and charmingly asking for a discount. Regardless she bought this cute (her words) cabinet for full price (my words) and it was too large for the space.

She tried to talk me into keeping the cabinet, but I am already in the reducing clutter zone in my life. I would rather have my money than an extra furniture item I do not need or want. After discussing returning the chest to the AFW my wife informed me that they had a fifteen percent restocking fee. I told her I would rather have the eighty five dollars than the cabinet we did not need. I told her I would return the cabinet and Ask for the Discount on the restocking fee.

After my current reflections on the Mad Greens visit I was determined to not be mad if they said no and just accept my fate. It is possible that my ask for the discount lifestyle had met its match with AFW.

A following weekend my wife and I put the unused chest back in the box and grabbed the receipt and headed up the street to the furniture store. I explained what I was going to do to my mostly disinterested wife. The plan was this: I would bring in the box, smile genuinely, if not slightly stupidly (most likely her words), and I would banter a bit. If they showed the return to be less than the purchase amount I would ask for the discount on the restock fee.

It played out slightly differently than I had envisioned when I arrived at the cashier. I executed my game plan flawlessly while my wife waited patiently while watching the interaction out of one eye. After the smile, banter, and receipt hand-off the girl just refunded the full amount. The universe had given me the discount and at American Furniture Warehouse of all places.

So get out there folks and get your thirty-six year old senior citizen discount. Give yourself that raise without stepping foot into your boss’s office. Decrease your cost of living. Just remember all you have to do is ask…

Tonight I’d love to say congratulations to my awesome niece, Layla Castillo-Laraque-Two Elk. She graduated from high school with an above 3.7 GPA and will be attending university in the fall. Layla, I love you. Don’t just become a drone like so many others in your position. Dream big and never settle. And march into the bursar’s office and ask them about that discount!

{1} Currently there are many resources available to improve negotiation skills. I recommend checking out the Art of Charm’s podcast library for that info as well as tons of other awesome tips in just being generally more awesome.


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