Negotiating (or bargaining) is such an important part of every-day life in so many cultures. Not ours though, unless you’re at a flea market or garage sale. Sure, if we’re going to make a large purchase, many folks know how to price shop, but I’m talking about bargaining for everyday items and services. This makes a lot of people nervous because they’re scared of being rejected or embarrassed.
Having been so lucky to travel to and do business in places where such activity is commonplace (like Cairo, Turkey and many others) I’ve certainly done my fair share of bargaining in both business and the local bazaar. Plus, negotiating is part of business and if you’re in business, you find yourself negotiating every day. So, about a month ago, I thought I’d try negotiating here…in the US…for as many products and services as I could in a month as an experiment with an easy-to-track metric; save big bucks, then I would keep doing it. Frankly, I was amazed at the results.
Here is the list of things for which I negotiated in the past month.
1) Dry cleaning. Both my wife and I are professionals and the dry cleaning bill is significant. Since we know what our average weekly spend is, we guaranteed that amount to the dry cleaner in exchange for a 15% discount, plus free pick up/drop off service.
2) Lawn care. We signed a weekly (seasonal contract) with a company who cuts lawns and got a major discount on the “spring cleaning” and got the fertilizer treatment thrown in. We also promised we’d strongly consider them for snow removal, pending the quality of their summer work and he quickly offered a discount if we signed up now.
3) Hotel. I obviously stay in NYC quite a bit. Since I could guarantee 100 room-nights, I negotiated the rate for a discount and room upgrade.
4) Fence for the house. This is obviously a large purchase (and one that I’ve yet to make) but I’m finding the disparity in quotes amazing for the same exact product. Right now I’m working on getting the best rate and picking from what I think are the most reputable companies. I’m a big believer in “you get what you pay for” so the cheapest bid isn’t necessarily getting my business, but “value added items” (like throwing in an extra gate) will.
5) Persian carpet for the house. Don’t imagine some very costly, very large carpet; this was more of an area rug. This guy was good though. An Iranian carpet salesperson on Madison Avenue has to be good right? We went toe-to-toe over a two-day period (yes, I did the “that’s too rich for me” and walked out routine.) In the end, I think I got a good deal. It looks nice and it was fun to buy.
6) Shoes. I got a pair of shoe-trees thrown in. Mind you this wasn’t at a name brand store, but I was in NY and I saw a pair of shoes I liked in the window. Shoe trees retailed for $15 but likely cost them $1.73. Hey, it was something.
7) Mother’s day gift. I paid full price because love has no limits though I did get rush shipping thrown in from the vendor. Obviously, I didn’t *need* rush shipping because I’d thought of the mother’s day gift months ago, but they offered and I didn’t want to be rude and decline.
You can go too far.
There is clearly a “tipping point” when it comes to price. Negotiate too much and the service or quality of the product or service will go out the window. This holds true especially for travel. Sure, if you’re a business traveler and can guarantee 100 nights at a hotel, you’ll get a deal.
Want the best value for leisure travel? Consumers should use a travel specialist who’ll do all the negotiating for them. Travel specialists need to make sure they list all the things that are included in the price so the consumer is aware of all the “value added items” in the quote. This often includes things like transfers, domestic airfare, connecting airfare, travel insurance, etc. Plus, while you’re at it, hotels have all different types of rooms so I always encourage leisure travelers to use a travel specialist when booking a vacation because apples to apples comparisons are tough with travel. The biggest benefit of using a travel specialist is peace of mind; with a travel specialist you can be sure you’re getting a good value and that someone will be looking after all the important details of your trip.
PS. If you’re a travel agent and you think you have what it takes to be a Tripologist, visit www.tripology.com/agent to find out more about registering as a travel specialist with Tripology.