What’s My Price?

My brother works on the sales floor of a local carpet store. The other day he told me about this potential customer who came in, selected what he wanted, and gave the measurements of his rooms. My brother looked up the price of the carpet and gave him a quote. The man smiled and said “Okay, but what’s my price?” This gentleman was well aware of a crucial but underused aspect of commerce, negotiation. 

A good buddy of mine named Tony is a great negotiator. I’ve seen him in action, he haggles over everything from new car deals to cable bills. If a better price can be found Tony gets it. At first I thought we was crazy to spend his time butting heads with a customer service reps, but I realized that a few bucks a month here and there adds up to hundred by the end of the year. Like clipping coupons, negotiating a better deal for yourself is a great way to save money. Every time you pay a bill you are making a choice. You are choosing who your money goes to. The companies that you have decided to do business are trying to maximize profits, they want more, more of your cash. What they don’t want is you switching over to one of their competitors. Here in lies your power, don’t for get it. A great salesmen once said “I would rather have some of less then all of nothing.” Your goal is to give them less.The best candidates for negotiation are those bills that you pay on a reoccurring basis.

  1. Fuel Oil- Every year, regardless of the cost of the price of a barrel of oil, the price of home heating oil goes up. Logical questions like “Last year oil was 100 dollars a barrel and this year it’s only 70, why aren’t your prices lower?” Will always be met with illogical or flimsy replies. You best weapon is too shop around. In my area I know of at least five large heating oil companies. Make some calls and get some quotes. You should also dig into the reputation of these companies, do they have good online reviews? What is their BBB rating? Once you have your information you can call your current provider and ask them to beat the price of their competitors or you will close your account. No one wants to lose a sale, especially not in this economy. If you spend 2000 dollars a year on your heating cost and you can negotiate it down 10 percent that’s 200 buck in your pocket!
  2. Landline Phone Bill/ Cable Bill – This is another area that depnds greatly on your region. Some places have a dozen cable and phone companies, while others have one or two. Again you need to look around and see what type of promotional deals are being offered. You should also consider bundling your phone internet and cable bill. Perhaps you should weigh the option of dropping your landline all together. With so many choices out there you need to review the situation and see what works for you.
  3. Credit Cards – I once missed a payment on one of my cards and the interest rate went from 7 percent to 23! I called they card provider and after a lengthy phone call I got them to lower the rate. I don’t advocate getting into credit card debt, but if you are in that situation a few well placed phone calls can really make the difference. So many of these companies repeatedly tell us how valuable we are as customers and how important this relationship is. Turn the tables on them. Tell them “I’ve been an active card member since 2002 and I would like you to lower my interest rate.” If you are carrying $7000.00 in credit card debt and you can negotiate the rate from 17% down to 7% that’s a savings of 700 dollars a year. They certainly won’t raise it for asking so what do you have to lose?
  4. Cell Phone Bill – Most wireless companies make you sign a contract, but those contracts do end. The cell phone business is fiercely competitive and you need to press your advantage. You could either try to get more minutes for less money or see if your provider will give you a credit towards the purchase of you next phone. Fifty bucks off your next smart phone might only be a phone call away.
When dealing with these companies its always best to be firm but polite. If you don’t feel like you are making progress with the customer service rep ask for a supervisor. I have seen my friend Tony take it right to the edge. “Well I guess I am going to have to cancel my service” he would say. He would then get transferred over to the cancellations department, they would ask why he was leaving and in an effort to keep him the deal was made. More often then not there is a better price out there, you just have to ask.


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