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September 18, 2009

Asking versus complaining

A friend posted this "status update" a few minutes ago on an online profile:

"Finally, after listening to me complain for three years, my landlord got me a new refrigerator!"

My first reaction. "You go! Great news! Way to ask for what you need!"

My immediate u-turn reaction: "It took you THREE years!? I wonder if complaining, spread over three years, ended up sounding more like whining? What if you'd done one tactical complaint+solution combo? What if you had made a case for the fridge, or offered to buy one and deduct it from the rent over six months, or categorically stated that you will move if you are kept in squalid conditions, instead of nagging?"

Maybe I'm being too tough on this person. I don't know the backstory.

Then again... contrast that situation to this success story. From one of you, in fact!

A while back, a reader named Alex managed to get almost 15 percent off of his rent -- by asking!! And not only did he ask. He eyed an opportunity since the market has recently shifted; he lowballed; he negotiated, he hardballed. And then he stuck to his guns. The result: a hefty wad of cash will stay in his pocket every month.

He recently gave me the green light to post his story. In his own words:
[M]y lease was up at the end of the month, so about three weeks ago I called to renegotiate because prices in NYC have dropped somewhat. Not as much in my area (West Village), but I figured I could get a reduction.

Long story short, they told me they wouldn't negotiate against themselves (i.e., I had to name the first price to start the negotiation), and I suggested an absurdly low number. I was paying $2,050 a month (for a studio! crazy New York prices), and I claimed that my market research showed roughly a 25% drop in area prices, so I completely low-balled and asked for $1,550. We went back and forth every two or three days for the next few weeks, and I eventually wrangled 'em down to $1,775. And lord knows I could use the extra $375/month! Anyway, most of my research claims were made up, as were the other places I "was looking at," but so it goes. Overall, the process was totally friendly -- the guy thanked me at the end for being so reasonable! -- but I did better than I had anticipated. I really didn't want to move -- moving sucks!
I hear you. I wish I'd been more of an asker in years past. Instead, I obediently paid rent increases and the like, or moved without blinking. Not anymore.

So Alex, what are you going to do with that extra $375/month, i.e. $4500 per year?

And here's a question to other askers and/or complainers out there: when do you think complaining is effective? Does it depend on the context, or is it just a matter of personal approach? Is there any gendered tinge to complaining? Any tips for the rest of us? Please share, below!

Speaking of fridges, isn't this one dreamy?

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