May 24, 2010
Thursday evening, I made plans to dine with my cousin. Before heading over to the restaurant (a pizzeria that was nothing to write home, er, blog about) Eau and I stopped by the Shakespeare Theater Company in Chinatown to see what was playing that night.
Corneille’s “The Liar,” in a new translation, was one of the options. His name evokes memories of the dour dramas I studied in high school and college. I knew he'd written comedies, but I never had the pleasure of seeing one.
A brochure said tickets start at $36. It was an acceptable splurge for both Eau and I, and my cousin, consulted with a quick phone call, was on board. I approached the box office, took out my credit card and was about to say, “Three tickets for The Liar tonight, please,” when after a split second’s hesitation, I redirected.
“We’d like tickets for the Liar, for tonight at 8. But do you have rush tickets or youth prices?”
“I can do rush tickets for you. You’re all under 36, right?”
“Then it’s $10 a ticket.”
Certainly, that’s not an “asking” in the ambitious sense of the term. No negotiation, no persuasion, no dastardly feats attempted. But if I hadn’t asked about my options, I firmly believe he wouldn’t have volunteered that information.
The last ditch request for a better deal even – along the lines of “Any discounts I don’t know about?” “Can you do any better on this price?” and so on – is an impulse that was cultivated during that year of daily asking, when I was forced to come up with something, anything, for the project. Time and again I saw cashiers reach for coupons behind their registers, reveal deals or promotions I had no clue existed, or find simple but effective ways to help me save a few bucks. That’s how I got one of my biggest monetary victories last year: 2 vouchers on United, plus hotel and dinner, after I asked to be put on the volunteer list for giving up a flight I didn’t want anyway.
Even more fundamentally than customizing deals or getting special treatment, isn’t asking about making sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to? An opportunity being presented to others. A better salary. Unadvertised but available perks.
Available, that is, to those who ask.