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February 13, 2011

Day 4 of 30: Rule #281 of negotiation: Persevere!!! (And if that fails, grovel.)

My new umbilical cord.

Saturday morning, Mr. A and I had an hour to kill before I was heading to a cupcake tasting and he was going to do some errands. 

"Let's get you a new phone!" he said with the glee of an engineer about to spend the next six hours fondling tiny, shiny smartphones.

"Ok," I answered, with the resolve of a woman determined to make the trip last shorter than an hour.

(My old phone stopped charging and it freezes a few times per day. For the past two weeks I've been holding the charging wire into the phone and pressing it down with my thumb. It was time.)

We went to the Sprint store near our house, and there the decision came down to two Blackberries: the Curve and the Bold. If you ask the experts and forums and chip processors, there's a world of difference between these phones. Screen resolution! Processing speed! Megapixels! Network capabilities!!

But between you and me, they were exactly the same thing, with one exception: the Bold was $200 more, and it had a better keyboard. 

Is a better keyboard worth $200?

I was actually torn, because I type A LOT on my phone. As a reporter, I sometimes take interviews or notes on my Blackberry, if for some reason a notebook isn't accessible or strategic. I tweet for clients, I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook... I get unlimited free text messages -- and I use them. I'm like a tween with a Roth IRA and a house lease.

We quickly checked prices online and saw the Bold was on eBay for $190. Not a great bargaining chip.

"Would you do a better price if I paid cash?"

"I can't do that, sorry!" 

By then J, the salesman, had spent half an hour showing us phones. He really wanted to close the sale. So I said we'll pass, took Mr. A's hand and started walking away.

And then I turned around and quickly asked, "Well what's the best you can do? Because $200 is more than I expected to pay coming in today. But if you can make me a great deal, I will walk away with the phone right now."

"I can't give you a discount on the phone. That's not where I have the option. But here's what I can do: If you stock up on accessories, that's where I can definitely cut you a deal!"

"I'm listening."

"If you buy the car charger, the Bluetooth and the carrying case, then I can do it for..."

Mr. A cut in. "You have a Bluetooth headset. You have two. You never use them." 

But maybe I should get a case, to get a bigger discount? Wait a minute! Buying more things to get a better discount is not the way to save money. I really did not need a case.

"No Bluetooth, and no case. How much is the charger?"

"$35. But if you get the phone, I can give it to you for $20."

"We'll take it."

As J started on the paperwork, I started regretting settling so quickly. $15 off of a $235 purchase? Not bad, but still: I should have asked back. These retorts started buzzing around in my head:

a) "$220 for both is a good place to start, not finish." Smile. "Now how can we get that combo down to $200?"

b) "Thanks, but I'll be honest, I'm not biting yet. That's not even 10 percent off. This is a big purchase -- can you knock off $20 from the phone or charger -- whatever is easier for you?"

c) "$15? How about you throw in the charger for free?"

d) "If you're interested in selling accessories and extras, how about this: If you can give me a 10 percent discount on my bill for the next six months, I will buy the phone and charger at full price."

e) "Is there anything else you can do to bring the price down? Talk to your manager or maybe let me ask him?"

f) "I think we're going to think about it... I just don't have that kind of money after all. Sorry to waste your time!"

Ah! Why did I cave so quickly?!

The transaction was almost done. J finished inputting my info and was about to run my card, when out of nowhere I blurted, "Can you please please please please please please please do the charger for $15? Not $20? I have this compulsive need to negotiate and I feel like $20 off would be so much better."

He looked at me and squinted. Not annoyed, it seemed... just, evaluating...

"Sure. I can do it for $15."

"Oh my god! Thank you!! Do you think I'm the most annoying customer in the world?"

"No. I understand. $200 is a lot to spend on a phone. I understand why you're negotiating."

Gained: $20. (Also, hit my original target of 10 percent off the phone value -- even if it was deducted from the charger.)

Lost: 2 minutes of negotiating: 1:45 in the first conversation, and 15 seconds in the groveling segment.


1) When I told him no Bluetooth and no case, he still gave me a deal on the charger. That shows he was very willing to negotiate. I'm glad I didn't assume buying all 3 was a prerequisite for a discount!

2) I sometimes must remind myself that buying more JUST to get a bigger discount is no deal. I just wanna make that explicit, here, since I almost fell for it.

3) If you don't care how awful you look, negotiating in this style is easy! Not sure how effective in the long run, but this time it worked. If you have an ounce of pride, though, there are ways to be a lot more classy than whining please please please please please please please please! That's something I'll be exploring in the next 26 days of daily asking.

Now it's your turn: I invite you to think of something pricey you'll be purchasing soon (next six months) and leave a comment with one argument you can make for bringing the price down. Regular commenters, I always welcome your contributions! And if you're shy or lurking on the blog, I'd love to hear from you. 

Please please please please please please!
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