I am such a persnickety shopper that I once returned a watermelon that wasn’t sweet enough. No surprise that haggling is part of my daily routine. By mixing moxie and humor with a laid-back style, I seem to win more often than not, even if it’s a minor victory. My guidelines: Nothing is off limits, be polite, and know what constitutes a fair price. Here are some recent wins:
Eyeglasses. My wife and I visited an independent shop and found her a pair of frames for $500, beyond our budget. Doing our best “good cop, bad cop” routine in front of the salesperson, we lamented that a few cheaper frames weren’t as nice. After about 15 minutes of back and forth, my wife concluded that she wanted the pricey pair. Rather than press the salesperson, we said we wanted time to think and wandered the store so that the salesperson could talk to the owner. When we returned, they offered a 50 percent discount. (Find out how to save on eyeglasses.)
Rental car. To save money, I booked a compact car from Hertz, but the rental wasn’t a bargain: The transmission worked so poorly that I was worried the car would conk out on the interstate. When I returned and a service rep asked how everything went, I responded, “Horribly.” He apologized, but I said that didn’t cut it. The car had been sputtering, I told him, and that made me nervous. Hertz credited me $25 for a partial tank of gas.
Mail-order food. Catalog merchant Harry & David offered a discount based on the amount of an order. I wanted two gift packages at $35 each, $5 off the regular price. But shipping was $19.90. I e-mailed Harry & David, said the fee was a deal breaker, and asked whether the company would waive or reduce it because I was buying two items. It didn’t acknowledge the request but sent a coupon code for 20 percent off my next order.
Insurance. The cost for my combined home and auto insurance kept rising. Aside from decreasing coverage, a bad idea, my agent offered few suggestions to reduce the bill. So I consulted a highly rated competitor, who slashed the premium by $1,100. I presented my current agent with the counterproposal and told her I was ready to walk. The agent suddenly perked up and within 24 hours matched the quote. (Learn how to save on auto and homeowners insurance.)
Perishables. Late in the day, supermarkets may cut the price of foods that have reached their “sell by” date or that look past their peak. (That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unsafe or inedible.) At an A&P, I noticed a $2-off sticker on a bag of rolls that felt hard as rocks. I joked with an employee that the rolls were perfect because I was off to play baseball. When she chuckled, I politely asked whether there was any way I could get a similar discount on the same number of loose, fresher rolls, since it was after 6 p.m. and they were unlikely to be sold. She said yes.