Something I have picked up from a few years of being a frugal person is that businesses want your business. Profound, I know. I went to college. But what this really means is they will often go to great lengths to keep you coming back. Why not get this to work to your advantage, even in the smallest ways? All you have to do is ask.
I was in Banana Republic on my birthday last year, eyeing a dress I had seen a few days earlier and concluded would never be mine. For those who don’t know, the average dress there is over $100. I went back in to stare at it, only to discover it was now 40% off. Obviously I nabbed it and got in line–but my frugal mindset didn’t stop there. Upon checkout I asked if they would give an additional discount because it was my birthday. The cashier got permission from her higher up and kindly took another 10% off. Just like that, I was getting an expensive dress for half off. She didn’t even ask for an ID to prove it was my birthday. Waiting pays.
Last Spring, my husband and I concluded we could not endure another hot summer in our non-air conditioned apartment and would need to buy two window ACs! Ouch. We paid for one with a Lowe’s gift card from credit card rewards and the rest in cash, with a small rebate for it being an energy saving model. The second one? I got for free. Around this time the apartment next door had been vacated and was under renovation. I noticed my former neighbor had left her window AC unit behind. I walked over and asked the workers if I could have it. They checked with the former tenant and property owner and I got the green light; saving me three hundred dollars that I would have spent on a new model.
I have been with Time Warner Cable for eight years and formed a very fun friendship with them. It works like this: my promotional discount ends, I call them and explain the situation, they transfer me, I explain the situation, they transfer me, I explain the situation, they say “there’s nothing we can do”, I threaten to go to AT&T, then they suddenly find another promo that lasts “only six months” and my bill is lowered. It’s EXACTLY like friendship. Our internet bill consistently hovers around $38, but in certain seasons I’ve got it down to $29. This takes some serious dedication as I have to monitor when the bill changes even slightly and be adamant about not hanging up until I have a discount. Plus they have records of when and why a customer last called, so they certainly know I’ve been doing this sort of thing for years. I like to think it makes us closer. In the end, they always oblige because they don’t want to lose a loyal customer. Don’t be deterred by long, annoying phone conversations–there’s money saved on the other end.
Until last summer, I had been with T-mobile for something like ten years. And that’s how long it took me to call in for a discount (don’t form this habit). I had a $98 package with unlimited everything and I was relatively happy with it. Then one day, I decided to try to my TWC method and see if they would lower my bill. The lady dropped it $20, no questions asked…actually, no explanation given either. Fine by me. My plan didn’t change and I enjoyed less of a hit every month.
Is it weird to anyone else that checks cost money? It’s free to get cash out of the ATM. My debit and credit cards are sent to me without cost. Why should I have to cough up anything for this outdated form of payment? Guess what? I don’t! Wells Fargo charges $25 to order a new set of checkbooks. But rather than using the convenient options of ordering online or over the phone, I go into the fancy branch and sit down at one of their fancy desks and talk to a real live banker with a fancy tie. They are all about customer service, so every time I have ordered checks there, it’s complimentary. But if they tried to charge me, I’d probably say something like “Oh, the nice man here last time gave them to me for free…would you be able to do that today?”. Similar to cable companies, banks are scared to death of losing your business. They’ll say yes.
When it comes to customer service, you are dealing with someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race. That is to say, they don’t care if you ask for a discount. Most likely, it’s not the person’s company or money. The usual response is, “let me ask my manager”, so there’s nothing to be intimidated by. The examples here are specific to what I dislike paying for and what I’ve learned through time, observation and practice. How could you customize these concepts to save on costs that frustrate you?