Miss the Big Sale? Claim Your Savings Anyway

By Linsey Knerl on 8 June 2008 (Updated 13 August 2013) 9 comments

The sudden aggravation of my son's allergies became the last straw for this frugal family. While we had suffered through a summer or two in our old farm home with little to no air-conditioning in most rooms, this year was going to be different. Credit card in hand (we enjoy collecting on those rewards points), my husband headed to our local Pamida for the 12,000 BTU beauty. (See also: Wear Frozen Clothing and 9 Other Ways to Beat the Heat)

Soon after he arrived, he called me from his cell phone — a bit more than aggravated. "Lins, it's showing $50 more than what you said it was going to cost." I reached for my sale ad and realized that the great price on the very last one in stock had ended — yesterday.

"Tell them you want it anyway." I figured it couldn't hurt, right? After all, I had been reading so much on haggling lately (but never really tried it). How hard could it be?

The happy ending to my story is that I got my A/C for yesterday's sale price. We slept in two hours of dehumidified and cooled air last night. (I set it on a very conservative cycle to save energy.) My son woke up without his little pink eyes today (he had white ones, instead). We are very happy.

We also learned a bit about real-world haggling techniques. (See also: How to Negotiate With Confidence and Strike the Best Deal)

Know THE Price

This is different from "Know your price." Your price (what you're willing to pay) may be higher than what you can actually get it for. Or it may simply be way too cheap for the store to make any money on it. A better way to approach this is to know the bottom-line price the store is willing to let the merchandise go for. Sale ads are great resources for this. If you know that a chair went on sale for $99 last month, then you know that this is a price they are probably comfortable selling it for.

Bring Evidence

In addition to competitor's ads for the same week (which many stores honor without haggling), keep a record of sale ads for that same store for the past six months or so. If you see an appliance on sale in March, but don't have the money, save the sale ad until you do. Bring that same ad with you when you're ready to make your purchase, and you have just proven that you know your stuff. Most stores won't deny you their own best prices — especially if it moves merchandise.

Start High

While many upscale stores may have trained their entry-level sales associates how to give discounts, don't assume that it will be easy. If you can locate a manager right away, don't be afraid to approach them directly with your offer. It will take much less time, and by doing so, you will build a relationship with that manager (which will come in handy when you ask for another discount at a later date).

Leave the Door Open

After you have made your sale purchase, clarify the store's (or manager's) policy on similar transactions for future items. Would they be willing to discount another large purchase in a week or so? What kind of items do they see going on sale next month? Did you thank them kindly for their discount? By building a relationship with your favorite stores, you are doing more than haggling. You are networking a future of savings opportunities. (See also: How to Get What You Want on Customer Service Calls)

Once you make your first successful "off-sale" purchase, you will become confident in your abilities. Why shop the same way again?

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Guest's picture
Angie

Here in Canada most major retailers will give you the sale price if the item goes on sale even after you've purchased it. I bought bunk beds from Sears for $1000 and they went on sale about two weeks later for $600. When I asked for a refund of the difference in prices I got it, no questions asked other than for the receipt of my original purchase. The period isn't indefinite, but 2-3 weeks seems fine.

I'm also ready to buy a new dishwasher and know the model I want. I saw it in the store, not on sale, and asked if it would be on sale soon. It will be on sale in two weeks during a weekend promotion. The salesclerk gave me a written guarantee of the sale price. I can now take that quote to some other retailers and ask if they can match or beat the price. Or I can buy it now and get the refund of the difference in a couple of weeks. I've chosen to do the comparison as I can wait a few weeks.

Guest's picture
Richard

One method to get around a price adjustment (which are usually limited to 14 days or less) is to do a buy-return. That is, if you are outside of the 14 days for an "automatic" price adjustment but within the 30/60/90 day return period, buy the same item at the current low(er), sale price. Then return the new, unused item -- but with original receipt which has the higher price.

Some have questioned the ethics of a buy-return, but I don't have a problem with it personally since you're still returning new, unused merchandise within the store's return period.

Linsey Knerl's picture

One of the reasons I like to get the price I want the first time around is that all of the stores are so far from where I live.  The cost to drive there and back after the cost goes down would almost negate much of the savings.  I'm better off to just get the deal when I'm there the first time.  But I could see how these methods could work for someone local!

Guest's picture

My parents never haggled because they thought that made us look poor (which we were!). They got some kind of strange satisfaction from paying full price, and often for the highest ticketed item. When I think of that, it just makes me sad to realize where I got my own reluctance to haggle for anything. Even though I "haggled" (mediations/settlement conferences) zealously for my clients for 10 years without any shameful feelings or worries that I or my clients might be thought of as cheap, unfair, or poor, I still feel uncomfortable even thinking about asking a retailer if they could give me a discount on an item because it is partially damaged.

The last time I did that was in a Barnes and Noble and the book I wanted to buy was their only copy and it had a pen mark on the cover. The manager said they couldn't give me any discount because someone else would buy it for full price exactly as it is. So, what did I do? I bought it for full price. Sheesh!

Thanks for these tips great tips because they make it seem utterly reasonable, intelligent, and even dignified to haggle in the manner you suggested. A real win-win situation for both parties! Now, I'm inspired to haggle the very next time I make a major purchase.

Guest's picture

Interesting point of view. Most of us go crazy when it comes to get those saving announced here or there but rarely analyze on detail what is backstage.

Guest's picture

If you go into a store and the sale is technically over or hasn't started yet, but the items are marked with the sale price, they still have to give you the item at the marked sale price. This is the LAW! I'm a former auditor for a major department store and it was one of the things we dinged store managers on.

So, next time the sale tag says 40% off and the clerk says, "Sorry, that sale ended yesterday", tell them by law they have to give you the price. If the clerk doesn't respond ask for the manger.

If you really want a high demand item and you know it is going on sale, maybe a Memorial Day sale, etc., stop in the store an hour before closing the day before the sale is supposed to start and see if they have already marked the items on the floor. Many stores have already marked items, as this way they don't need to have anyone work extra hours.

They have to give you the marked price no matter when the sale starts or ends.

Guest's picture

Haggeling is something that I have never done, but difinitely will try in the future. After all it's only YOUR money.

Guest's picture

It is also a good idea to ads if you are looking for something. It is sometimes good to go back and look for previous sales. Sometimes lenders will give you last weeks ads, especially if you haggle with them. Most lenders won't haggle, but they will give you an online price. Look for deals online and show them the add. Tell them you wanted to buy online, but wanted to see what they had first. Usually if you get the manager out they will give you the deal. Just a little advice.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Another thing I've tried is if I see an item that's marked down regularly, and I know I'm a month or so away from having the bucks saved up to snag the item (for example appliances), I call ahead and ask when the sale is the following month and is it for the same amount off or more?

Most chain stores know when the next one is coming up. I used this to save up on cellular window blinds to dress up the great room when we were selling the house in Arizona. Saved 80 percent, even though I couldn't snag them the first time around.

But I hear you on the rural thing. It really is the pits to have to drive somewhere twice when everything is so far away.