10 Little Words That Will Get You the Best Price, Every Time


As a bargain hunter and writer, I find the power of words to be nothing short of amazing. The difference between getting a deal and walking away with the same price everyone else does is often just a word or two. (See also: The 7 Laws of Negotiation)

There are plenty of words and phrases you should have in your shopping lexicon, but there are 10 you should never leave home (or shop online) without.

1. "Please"

Remember the old phrase your parents and teachers used to say? "What's the magic word?" Well, when it comes to getting discounts and bargains, please is genuinely magic. The Internet and texting age has all but killed a lot of pleasantries. Even please has been reduced to PLS in a message. So when you make sure you say "please" with every request you make, be it in person, on the phone, or if necessary, via email, you are showing deference to the person you're dealing with. This will go in your favor, and will result in a much easier negotiation process when you want to get a deal.

2. "Thanks"

When talking to a sales associate in a store, be sure to say thanks for everything they do. If they have to get up on a ladder to reach on item you'd like, go out of your way to thank them. If they need to look something up on the store's inventory system, thank them for their time. Say it with enthusiasm and authenticity; a dry "staring-into-space" thanks will have the opposite result. But, if you do this throughout the transaction, you are laying the foundation for a discount when the time comes to ask for one. (See also: 25 Ways to Say Thanks)

3. "No"

This tiny word is incredibly powerful in the price negotiation process. In particular, it can be Kryptonite to salespeople at car dealerships. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. You work on commission, you've just spent two hours giving test-drives and fine advice to someone who is ready to buy. You sit down at the negotiation desk, and start to hash out a plan that will sell the car and make some money. And then, when you think you have the fish completely reeled in, it starts getting away. "NO" is a horrible word to hear after a long time in the sales trenches. The only way to respond is to either let the customer walk away (and watch two hours of your time go up in smoke), or invite them back to the table for further discussion. I have used this on every major purchase I've made, including every single car I bought. Only once did the salesperson let me walk away; when I got home, there was a message waiting for me on my answering machine asking me to consider a better deal.

4. "Free"

When you're buying something worth more than a few bucks, there is never any harm in asking for something for free. A friend of mine in college, Duncan, did this whenever he purchased anything, and he had a very high success rate (it didn't hurt that he was very charming fella indeed). "No matter what you buy, ask them to throw something in for free, even if it's only worth pennies to them," he'd say. If he bought a tape deck, he'd ask for a free pack of blank tapes. If he bought a case of beer, he'd ask for a miniature bottle of scotch. The day he bought a used car, he asked for free tinting. Even if they said no to his request, they would often give him something, even if it were just a can of soda or a chapstick. Free is free. It never hurts to ask.

5. "Maybe"

Back in the day, when I was nipping at my dad's heels, I would ask for something and be given the answer "maybe." It was so irritatingly non-committal that it left me knowing as much as I did before I asked the question. And it's just as powerful a word to use when negotiating for a better deal on something. When the salesperson asks if you'll take it, "maybe" is a fantastic way to reply. The natural response from your adversary will be something like "why are you hesitant?" and this leaves the door wide open for you to hammer home some points about price, reliability, and a warranty.

6. "Manager"

Whether you're dealing with someone on the phone (we all know how that can be), or you're in a physical store, asking to talk to the manager is a great ace to have up your sleeve. Most of the time, the person you're dealing with ether does not have the authority to offer a deal, or simply doesn't want to. The manager, on the other hand, has the keys to the deal safe. They can usually override the system and get you the discounts that regular hourly employees cannot give you. By asking to speak to the manager, you can often get the person you're dealing with to step up his or her game and get you a better deal themselves. You may sound a bit pushy, but be polite at all times and it will pay off.

7. "Cash"

If you pay in cold, hard cash you can usually get an instant discount. By simply stating "I will pay you the full amount, right now, in cash if you drop the price by 10%," you can get a very quick deal. It will usually only work on high-ticket items — no one cares if you pay cash for your $5 latte. But if you're looking at cars, motorcycles, smaller pieces of real estate, high-end clothing, or expensive audio visual equipment, the magic word "cash" can work wonders for you.

8. "Competitor"

Perhaps this isn't the specific word, but the idea is there. When you're shopping around, it pays to let people know that you are looking. Better still, drop the other store's name, particularly when shopping for the big ticket items. "I was over at your competitor's store, AAA Supplies, and they offered my a 5% discount. Can you beat it?" There are two psychological tricks at play here. First, no one likes losing business to a competitor. And second, by asking to beat someone else's price, you're offering up a challenge. There's a sense of accomplishment achieved by meeting your offer.

9. "Now"

I personally love the word "now" when it comes to discounts. I use it all the time, from eBay shopping to deals in local stores. The immediacy of the word puts people into action, and they will often drop their price knowing you are ready to do the deal right now. On Craigslist, you can say "I'll pick it up right NOW if you lower the price by $10." Boom, they want it gone quickly and will be happy to oblige. In a store, say "what's on offer right NOW that you can show me?" It puts the power of negotiation in your hands, and if they come back with "no" or "nothing," you can easily renegotiate or just walk away. You can also say "I want to cancel right now" to watch the offers come flooding in from service companies like phone, cable, and Internet.

10. "Offer"

Finally, there's a word you can use that, if positioned correctly, can get you a deal almost every time. That word is "offer." On its own, nothing special. But combine it with a phrase like "what's the best offer you can give me on this?" or "make me a serious offer and I'll buy it right now" and you're putting the ball in their court. They will very rarely come back with "I can't" or "no." It's usually something to counter your question, perhaps with "well how much do you have to spend?" or "what are you looking to pay?" Either way, they have just opened the door to a negotiation. Walk through it, and get your deal. This works on something as big as a house, or as small as a bag of onions at a farmer's market.

What magic deal words work for you? Please share in comments — now!

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Guest's picture

Great, accurate list! Having built a business around negotiations, I can say that these are all very effective and will all help you get a good deal. I think the concept behind a lot of these is showing respect and, ultimately, working together.

Many people approach a negotiation as if the other person is an adversary. The reality is that all parties have a common interest in aligning with one another. I've found that when you make it clear that you're working toward the same goal, negotiations are much smoother and more effective. Using pleasantries like the first few mentioned are a great way to communicate this.

Guest's picture

Great article. This is the most effective way to know and learn about these 10 little words that will get you the best price every time. This article will be very useful and helpful. Read and understand the article and you will get a brilliant idea. Thanks for sharing this article. I will share this information with my friends. Very informative.

Guest's picture

Love this list. Especially asking for something for free!