6 Ways to Convince a Store Clerk to Give You a Deal

The time and effort required to "extreme coupon" is something that many of us would rather pass on. Instead, learn the right questions to ask store employees to score the best deal possible. Sometimes they'll pass along an exclusive coupon, and sometimes they'll drop clues on the best day of the week to shop, or the products they can mark down for you. By knowing the right questions to ask, you can easily maximize your savings on your next shopping trip. Here's what you need to know.

1. Ask About Markdown Days

Most retailers, both small and large, have specific days of the week when they do their internal store markdowns. Whether it's adding new items to the clearance section, or reducing the price on already reduced clearance products, if you know the "markdown" day, you can shop when the selection is the greatest and actually save some money. Alternatively, if you shop on the day before they do their markdowns, you'll find the clearance section picked over and will offer little of value. Avoid that day if you can by asking when the store does their markdowns.

For example, a Macy's employee told me to shop on a Tuesday as they have all their markdowns done by then. Also, if you're a Kohl's shopper, I was told to shop on the 2nd and 4th Saturday every month. The bottom-line is to have the conversation at your favorite store as the information can really help you shop when the clearance section is stacked with fresh deals. I have found that most employees are very open to share this information if you have a friendly chat with them.

2. Ask About Floor Models and Imperfect Items

When I worked at The Home Depot, floor employees were given the authority to markdown imperfect items, scratch and dents, and floor models in order to clear them out of the store quickly. This included marking down damaged packaging that did not affect the quality of the actual product.

I can remember having regular customers who would ask me specifically if we had any such items that they could get a deal on. I'd then happily point to them the products I could mark down for them and they often got stuff for 25%–30% off the original retail price. Start asking employees at stores like The Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy, and Walmart about deals on floor items and imperfect stuff. If you can't find any specific items to ask for a discount, then just ask an employee, "Do you have any screaming deals on floor models or scratch and dents?" Then just follow them to the real deals in the store.

3. Ask for a Coupon

Many retailers arm their employees with special coupons and discounts to freely hand out to customers in an effort to build store loyalty and goodwill. So if you're shopping in-store, and you can't find a coupon via your smartphone, start a polite conversation with an employee and ask if they might have a coupon to use. You have absolutely nothing to lose and significant savings to gain. JCPenney, Macy's, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Cost Plus are a few of the stores where this has been known to work effectively.

4. Expired Coupon? Use It Anyway

Have you ever been on a shopping trip and pulled a coupon out of your purse or wallet only to realize it expired last week? For a frugal shopper, it can be a sickening feeling. Next time this happens, still try to use the expired coupon as often the cashier will say, "Oh sorry, this one is expired. But I have one here by the register that you can use." They'll then scan it for you and you'll save some cash. Stores where I have used this strategy successfully include Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Harbor Freight Tools.

5. Find Out Which Items You Can Negotiate

It's no secret that retailers have certain products that offer a larger profit margin than others. I recently had a Best Buy employee tell me that products with a bigger profit margin are the items they can negotiate a lower price on. He went on to say that high-end TVs often have more wiggle room in price than those in the $250–$500 range.

Use this information to your advantage and try to politely negotiate a lower price on higher end electronics. If you're worried about looking cheap, try the "bundling" technique. This is when you bundle a TV with a Blu-ray player and ask for a 15% discount if you buy both on the spot. This will also often work at big-box home improvement stores. Think things like a lawn mower purchased with a weed eater, or chain saw with a carrying case and new chain.

6. Ask About Upcoming Sales

When I worked retail, I always had some insider knowledge on upcoming sales events or exclusive coupons and rebates. Most floor employees at big-box retailers have an idea of when prices will probably get better. So ask them when they recommend you should buy to maximize your savings. They'll often tell you to come back on a specific day or weekend as everything will be on sale or when there will be a great coupon available. In either case, just by asking, you can easily get some insider knowledge that'll save you some money.

What outside-the-box tricks do you use to score a great deal?

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