Talk Your Way to a Deal: How to Negotiate at These Major Retailers

September 8, 2014 by Kyle
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(Updated 1/05/18) Last December, I was quoted in an article in The New York Times talking about how consumers can negotiate the price at major retailers. No longer is this a practice left for garage sales, car lots, and local “Ma and Pa” shops. If you are a bit nervous about being turned down or looking like a cheap fool, don’t be, as the act of negotiating a better price is becoming much more mainstream as retailers enact price match policies and low price guarantees to turn show-rooming consumers into paying customers. Below are six popular retailers where you should become a price negotiating ninja today.

Learn How to Negotiate the Price at Retailers

Home Depot

I use to work in the paint department at the Home Depot. For a little over 1 year I mixed paint and wiped excess paint on my orange apron until it looked like something straight from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. While I worked there I became quite aware of the best ways for shoppers to negotiate a deal at the Home Depot. Here is the skinny…

  • Look for imperfect items. The Home Depot is chock full of “scratch & dent” items. From appliances, to doors, to tools, to outdoor garden decor. If you seek out these imperfect items in many cases you can successfully get a 10-15% discount. Simply point out the flaws to an associate who works in that particular department and ask if they can help on the price. I always start be asking for a 20% discount and see where the negotiating takes me. As a dude who use to work at the Home Depot, I am here to tell you that we were encouraged by management to slash the price on imperfect items as we knew we would have trouble selling them at full price. The associate may have to seek management approval on more expensive items but it usually only takes a couple minutes. For shoppers, the time spent is well worth the effort.
  • Example from loyal reader Richard, “I needed two low flow toilets to help with the water conservation effort going on in California. I found the toilets I wanted at Home Depot on sale at $149 each. The sticker price said they would each be eligible for a $100 rebate from the city. While inspecting one, I noticed the box it was in had been torn near the slot where you place your hand to pick it up. I asked the employee helping me if he could he give me a $50 discount because of the torn box. Much to my surprise, he told me to tell the person when I check out to “REDUCE THE COST BY $50.” I asked if he would he write me a note and he said “not necessary,” just tell them a supervisor is allowing the discount. The check out process went just as he said it would. This meant that after the rebate, the two toilets cost me $50 plus tax. After getting outside I hurried to the car and got out of there before they changed their mind.” Awesome deal and way to go Richard.
  • Look for items incorrectly stocked. Now this one may be a little unethical but I had several customers pull it on me when I worked in the paint department. I once had a guy approach me and say, “Hey, this paint brush over here says it is only $3.99 and that’s the price I want.” I walk over and sure enough a $25 Purdy paint brush had been incorrectly stocked on the shelf. The dude was adamant that $3.99 was the price he should pay. I got the assistant manger involved and we ended up giving him the expensive brush for the really cheap price. This technique is not for everyone, but if you have the brass nuts to pull it off I wish you the best.
  • Try to bundle items. The technique of buying a riding lawn mower along with a weed eater, and asking a sales associate if there is the possibility of a discount if you buy both today, is one that you should definitely add to your Home Depot negotiating repertoire. Chance of saving 10% or maybe $50 has a high probability of success.
  • Look for floor models, returns, and overstocks. Tile, doors, appliances, mismatched paint, and power tools are just a few of the items that often get returned or special ordered by a customer and never picked up. Store managers typically want them sold immediately so they don’t take up valuable real estate. Use this knowledge to your advantage and negotiate an even better deal on them. These items will typically be marked with a special tag that tells you they are floor models, returned items, or overstocks. Start the negotiating at 20% off the asking price and be prepared to meet in the middle.
  • Become a price match pro. By knowing the price match policy at Home Depot it gives you a very easy way to negotiate the price. If you find a competing store in your area which beats the Home Depot price, you are eligible to get the product for 10% lower than the competitor’s price. It is also worth noting that Home Depot does not currently price match online pricing.

Costco Wholesale

Despite what many retail “experts” say, your local Costco can also be a darn good place to negotiate the price. Here is what you need to know to make it happen.

  • Look for floor models. Have you ever seen the last of a particular item at Costco? Nothing left but the display floor model, which still works great, comes with the same warranty, but might have a scratch or a couple wear marks on it. Often you’ll find these in the electronics and computers section, as well as the seasonal section, which is typically in the middle of the store towards the front. They want to get rid of these things, and while they might already be marked down, there is still room to negotiate an even better deal. I recently received an email from a faithful reader who was successful negotiating an even lower price on a Blu-ray player at Costco which was the floor model. The Samsung Blu-ray player was already marked down from $89.99 to $74.99 but she asked an associate if they “would take $60 as it had a few scratches on it?” The associate quickly went and asked a floor manager and within a few minutes she was walking out of the store with a really sweet deal. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
  • Always negotiate the price on tires. Tires are usually marked way up and have plenty of wiggle room in terms of price. If you do your homework and find a better price on a set of 4 tires from another retailer, approach a sales person at Costco and politely explain the situation and ask for a possible price adjustment. Remember the old adage that “Discounts vary upon customer attitude” as your attitude will directly impact how much money you can save.

Best Buy

Before buying any electronics from Best Buy, you need to know how to negotiate in their store. Here are some insider tips to make it happen and help you save some money…

  • Listen to the salesperson. Best Buy is notorious for carrying certain brands that offer bigger margins, especially on TV’s. If the salesperson is pushing you toward a specific brand once you have tried to negotiate a better price, it is probably because that brand has larger margins giving them more room to negotiate a deal with you.
  • Bundle items and start negotiating. A few years ago I discovered this trick. I was buying a new Panasonic 42″ HDTV and DVD player and decided (on a whim) to ask the salesman if he could knock off $100 if I bought both right now. He went and asked his manager and within a minute he came back and said they could reduce the overall price by $75. I was like, “Cool, done deal!” A very easy $75 left in my wallet.
  • The more expensive the item, the better your chance to negotiate. A 32″ or 42″ TV at Best Buy typically has a much smaller profit margin than a 65″ or 75″ TV, regardless of the brand. So you have a much better chance of negotiating a deal on a larger, more expensive, TV or laptop computer.
  • Look for damaged packaging. I recently needed a new DSL router and headed to my local Best Buy. The NetGear router that I wanted was indeed in-stock, but they only had one left on the shelf. I picked up the box with the router in it and one corner was completely smashed in. I immediately knew I had some great price negotiating ammunition. I walked up to a nearby sales associate and explained the situation. I told him, “I realize the router inside is probably OK, but I am taking a bit of a risk taking this thing home. Any chance you can knock off 25% and I’ll take this trashed box off your hands?” He says he has to get a manager’s approval and within a minute he comes back and says he can give me 15% off. Easiest $20 I ever made.
  • Try to negotiate at the end of the month. Sales floor managers are trying to hit sales goals at the end of the month and are much more willing to wheel and deal with you. I’m talking about the last 2 days of the month, like the 30th or 31st.
  • Open box products offer great opportunity to negotiate. This is especially true with floor model TV’s and laptops. Every time I step into a Best Buy I can find several floor model that are marked down for a quick sale. But guess what? They don’t always sell quickly. So whenever you see a floor model for sale, consider it an opportunity to negotiate an even lower price. As a general rule of thumb start at 25% and let them meet you somewhere in the middle.
  • Price match like crazy! The price match policy at Best Buy gets an A rating from Rather-Be-Shopping.com. Best Buy will match the lower price of both a local competitor or a major online retailer like Amazon.com. Doesn’t matter how small the local competitor is, they will match the price. Always pull out your smartphone when shopping at Best Buy (I recommend the RedLaser app) and see if you can find the price lower in your town or online. If you do, use the lower price as a negotiating tool, the employee may even beat the competitor’s price if you sweet talk them and are polite.

Lowe’s

Another major retailer where you can become a price negotiating ninja is Lowe’s Home Improvement. Here are some tips to make it happen.

  • Do not ONLY negotiate the price. Let’s say you are buying a new lawnmower. Instead of asking for a discount on the price, consider negotiating for complimentary products like a gasoline can, engine oil, or a new lawnmower blade. Lowe’s is notorious for negotiating add-ons rather than a lower price.
  • Always negotiate major appliances. Lowe’s has an amazing selection of appliances and are often open to negotiating the price. Your best bet is to always do your homework before you shop and print out any instances you find of a lower price. Bring your paperwork with you and use it as ammo to negotiate a better price. Depending on the online retailer, Lowe’s may not always price match every online price, but you have a much better chance of negotiating a lower price than if you showed up empty handed.
  • Look for “Scratch & Dents” and floor models. Because of the large selection of floor models that adorn every Lowe’s warehouse, they are naturally going to have a lot of scratch and dent and floor models they need to clear out. These are perfect fodder to work on your negotiating skills as they are very likely to lower the price to clear out the “imperfect” or not “brand new” inventory. They often hide these in the back of the appliance section behind all of the new models. Start by pointing out any imperfections and ask if they would take 15% off or $50, whichever is higher. In my experience, that is a great starting point when negotiating at Lowe’s and likely to yield excellent results. Remember, they really want to get rid of these and are quite aware many shoppers don’t want “scratch & dent” items, no matter the discount.
  • Do NOT forget the 10% veterans discount. Are you an active or retired member of the U.S. armed services? If so, Lowe’s has an awesome veteran’s discount that many shoppers are not aware of. They will give a flat military discount of 10% to all active and retired military personnel. For all other vets they give a discount on Veteran’s Day, 4th of July, and Memorial Day. It is also worth noting, from the Lowe’s website, that “immediate family member(s) of someone with a valid military ID card” are also eligible for the 10% discount. Use it!

Sears

Thanks to their appliances and Craftsman tools, Sears continues to stay in business. While many consumers think that you can’t negotiate the price in Sears I’m here to tell you that you’re completely wrong. Here is what you need to know…

  • Always negotiate the price on appliances. Start by asking if they can do anything with the price. Sometimes they have a coupon behind the desk just waiting to hand out if a customer asks. If they don’t have a coupon they will often direct you to appliances that are a great deal or have more wiggle room in terms of price.
  • Negotiate BIG on Out-of-Stock Items. This great tip came from loyal reader Robin. She explains it this way, “When they didn’t have a weedwacker we wanted in stock, hubby asked the guy if there was something he could do about another one the next price up. They wouldn’t give it to us as cheap as that, but did knock $25 off it and threw in some trimmer line.” Love it, way to go Sears!
  • Look for floor models. Sears is notorious for having a section of the store that has nothing but returned appliances, tools, lawn equipment, or stuff that is on clearance for whatever reason. These offer a great chance to negotiate a deal. A few years ago, I was able to negotiate the price of a Craftsman lawnmower that had been returned by a lady who said it was just to heavy for her to push. They were asking $179 and I got them down to $150 as it had a couple scratches on it and clearly had been used a few times.
  • Email and ask for specs on an appliance. When you email Sears and ask them for the specs of a particular appliance they will often email you back and include a $100 off coupon. This has happened twice to me and it’s the easiest $100 you’ll ever earn.

Guitar Center

Shopping for a new or used acoustic or electronic guitar? Or perhaps some accessories or gear? Be sure to negotiate the price at your local Guitar Center location and save some cash in the process.

  • Talk to the right person. Figure out quickly who the sales manager is and try to approach them directly. They are the one with the most authority to lower the price so you’ll want to try and win them over.
  • Be polite and courteous. This one helps at any store, but it is worth repeating here as Guitar Center has a track record of knocking money off the price if you’re courteous and friendly. Bottom line, don’t be a jerk.
  • Real life example. I have a friend who recently bought a brand new guitar from Guitar Center and just by being friendly and asking if they had any upcoming promotions in the works, the sales lady knocked $75 off the price right on the spot. Just ask!

Ask the Reader: Have you negotiated the price at any of these retailers? Or maybe you have another store where you have made it happen? Let me know, thanks.


By Kyle James

Photo credit to frankleleon.

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Money Beagle

Great info. I think the point can be made wider in that there is often a deal to be found if you keep your eyes open for the possibility and are not afraid to ask. If they say no, let it roll off and look out for the next deal.

DC @ Young Adult Money

That’s awesome you got $75 off your TV at Best Buy! I need to negotiate when I buy my next big-ticket item.

Moleman
Moleman

Negotiate at Sears? Why not just shop somewhere that has more realistic prices, and then negotiate there? Getting 10 or 15% off at a store where everything is priced 50% higher to begin with, is no bargain!

And as for scratch and dent appliances: Do you really want to live with an imperfect fridge for the next 10 or 15 years just to save $50? Yeah, it may just be something very minor, or in a place where you’ll never see it…but you’ll KNOW it’s there, and that item will be the red-headed stepchild and have a stigma attached to it, as long as you own it.

Open-box stuff and returns? Pffft! Not worth it, for the missing parts/unseen damage/etc. especially in today’s world, where everything is so delicate and dependent upon electronics.

I’m a chea…err…uh frugal person- I rarely pay retail- but I don’t want to negotiate for a few percent off of refuse or shoddy products- If I’m buying something new, I want ti to be new.

Better to negotiate for a deal AT A PLACE WHERE THE PRICES ARE ALREADY LOW (or just shop where you know you’re getting the rock-bootm lowest price to begin with- If you can negotiate, the store you’re in is likely not the low-price place!) AND get that low price/negotiate on brand-new, non-damaged; never-opened items.

Getting 10% some opened box surprise package in a store where the prices are too high to begin with, is no bargain.

Mac
Mac

Does paying in cash for big ticket items mean anything to these retailers anymore for additional discounts?

Moleman
Moleman

I haven’t had much luck in recent years with that angle. Why? I dunno- we’re saving the merchant a good 3-4% by paying cash….you would think he’d be willing to pass the savings on, especially since it’s not costing him anything to do so. Since they don’t seem to be doing the cash discount anymore, I try and remember to buy big ticket items and especially electronics with a credit card, for the extra protection/recourse. (It’s hard though…I’ve been a pay-cash guy all my life….I once bought a $10K item and paid cash for it!)

Twindle
Twindle

Probably not. Cash means nothing these days

tcidda
tcidda

sometimes all you have to do is go to the customer service area ,explain the situation,and if they won’t budge ask for a manager,and if he/she won’t budge say “and what’s the address of your corporate office”? no one likes corporate on their case.
one other thing is to be reasonable i.e. don’t cuss and swear or expect a 50% markdown on a new/popular item.

Rick
Rick

Thanks for the advice. Emailed Sears to see what happens.

Not sure if you talk about extended warranties somewhere on your blog. If so could you add a link in the comments somewhere.

Sears has way overpriced warranty plans for their appliances. I happened to call Square Trade and to my surprise they emailed me over 40% off coupon off their plans. That was pretty awesome. Just another way to save and have a peace of mind.

Thanks once agaiin,

Rick

Taylor
Taylor

Go to any Best Buy near the end of the month and ask a sales associate if you can talk to a manager about an open-box product. Ask the manager how low he can go on the price realistically, then reply with an offer even lower and chances are they’ll say yes.(especially if you point out some minor cosmetic damage that isn’t listed on the open box tag.) Got my $900 Samsung stove for $415.

Jose
Jose

Just wanted to note that Lowe’s doesn’t normally include free products, but they are often open to negotiating- I worked in four different departments, myself, and they typically allow floor employees to knock off 10% without manager approval. Also, the longer something stays on the shelf, the better chance you have of negotiating the price- we marked down a bunch of impact wrenches from 90 bucks to 10 because not a single one had sold in 4 months!

Last thing- each Lowe’s has different prices for their products. Check the website and compare nearby stores- sometimes the item you want will be on sale at one store but not the other. This is dictated by sales.

Oh, and don’t threaten to call corporate- we know 90% of the people don’t, it’s annoying, and it won’t get you anywhere.

Caroline Ranoia

As a “small business owner,” it makes me want to puke that you can suggest negotiating with “mom and pop” businesses. It’s obvious to me that you’ve never owned your own business. I believe I speak for many small businesses, that this is how we make our living, we will never make a million, we put are sweat and tears into our businesses 24/7, we live, breath and eat it – it’s what we do. To suggest to your readers that it’s ok to walk into a small local business, a business that keeps a community vibrant, helps the local economy and employs locals, that it’s ok to ask for a “better price,” shame on you. The price on the tag is the best we can do, but when you purchase at a local business, you’re helping a family, or a mom make extra money, you’re helping a business owner to inspire others to take the risk – that’s what a small business does, we take a risk. I wish people that have never owned their own business would stop telling others how to act like entitled jerks and ask for a lower price, we work to hard for that kind of mentality.

Moleman
Moleman

Errr.what’s the problem, Caroline? A merchant- small or big, can simply say “No” to one’s negotiations. As someone who used to own a small service business, I didn’t mind a bit if people tried to negotiate with me. If I was busy, I’d simply say that my price was firm; if I was slow, I might take them up on their offer, and be glad for the business. Sometimes the “negotiation” was a very advantageous deal…to me! It never hurts to at least try and negotiate; and as a business owner, it never hurts to entertain a potential deal, and politely say “Thank you for your offer, but I’m afraid I can not do that”. Many people will buy anyway, even if their proposal is rebuffed, as i will often do myself- but it never hurts to try- and I actually feel more comfortable dealing with a place which will at least entertain my proposals- and as a business man, I hoped that even when I couldn’t accept a potential customer’s offer, that I could at least use the opportunity to establish a relationship and/or make the person feel more comfortable. THIS is the way good business people (on both sides) operate.

RH.
RH.

“The price on the tag is the best we can do”

That’s the best you can do. Doesn’t mean all small shops are pricing that way. Your customer can ask for a better price; you can decline it. Moleman’s “relationship” thinking is perfect in that case: your customer has opened the conversion to discuss what you’re selling.

Sally di
Sally di

It’s funny you say that cause mom and pop businesses are the ones I feel most comfortable negotiating at especially when cash is involved. And usually it the store owner who starts the negotiations buy asking for cash. Negotiating is the American way. I have little or no respect for people who don’t negotiate and believe it or not foreigners won’t respect you as a buyer if you don’t negotiate with them as this is common in their countries.

jumpingatconclusions
jumpingatconclusions

The Problem here is that you can not compare these big corporations like Home Depot and Costco(where the price tag is designed to stop negotiating in the first place), to small businesses where your always in negotiation with. So the fix is to remind the big corporations, that we can and should be negotiating with them all the time, because we know they are marking the price tag up way to high(normally) in the first place.

jumpingatconclusions
jumpingatconclusions

On a second thought, I think your raising a very good point that this article may have missed. That big conglomerate corporations do not want us negotiating the price, but want us to haggle with mom and pop to drive them OUT OF BUSINESS and to justify their bottom-line tag as if it cant be questioned at all?? ringing any bells here to anyone?!?!?

 
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