Growing up, I often remember seeing my parents noticeably upset with the service they received, or the products they had bought. After one particularly poor experience at a restaurant they said, "We just won't eat here again." But when asked, "How was the meal?" they both smiled and said "Fine, thanks."
Now, maybe this is the classic reserve of the English, or maybe they're too polite for their own good, but that was not the correct way to go about it.
When you have a poor experience with anything, you need to speak up, and also ask for compensation of some kind. It's the natural way to keep these places in check, so that bad service or poor quality products are not constantly being presented to the public. Always be polite and treat the people you're dealing with respectfully, but if any of the following eight instances occur... ask for a discount.
1. When You Get Poor Service at a Restaurant
Let's just clarify that the service should be uncharacteristically poor. If you wait a long time to get seated on a Friday evening, or your server is so busy he or she forgets to bring the extra fries you ordered, give the place — and your server — a break. This is more about poor service that could easily be avoided.
If the food arrives cold, the fish is raw, the meat is very overcooked, or the server is just plain rude, you definitely have a reason to talk to the manager. Explain what has happened, how it impacted your dining experience, and ask for a discount. In most cases, you will get at least a few of the items removed from your bill. In extreme cases, when everything went wrong, you may very well be told not to pay anything. However, if the server was great in spite of all the problems, don't forget to leave him or her a tip.
2. When Your Event Seats Aren't Good
Unless you are warned specifically before you buy them (some will say things like "obscured view" or "partial view of stage" and should already be discounted), there is no reason to pay the same price as other people if your seats are terrible. This happened to me when I went to see Cirque du Soleil. There was no warning that the seats I bought were right behind one of the poles holding up the big top. My wife and I were leaning left and right through the entire performance. After, I spoke to the staff and received a discount, and a free CD of the music from that evening. If you have poor seats, ask to speak to the event manager. Demand a discount, if you can handle the poor seating, or ask to be moved if it is possible.
3. When Anything Is Not Quite as Described
From the food or service, to the product attributes, if you were sold something based on information that was slightly incorrect, you should demand a discount. If the tool set indicates "25 great tools for around the home" and there are actually only 23 inside, that's misleading. This can sometimes happen when manufacturers change the product, but not the packaging. In any case where you have been a little misled, intentionally or not, you are entitled to a discount. You'll get it, too.
4. When the Product Is a Floor Model
Do not let the store clerk fool you with a bunch of tricky talk about this item not being able to be discounted any further. The floor models are used. They may not have been used in someone's home, but they're used nonetheless. In some cases, for much longer than if it was in a home; especially those TVs and computers that are on the shop floor day in, day out.
So, find a manager and ask for the price to be reduced beyond what is shown on the sticker. They want to get rid of these items. They'd obviously prefer to sell it to someone who will pay sticker, but they will go lower. And as the item is used, and most likely blemished, you should demand a discount. I do this every time, and it has worked every time.
5. When You Pay Cash
Cash is king. That's as true today as it was fifty years ago, and if you are lucky enough to have the money on hand to pay in cash, be it something small or a new home, you should definitely take advantage of it. "How much of a reduction can I get if I pay cash for this house, right now?" This is something buyers are not expecting, and it is incredibly tempting. Cash is a sure thing. Financing can fall through, interest rates fluctuate, but cash is cash. In stores, merchants pay fees for credit card transactions, so you could easily get a cash discount.
However, don't expect this discount when buying a car. Dealerships get big incentives for financing offers, and you take that away from them if you offer to pay cash. In fact, you may pay more if you pay cash, so don't do that. You can always pay off the loan a week or two later.
6. When the Item is Broken, Scratched, or Dented
Why would you pay for a broken item at all? Well, it all depends what you want to use it for. If it's a superficial break, say on the case of the product, but the product itself works just fine, ask for a discount. The store is more than happy to oblige. If you notice a huge dent on the fridge that was just delivered, but the dent won't be seen or you just don't care, ask for a discount. If the item is scratched or damaged but it doesn't impair the function, and you are okay with it, ask for your discount. And if the item is completely broken, but you want to repair it yourself, or need it for parts, ask for a big discount.
In all cases, you are doing the store a favor, and they will be happy to negotiate a deal. This even goes for sellers on Craigslist or eBay. If the item is not as pristine as described, but you're happy to take it, ask for the discount.
7. When the Seller Is in a Hurry
If you ever encounter a "motivated seller" you know you're about to get a discount. Motivated sellers are those who need to sell, and sell fast, usually because they're about to leave the state. Sometimes, they need money quickly, for reasons you probably don't want to ask about. Whatever the reason, you should take advantage of this. Flea market sellers will offer discounts as they are packing up for the day, and so will people operating garage sales. Smile, ask for a discount, and you'll usually get it.
8. When the Store Is Closing or Going Out of Business
Blockbuster. Circuit City. Sharper Image. They all bit the dust and they all had "closing down" sales. When this happens, start haggling. A store that is going out of business presents problems for buyers, especially when it comes to buying things that may have warranty issues. For this reason, you should demand a discount. When one store is closing, perhaps because a particular location is not performing as well as it should, you don't have as much leverage. But you can still ask for a discount, because they are "motivated" to sell, and that, as just discussed, gives you bargaining power.