Discounts? It pays to ask

Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014
Shopping mall

JUST ASK: You may be surprised to find retailers - and banks - have some leeway to give discounts.

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One of the few phrases of Korean I remember - along with ordering a beer, and explaining to locals where I came from - is "kaka chuseyo?"

It translates loosely to "please give me a discount" - an absolutely essential phrase, unless you enjoy watching little old ladies cackle over ripping off another long-nose foreigner.

In most Asian cultures, haggling is a perfectly normal part of the shopping experience. If you pay the advertised price - especially in a market or street-selling environment - you are a mug.

Us Kiwis are a lot more reluctant to ask shopkeepers to sharpen their pencils, but there's no reason to be so bashful.

Done in the right setting with a cheeky smile and a wink, you'll likely save a packet without hurting anyone's feelings or making a fool of yourself.

To be clear: Aggressively demanding a discount at an already cheap charity store like the Salvation Army is extremely bad form.

Nickel-and-diming over small items with an obvious fixed price is also pointless and irritating for retailers.

Save your silver-tongued bargaining skills for the big-ticket stuff. Think electronic gadgets, appliances, cars, jewellery and accommodation.

If you spend even $1000 on the big stuff this year - and many will spend a whole lot more - you're bound to save at least $100 by being bold enough to negotiate.

The second-hand car yard is about the only place where we're currently comfortable with bargaining.

Sales staff expect you to give them a hard time, and Consumer New Zealand recommends you should be able to knock 15 per cent off the advertised yard price.

Though I never thought I'd say these words, it also pays to follow the example of Act party leader John Banks.

Grilled over whether he'd been given mates rates on an expensive hotel room, he told reporters: "I always negotiate prices down. I don't believe in paying the rack rate in a hotel."

If you feel self-conscious about asking directly for a cheaper rate, skirt around it by checking if there are any promotions or specials running.

The experienced haggler won't always be able to knock down the price, but he or she might be able to benefit in other ways.

At electronics stores I've had varying levels of success with discounts.

It always helps to mention that you're comparing prices at multiple stores, and that you're willing to pay in cash.

The old trick of pretending to be uncertain and calling your missus before you make a decision is bound to knock another few bucks off.

But even when the sales staff refuse to play ball, I've usually been able to win in other small ways - like throwing in a cable, case or other accessory for free.

It's also important to think outside the box.

Your biggest haggling opportunity is almost certainly not a fridge or flatscreen TV - it's your mortgage.

Put simply, if you're paying the advertised interest rate, you're being had. Banks rely on the apathy of their customers to rake in big profits on their lending.

If you approach the bank manager, especially with the help of a broker, you should be able to knock 0.25 per cent or more off the price. This won't always apply on certain special rates, or if you don't have much equity in the property - but it never hurts to ask. Even shaving a tiny 0.25 per cent off a $300,000 mortgage puts a whopping $750 in your pocket each year.

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So don't be shy. Next time you're buying something big, see if you can give the price a little nudge.

You'll be amazed by the results.

- Sunday News

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