Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Barter – Haggle – Bargain – or just ask…

I don’t know about you but these days I seem to have less money and everything from services, merchandise and just general stuff, cost more.   

I was trying to close a project a year or so ago when my customer said to me:  I really want to buy this material from you, your service is excellent but your price is a bit high, can you do anything?

I could have argued that my excellent service is worth that “bit high” but it wouldn’t have mattered I wouldn’t have closed the sale. How I choose to look at it was my excellent customer service gave me the opportunity to for the customer to pick up the phone, call me and give me the choice to close the deal.

It gave me pause to think about people and businesses where I am the customer – how well am I treated?  So I thought I would experiment and when presented with a situation where I thought the price was a bit high I started asking is that really your best price?  I have been amazed at how many times the price was dropped when I asked the question!  

A perfect example is what happened to a friend of mine this past weekend.  Her a/c went out Friday evening and in Florida, during the summer, that is a major issue!  She waited until 8:30 am Saturday morning to call the company she purchased the a/c unit from 6 years ago as she had a warranty that covered parts.  A service tech would be out between 1-4 pm that afternoon.  My friend called me at 9:30 to share her woes because she knew I had just experienced the same thing.  She was very concerned about the price.  I suggested if the price seemed high she ask THE question: is that your best price?  The technician showed up, replaced a part in less than 30 minutes and told her the part was covered under warranty but the labor was $240.00.  She was stunned because you know that less than 30 minute thing!  And before you ask no there wasn’t an extra charge because it was Saturday.  My friend tentatively asked if that was his best price and darn if he didn’t drop it to $170.00.  That is a $70.00 difference!   My friend was thrilled and I was shocked he dropped the price that much.

That said let me also share that I use that same guideline when the customer service I receive is excellent and the price seems low.  Case in point I have an excellent lawn care company.  I used to mow my own lawn but with a ½ an acre it took me most of the weekend and I still had to clean, grocery shop, cook and oh have maybe a bit of fun.  Three years ago this lawn care company was recommended to me and the owner has been fantastic.  Always doing extra things as he sees them and never in three years has he raised his price.  When my strapped finances eased up a bit this year I gave him a raise. It wasn’t much at all.  When he saw me after a few months of receiving the small raise he asked why.  I told because he did a great job and deserved it.  He said I was the first customer to ever do that.  

So pay attention and if a price seems out of line ask if that is the best price.  If however the price was low, service excellent and it works with your budget throw a few extra bucks their way.  If it doesn’t work with your budget a kind word to the person or their boss goes a long way too.


  1. We've struggled with this very thing. On a personal level, I understand the idea of asking. On a business level, it is a difficult balance. Our pricing matrixes already give the lowest price. Sometimes, the clients' tone can come off as if they assume we are ripping them off, which can be somewhat offensive to our designers that do their best to bring the price in to the best we can do.

    But...we then have the choice to do one of several options (or combinations of them): 1.) lower our price, which eats away our profit margin, 2.) requote the material supply for possible discounts, 3.) tweak the design slightly to bring a bit lower cost.

    In the end, we need to decide how important the project is and how much future value the project offers. The one cautionary I've found is that many clients (at least in our industry) expect more freebies at the end if they are able to get them so easily at the beginning. As I mentioned, it is just a balance and thankfully we've been able to handle it in the past.

  2. Thanks Amy. I find those same options in my industry except for the freebies my customers expect those all the time!