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It Never Hurts to Ask for a Better Price

by Ted Johnson

Americans tend to be very shy about asking for better prices. Maybe it’s part of the reason we accept having obnoxious pitchmen shouting Sale! Sale! Sale! at us. It compensates for our own reticence to initiate a deal on our own.

Ron Popeil

How much would you pay?

When I returned from two-and-a-half years of living in Cameroon, I couldn’t pay retail for anything. As a shopper, I’d gone native. Negotiating price had become second nature — a matter of pride, no less.

There were times I’d be in the checkout line at a grocery store, looking a box of Junior Mints and thinking, I bet I could get that for 50 cents less.

And, yes, there were times when I couldn’t help myself. Shoes. I’d ask to speak with the manager, and sure enough, they’d be willing to bring down the price. Suddenly I’d be transported back to Cameroon, feeling like I’d just scored a sweet deal on some cassava gari.

Bike Tires in a West African Market

Bike Tires in a West African Market | Photo: Bikejuju

It never hurts to ask. Unless it hurts to be thought of as a schmuck, which is what I started to worry about.

These days I don’t go into African-deal-maker mode unless the price is more than, say, $100 and I have reason to believe that the retailer has an incentive to deal.

And here’s a reason to believe: If it’s in stock, retailers probably want to get rid of it.

If you are shopping for a bike or cycling accessories, just ask, “Can you work with me on the price some?”

Or my favorite: “How about $225, cash, out the door?” Which is code for: (wink wink) It’s none of my business how you account for this in your books.

Bike Bag Shop Inventory Reduction Sale

Please, please ask!

I’m for a strong cycling industry. I don’t want to twist anyone’s arm, or make the wrench-turners go hungry. But times are tough all over. And they can always say no.

Sometimes retailers would love to give you lower price, but they can’t tell you unless you ask. That’s because they can’t advertise prices lower than what the manufacturer has set as the minimum price — the minimum advertised price (MAP). The bike shops are prohibited by contract lawyers and/or guilty consciences from telling you, There really could be a lower price. Just ask! Don’t walk away. Please! I won’t think of you as a schmuck!

But what about online retailers of bikes and cycling accessories? You can’t exactly say to them in a low voice, Pssst… I’ll make you an offer — as much as they’d like you to.

Bike Shop Hub has figured out a way to let you ask (on certain items) for a lower price.

Remember what I said about, if it’s in stock, they probably want to get rid of it? With this inventory reduction sale, you’ll go to the product page, and you’ll see the standard price, but you’ll also see a button just begging to be clicked.

Reduce Pricing Available

Subtle, huh?

On these items, you can call for the bottom-line price, or have it sent to you by e-mail. It’s not exactly a negotiation, but it’s a price they can’t advertise.

Inventory Reduction E-Mail

Just like a sweet deal on cassava gari!

The inventory reduction sale is in effect for as long as Bike Shop Hub no longer feels like they have too much inventory:

If you get a good deal there, maybe you’ll feel emboldened to go try it in person at a bike shop.

 
Burley nomad 229

13 Responses to “It Never Hurts to Ask for a Better Price”

  1. Fabio says:

    Hi, I have been following this blog for a while now! I am an Italian guy living in Amsterdam and I also blog frequently about bicycles–easy thing to do, when you’re Netherlands based! :) Nice post this one, but frankly I definitely disapprove the hint to the “cash in hand” tip. The country I am originally from has been ruined by corruption, and I’ve always looked with admiration at the US, where such financial crimes were seen for what they are: a long-lasting damage to the collectivity. Little everyday things like the ghost registry are at the base of social honesty and coexistence, and I don’t think they should be encouraged.
    Other than that, congrats on the blog!

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @Fabio: There are reasons merchants may prefer cash that are completely above board: avoiding credit card processing fees, eliminating the risk of a bad check, not having to run to the bank for more cash for the cash register…

      But I get what you mean. When I learned the magic of a cash offer, it was clear to me that the retailer was wanting to avoid paying sales tax on the item — it was a motorcycle helmet, by the way, and I was pretty fresh back from my days in Cameroon. I was driving a pretty hard bargain.

      For whatever reason, cash talks. Cash out the door, simply means that the price you are offering must include taxes, and any other fees.

      The last car I owned was also purchased this way. They were happy to accept my offer of $4000 until they realized that I meant out the door — inclusive of taxes and all of the sneaky fees car dealers like to spring on you after you’ve committed to a deal. The auto dealer whined about it, but realized my position was take it or leave it. They took it.

  2. Tom Bowden says:

    Two words: Priceline Negotiator!!

    I think you should hire Naomi Pryce to model all your cycling attire. I mean, if you actually sold any.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2niwpSKDkYQ

  3. matt says:

    hey, this is a really interesting article. did not realize that retailers might be eager to sell for less than they are allowed to. my LBS constantly marks stuff down for me but I had never thought to ask them too.

    they also really appreciate cash. not saying that they are evading taxes, but the 2% credit card fee or whatever is skimmed off the top makes a real difference for a small shop.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @Matt: Clarification: …sell for less than they are allowed to advertise.

      Shops are allowed to sell at any price they like — sell at a loss if they choose.

      But brands have an interest in preserving the value of their products. A company like Light and Motion, for example, does not want to have their lights being advertised at the same prices as cheap bike lights available from Target — because the perception of the consumer is that the quality must not be any better. MAP pricing — in theory anyway — also prevents a “loss leader” strategy, which allows big companies to drive smaller companies out of business by temporarily selling products at a loss — only until their competitors go under.

      Ever notice how, on comparison shopping engines such as Google Shopping or NexTag, most prices are pretty well grouped together? That’s because the responsible vendors are honoring the manufacturer’s MAP pricing. The irresponsible ones are basically daring the manufacturers to come after them.

      Ever notice how Amazon often matches the lowest price? That’s because nobody would dare coming after Amazon. And Amazon is telling the manufacturers, We’ll raise our prices to MAP after you enforce your MAP pricing on the little guys. In doing so, Amazon hurts both the responsible and the irresponsible online competitors. Win-Win for them.

  4. I am a firm believer in at least asking. When I purchased my commuter, I asked and although I didn’t get any money knocked off the bike price, I did get 2 years of complete tune ups. Not much, but hey it is better than nothing. In hind site I should have asked for accessories like fenders or lights, or something of that sort as I actually enjoy working on my bike myself, LOL. Keep up the great work!!!

  5. BluesCat says:

    Hmmmm. Hey, Ted, does this mean that sometime soon, as I’m channel surfing on a Saturday afternoon, I’m gonna see YOUR mug on the TV, screaming at me:

    “But, wait! That’s not ALL!

  6. BluesCat says:

    Ted – Well, no (snicker), just remember that usually what follows that is the guy kicking up the volume another notch and adding:

    “If you order within the next 10 minutes, Bike Shop Hub will include ANOTHER Xtracycle Custom Conversion Kit in your order!

    That’s TWO Xtracycle conversion kits, PLUS TWO Xtracycle FreeLoader Saddlebags, for the price of ONE!! Just pay shipping and handling.”

    I’M IN!

  7. “African-deal-maker” mode? Classic!

    I support a much smaller bicycle-demographic (Recumbent trikes), so I’m curious if you’d advise me to attempt African-deal-maker tactics with my next purchase.

    I’m willing to spend money if I get a good product, as long as my money goes into making the product better than it is (assuming it’s not a faulty product to begin with).

  8. Spencer says:

    With a background as a retailer, I have a little perspective to add to your discussion. Simply asking for a discount will most likely irritate the salesperson, and put them on the defensive. Human nature, I suppose. As a good buyer, you need to also be a good “salesperson.” You should sell yourself to the retailer as more than the cash they receive from one transaction. Build up a relationship with the company, and make it worth their while to offer discounts. Whether you’re part of an explicit loyalty program or not, you can sell your loyalty as a reason to reduce price. Just asking for a discount because you asked for it doesn’t give the retailer much incentive to grant your request. Offer something in return. Those are my thoughts.

  9. Dominic says:

    If you’re a customer (as in you tend to come in frequently and buy a lot) then I have no issue working on deals. I’m even likely to just start discounting things for you on my own accord.

    But if I’ve never seen you, and you’ve never bought anything here, and you ask for a deal?
    We start playing the Pawn Stars game.

    Oh, and discounts NEVER apply to labor.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      @Dominic and @Spencer: I agree with both of you. What I discovered after awhile is that I could drive a really hard bargain — but I would also bargain away any goodwill between myself and the merchant. If I’m never going to see the merchant again, I’ve got nothing to lose by being an aggressive haggler. On the other hand, if I’m a regular customer, the goodwill is very important. Last year I went into a music shop where they know me, and I told them what my budget was and what I wanted, and they gave me a better deal than I had hoped for without any further negotiation. Being nice pays off in combination with asking for a better price.

      But my post isn’t about strong-arm haggling. I think that many people don’t know about MAP pricing, and that merchants are often very willing to reduce inventory at below MAP prices if the customer is willing to ask.

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