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Mastering the art of negotiation

Differentiate for the discount
According to Cohen, the best way to bring down the price is to differentiate your purchase from the average buy, whether it's your method of payment, the model you buy, how you get it out of the store or any number of other variables. Instead of paying with a credit card, use cash. If the price includes delivery, take it out of the store yourself. Buy the floor model because nicks, scrapes, discontinued features, or even the fact the colour you want is unavailable, could all be fuel for a discount.

"I've known people who work in retail establishments that have been told by the owner, if the customer says, 'Can I have a discount?' you give them ten per cent regardless of the reason," says Brodow.

It's important to realize that stores are desperate for your money because they know money is a fungible commodity. "Money talks and money walks. The only thing it does not say is if and when it will return -- all sellers know this," says Cohen.

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You can take advantage of this fact simply by adjusting your attitude. Don't fall in love with a particular item or deal. Instead, feign a position of weakness. "Train yourself to say, 'I don't understand, I don't know, help me.' What you want to do is hide your intellect from the outset. Conceal it and let the other side discover it."

Styles and techniques
Brodow has three standard techniques for one-price stores. The first is The Flinch, i.e., "You want how much for that?" It's a tactic that falls under what Cohen calls The Soviet Negotiating Style. It's an aggressive strategy that opens with an extreme initial position, uses emotional tactics (like making a scene in a store) and applies pressure with time by stalling.

Brodow's second technique, The Sob Story, asks management to knock down the price because of a recent hardship, i.e., "Can you knock $200 off this? I just put my kid through college." It falls within Cohen's Win-win Negotiation Style. "It's important to realize that people's positions aren't inherently in conflict. If you can come up with more information that reveals why the other side says what they do, you can find outcomes where both sides gain," says Cohen.

Brodow's third technique, the most widely accepted, is called The Squeeze. This is when you inform the store you can get the same product for a lower price somewhere else and ask them to match or beat the discovered price. "You don't always need proof, but the internet makes comparison shopping very easy," he says.

But if all of this makes you nervous, Cohen says it comes down to one sentence: "I really like this item, but I wasn't expecting to have to pay this much. Can you help me?" If the employee can't offer a discount, Cohen says you can always go over their head. "As I always say, why deal with the monkey, when you can get to the organ grinder?"

Aaron Broverman is a writer living in Toronto.

-- Posted: January 6, 2010
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