Editorial Policy

Want a discount on a big-ticket purchase? Just ask

Allie Johnson

December 3, 2013

Are you clipping coupons to save a few cents here and there, but missing the chance to save big by not asking for a discount on major purchases?

Recently, I was shopping for a sectional sofa to go in our newly remodeled living room. One day, I saw a coupon code for 25 percent off pop up on the West Elm website. I waited a few days to buy, and the coupon code had expired.

In the meantime, the couch had gone on sale, but the discount wasn’t quite as high as it would have been with the code. I called customer service, explained the situation and asked if there was any other coupon code I could get. The rep offered to credit me an additional 20 percent back to my credit card after I bought the couch.

On top of the sale price, I saved more than $400 just by asking, which added up to almost 40 percent off the retail price. If you’re going to put energy into trying to save a few bucks, it makes sense to focus your energy on big purchases, where you have the chance to save a bundle.

Here are some tips for getting discounts on big-ticket items:

  1. Do some scouting. If you can plan for a big purchase, you’re likely to get a better price. For example, if you know you want to buy a certain item but don’t need it now, ask a store associate when it might be going on sale, recommends personal finance blog Squawkfox. At the beginning of our remodel, I talked to an Ikea employee and learned that the store regularly has 20-percent-off kitchen sales and that one was coming up soon. We ended up saving $1,000 on our cabinets.
  1. Be nice. When you ask about getting a deal, it helps to be friendly and relaxed about it. Chat with the store employee or manager and don’t demand or even expect to get a special price. That’s what I did when I called about my sectional, and the employee was more than happy to help me save money.
  1. Price match guarantee? Ask for more. Many retailers have price matching programs, but they might not be advertised. Many stores will not just match, but will beat a competitor’s price by 5 percent or 10 percent, according to the frugality blog Southern Savers. But you might have to ask.
  1. Embrace imperfection. If there’s something wrong with an item, but you want it anyway, retailers will often knock a percentage off the price. I once got a great deal on some lawn chairs that were scratched just by asking a store employee, who called a manager. If you spot an already-discounted item in a store’s scratch-and-dent section, you often can get an additional 10 percent or so off if you request it, according to the personal finance blog LenPenzo.com.
  1. Pay attention to commissions. One more tip from LenPenzo.com: Find out which places pay their sales associates on commission. Shop around first to see what prices other retailers are offering, then go to the store that pays commissions and try to make a deal. The employee may be willing to cut you a bargain to close the sale.
  1. Forgot to ask for a discount? It might not be too late. WiseBread.com recommends keeping your eye out for sales after you purchase a big-ticket item. If you see the same item on sale at the store where you purchased it, or even another store, you can go back and ask for a refund of the difference. Also, don’t forget that some credit cards have price protection, which offers you money back if an item you bought goes on sale within a certain amount of time after you bought it. These programs often require the price to drop by a certain amount — and you’re more likely to hit that amount with a large purchase.