One of the most important and simplest rules of negotiating is that if you don’t ask, sale you don’t get. The corollary to that is that if you do ask, you might be surprised by what you can get.
I thought of this just now after getting off the phone making reservations through the Gold reservations desk of a major hotel chain. I’ll be staying nine nights, and as I always do, I ask for whatever special rate they offer to my client, which only happens to be one of the largest corporations in America. They quoted a rate of $206 per night, which seemed kind of high for one of that chain’s less expensive brands. Coincidentally, my wife was on her computer next to mine and checked on the rate being offered to the public as a “long-term stay” at the same hotel–$124 per night.
When I relayed that information to the nice lady on the phone, it took her about 20 seconds to come back with an OK to match that rate. One question, 20 seconds, and I saved my client $738.
In that situation, it was pretty easy for me to ask the question. If I did not have that information, I might not have asked. But some people take it a step further. They always ask, even if it seems silly. Once my son Andrew was at a Starbucks and observed the guy in front of him order a muffin. At the register, the barista said, “That will be $3, please,” to which the guy responded, “I’ll give you two.” The Starbucks guy looked confused for a moment, and said, “Sir, the cost is $3.” Undeterred, the guy said, “Go ask your manager.” The barista walked over to the manager, and then came back and said OK. As Andrew came to the register, he just said, “Well?”, and the guy just shrugged and took a dollar off his bill also.
There’s a fine line between being strategic and being obnoxious, but clearly everyone draws it in a different place. Given the state of our economy, maybe it’s time for most of us to shift the line a little closer to the obnoxious side.