How to convince a store to give you a deal

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Kyle James

The time and effort required to be an “extreme coupon” user is something that many of us would rather pass on. Instead, learn the right questions to ask store employees in order to score the best deal possible.

Sometimes they’ll pass along an exclusive coupon, sometimes they’ll drop clues on the best day of the week to shop, and some might even mark down products for you.

By knowing the right questions to ask, you can easily maximize your savings on your next shopping trip. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Ask about markdown days

Most retailers, both small and large, have specific days of the week when they do their internal store markdowns. Whether it’s adding new items to the clearance section, or reducing the price on already reduced clearance products, if you know the “markdown” day, you can shop when the selection is the greatest and still save some money.

I have found that most employees are very open to share this information if you have a friendly chat with them. For example, a Macy’s employee told me to shop on a Tuesday as they have all their markdowns done by then. Also, if you’re a Kohl’s shopper, I was told to shop on the 2nd and 4th Saturday every month. 

If instead you end up shopping on the day before a store does their markdowns, you’ll find the clearance section picked over and will probably find little of value.

2. Ask about floor models and imperfect items

When I worked at Home Depot, floor employees were given the authority to markdown imperfect items, scratch and dents, and floor models in order to clear them out of the store quickly. This included marking down items whose damaged packaging did not affect the quality of the actual product.

I can remember having regular customers who would ask me specifically if we had any such items that they could get a deal on. I’d then happily point them to the products I could mark down for them, and they often got stuff for 25 to 30 percent off the original retail price.

Start asking employees at stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Walmart about deals on floor items and imperfect stuff. If you can’t find any specific items to ask for a discount on, just ask an employee, “Do you have any screaming deals on floor models or scratch and dents?” Then just follow them to the deals.

3. Ask for a coupon

Many retailers arm their employees with special coupons and discounts to freely hand out to customers in an effort to build store loyalty and goodwill. So if you’re shopping in-store, and you can’t find a coupon via your smartphone, start a polite conversation with an employee and ask if they might have a coupon to use. You have absolutely nothing to lose and significant savings to gain.

JCPenney, Macy’s, Old Navy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Cost Plus are a few of the stores where this has been known to work effectively.

4. Expired coupon? Use it anyway

Have you ever been on a shopping trip and pulled a coupon out of your purse or wallet only to realize it expired last week? For a frugal shopper, it can be a sickening feeling.

Next time this happens, try to use the expired coupon anyway, as often the cashier will say, “Oh sorry, this one is expired. But I have one here by the register that you can use.”

Stores where I have used this strategy successfully include Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Harbor Freight Tools.

5. Find out which items you can negotiate

It’s no secret that retailers have certain products that offer a larger profit margin than others. A Best Buy employee recently told me that they can negotiate a lower price on products with a higher profit margin. He went on to say that high-end TVs often have more wiggle room in price than those in the $250-$500 range.

Use this information to your advantage, and try to politely negotiate a lower price on higher-end electronics. If you’re worried about looking cheap, try the “bundling” technique. This is when you bundle a TV with a Blu-ray player and ask for a 15 percent discount if you buy both on the spot.

This will also often work at big-box home improvement stores. Think things like a lawn mower purchased with a weed eater, or chain saw with a carrying case and new chain.

6. Ask about upcoming sales

When I worked retail, I always had some insider knowledge on upcoming sales events or exclusive coupons and rebates. Most floor employees at big-box retailers have an idea of when prices will probably get better. So ask them when they recommend you should buy to maximize your savings.

They’ll often tell you to come back on a specific day or weekend when everything will be on sale, or when there will be a great coupon available. In either case, just by asking, you can easily get some insider knowledge that’ll save you some money.

This article is from Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website.

All contents copyright 2016 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Service.