Act Like A New Customer To Get Better Deals

Almost all consumer based industries punish loyalty and reward tyranny. 'New' customers get amazing deals that existing customers are not eligible for. As a consumer, you can put up with this — or you can work the system to get the best results. Here are my ten key negotiating strategies.

This first appeared as a comment last week, but we liked it so much we wanted to run it as a separate post. There's definitely value in being polite, but sometimes more extreme tactics are needed. Thanks Kendal!

Picture by Font Font

Get a bill you don't like but pay it anyway, or, complain and moan and wow – you get a discount. Threaten to leave a company for the competition, and you get a better deal, but stay quietly and loyally for years, no such benefit.

My tip is to kick and scream and moan and whine and complain and threaten to leave and play companies off against each other, as much and as often as possible. Be a BAD customer, you will get what you want and more. In the context of this guy who chained himself to a store, I can see how the tactic was both effective and exactly what he needed to do. So here is a short list of what to do in order to be a bad customer , and get more, more, more.

1. Shop around, but don't just keep what you find out to yourself; package it up and use it as part of your arsenal when engaging sales staff and customer service. Remember also to shop on your existing deals: you might find that your existing agreements, while holding expensive exit fees, are open for negotiation (ultimately, everything is open for negotiation).

2. Escalate. If you don't get what you want, just burn your way up the chain. But keep in mind that most sales and customer service reps hate to have to escalate, so use this as leverage (a threat) when asking for (demanding) more.

3. Do the maths. If you have a $100 problem, and you look like $1000 worth of time wasted, you'll get what you want almost every time.

4. Complain all the time. I know someone who complained about a bad manicure openly on Facebook; later that day she got a call and offers of free stuff. If you're not happy, tell the world, make a big deal about it; it can pay off.

5. Be disloyally loyal. This means staying with one company for a long time if there are benefits, and milking that company for as many benefits as possible. Your opening statement should include a phase like ‘I have been a customer for years..' If you aren't getting what you want, do the reverse when seeking more from competitors: ‘I have been loyal to your competitor for years, and would like to change to your service, if I were to be offered . . .' It may also be worth taking this back to the original company and showing them what you've been offered. Remember, if they don't give you what you want, escalate.

6. Never pay retail. Ever. Tell them you never pay retail, that paying retail is for idiots, and if they expect you to pay retail, then they are calling you an idiot. ‘You're not suggesting I'm an idiot are you…?' Let the know that you understand sales margins and that they have plenty of ‘wiggle room' to play with, and that price is what you're really shopping on.

7. Never take the first offer, even when they say ‘this is as low as they can go' Call them on their BS. Free is as low as they can go; tell them this to their face, but then explain that you understand you don't want it for free, you just don't want to pay first offer, and tell them you and they both know they can ‘do better.' If not, escalate.

8. Take up as much time and resources as you possibly can. Send emails requesting details and info which is not readily available. Keep people on the phone. Ask a string of questions and ‘what-ifs.' People hate it when they invest a lot of time and effort into something and lose. They HATE it. So have them invest lots of time and effort; this increases your chances of getting more and landing some sweet deals.

9. It is a game, so don't make it personal or take it personally. These companies do care about you, specifically, the money part of you, which they care about so much, they want it to be theirs. They are playing this game too, and looking to get as much of that cashola as possible. Your role is to get the goods with minimal spend. They know this, and set up the game to limit your chances, but play well, and you will enjoy the spoils.

10. Keep the game alive. This is important: as soon as you have paid, or gone to the competition, it's OVER (unless it's a service, then milk-on). You want to push and push and push until it's beyond reasonable, even logical, then you win.

Remember: loyalty is punished, and tyranny rewarded. Good luck!

And a word on the ethics of this: I'm not telling you to lie or make false claims or steal or make any misrepresentations. It's life hacking, not life-bending-over- and-taking-it.


Comments

    Pity those defenceless workers in retail, currently trying desperately to keep their heads above water and their shops open, that will have to put up with this type of brute-force attack. Cheers to the first one who ultimately states "I'm sorry, but if I or my competitors sell at that price, we will go out of business, so please feel free to take your business elsewhere".

      Most customers will claim to have gotten an awesome deal offered elsewhere, i always call their bluff and say well if thats what they can offer you would be a fool not to take it!, this usually leads to the " i would rather stay with you" reply which means the deal never existed, cause if it did they would have left when i said it. The golden rule of retail: CUSTOMERS LIE!

        One guy tried this on me once, I was already angry at him so I pulled out my wallet, handed him some cash and said "Man that's cheap, while you're there can you get me one too?"
        In hindsight this was a bad idea because it made him so mad he got physical. But it sure was fun.

          Ahem, By "One guy..." i by no means meant only one person ever tried it. This was just a particularly outrageous claim by some one I'd already decided was a tool.

        I've done that before when a better deal really did exist but wanted to use my gift cards. I waved to the sales woman on the way past with my new 50" TV.
        She looked mad...

    "Be a BAD customer, you will get what you want and more". Why stop there? Treat your girlfriend mean, and get your way everytime. Bad mouth your colleague and steal their job. I mean it's only Lifehacking!

    I find the sense of entitlement in this post repugnant. If you want to shop on price, the Internet is right there and be my guest. But if you want my excellent (if I do say so myself) service, knowledge and experience; and if you want to be able to hold the thing in your hand, walk out of the store with it today, and have a physical place to bring it to should it break - I believe a B&M store deserves to be compensated fairly for providing these things.

    Not to say a customer shouldn't shop around, but once it's past a certain size a business simply doesn't need rotten customers like that, and the time saved on not dealing with them can be put into providing excellent service to loyal, diligent or just generally low-hassle customers.

      Now that I'm out of retail I still shop around and offer to pay a lower price, but there's no point bitching and moaning and being a jerk. I propose a deal that I think is reasonable; it gets accepted or rejected; I purchase or walk away. Either way I smile and say "see you next time". No complaining, no escalation - my time is very valuable and I don't want to waste it haggling over something that's not a necessity.

      I pity the person for whom this is a form of amusement, that they have literally nothing better to do with their time; or that their time is this worthless.

        You don't have to be mean to get money off - when buying an ereader I used one of their computers and their internet to show them it was cheaper at officeworks, then asked nicely if they'd price match or throw in the case I wanted for free - they price matched with no problems. Nice to everyone, and got what I wanted, and didn't take me long.

    I used the 'new customer' tactic on my electricity and gas supplier the other day and I found out I was missing out on a deal I could have been getting. So now I'm getting the deal. It doesn't hurt to ask questions.

    I'd rather pay a couple bucks more than be an unrepentant arsehole.
    Also, while not a salesperson as such I do deal in customer service and I am way more likely to help out nice people and cock-block jerks than the other way round.

    This is a bad article. Agree with the others, not even sure why it was posted here.

    My "wriggle room" is only 5% and every time I give a discount, I have to add that amount to my target and if I don't hit my target I get reprimanded. So the customer gets a great deal but I might ultimately lose my job... It's not a game to me!
    As an account manager facing people with this philosophy every single day I hate this behaviour and for the customers that act this way, I provide a very basic service and won't follow up on them or help if they have issues further down the line. On the other hand, the customers that are nice I go out of my way to make sure that the deal they are on is the very best for them and the best value I can provide.

      EXACTLY! Customers don't realise that every dollar they milk out of you eventually comes back to bite the sales person in the butt. I find standing my ground and telling them the deal was good to start with usually works, if they walk they walk. 10 customers paying the right price is better than one not and having to sell to 20 more to catch up the lost revenue.

        Sales people can be jerks as well. If they simply say "I can't do it for anything less, it's a good product" then that is one thing, but a couple of mates of mine got the "I won't do it for the price retailer x is offering", and yelling "you'll be sorry" when leaving the store, a very unprofessional approach. I also had an experience where a box mover wanted to sell me a brand name TV in a regional store for several hundred dollars above the RRP, no salesmanship, no service, nothing. I simply walked out and went to another box mover who was happy to give me a price below RRP (approx 20% which is about as low as most sales systems will let sales people go with the large box movers) and wanted to chat for half an hour on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The RRP on display of large ticket items is simply a guide, always ask for a price. Some appliance brands don't discount, if two chains tell you this, then it's probably true.

        Retail and sales milk us for cash everyday, if you don't want to sell to the customer send them on their way. You can't have a hissy for people wanting more for their money.

    While this article is a little over-the-top, it does have some merit.
    For example, a while back I wanted to switch energy provider and contacted a service to find me a better deal, then my current provider responded with reduced prices.
    You don't get rewarded for loyalty, you get rewarded when you threaten to take their money away.

      Someones been playing Pocket Planes, that game is so addictive.

    nice article if you dont it personally like the other posters

    good points, i think most of them can be applied with good humour, and good faith. it's a good reminder that customer loyalty is regularly penalised, where capriciousness is generally rewarded.

    but "complain all the time" and "waste as much time as possible"... these are bad faith, nuisance behaviours that if applied too often will make you a real bastard of a person.

    I think maybe a lot of people have mistaken economic negotiation with community and friendship.

    Every purchase you make is a negotiation. There's no need to be rude to people, but you should remember that it's not only OK to seek and push hard to get the best possible deal, it's the way that competition and free markets are supposed to work. If you're not doing it, then your losing out.

    Proper shopping is about finding the lowest price the sales person is willing to sell something for. Proper selling is about finding the highest price the purchaser is willing to buy something for.

    The shops are always, always working hard to find the highest price they can charge you for the product they are selling. This is not nasty of them, it's the way it is supposed to work. The reverse of this situation is that the shopper is supposed to always work hard to find the lowest price they can pay for the product they are buying.

    Don't be so touchy people. Bargaining is good. :-)

      "There’s no need to be rude to people"
      This is key. The article advocates rudeness as the only way to bargain and ensure you get a better deal. Bargaining *is* good. Being a jerk about it is not.

    "3. Do the maths. If you have a $100 problem, and you look like $1000 worth of time wasted, you’ll get what you want almost every time."

    You do the math: don't spend more than 4 hours shopping around and complaining cause you'll just waste your time getting less than if you were working.

    I like this article, but not sure it applies for all industries. These tactics work really well for a few particular industries - in particular telecommunications, insurance, paytv etc. i.e. Services given by larger businesses that by default operate on a reasonable margins to begin with so their is wiggle room. Also where the company treats their staff/call centres just as a statistic. That is where you will get the most leverage with these tactics. In reality, they don't offer personalised service at all, so there is no incentive to be nice.

    Where this won't work is smaller companies or anywhere where they will remember you. Where the relationship as a consumer can be important to getting good service or future good deals. i.e. You have to be mindful of the way the business sees their customers and weigh up the options for how you deal with the staff in the middle. For a smaller, or more personable company - they may ask you to go elsewhere. In those cases, being nice, or particularly forgiving rather than giving negative feedback can also get the best results.

    The fact that people are incented to act like this is an absolute indictment on the way some of the large businesses treat their customers - only giving them decent or what is known "below the line" deals when they are at risk of leaving or something is escalated. The company is basically saying "oh you know we are making a large amount out of you and are leaving - so lets see if we can get you to agree to making a slightly less amount out of you". The cost for these companies is that if you go to another company, you spend your money with them, and give them more cash inflow to do more, build better networks or do more marketing.

    So definitely pick who you try these techniques on rather than being difficult just because you can. Unfortunately these exact tactics are what is required with certain companies to get better deals.

      TL;DR - Understand the business you are dealing with before being difficult. Sometimes the business isn't trying to make the most out of you possible, but is already running fairly lean so being difficult will harm rather than help. For companies where they try to 'charge as much as they think they can get away with' - these tactics work.

    I rang up as a new customer for Foxtel and they offered me a 35% discount (on platinum HD), when I said I couldn't afford to pay the full price, and didn't want it if I couldn't get certain channels. I then said I was an existing customer and gave them my account number. He then said he can't give me a discount, and that they'll lose money if they take me at that price. So I contacted disconnections, and was adamant that's a price you can offer it for, and they relented. So 2 years at 35% off.

    A friend's brother bought a TV from Harvey Norman for a 5% discount. He was told "That's as low as I can go. Any lower and it'll be below cost". He found out 2 weeks later that someone at his work bought the same TV for 15% off. So he filed a complaint to head office over racism (he's African) and that they said the "low as I can go" offer was higher for him than others because of his race. He was contacted and they refunded the extra to take it to 15%, plus received a gift card for several hundred. They said the employee was new and was in error on what the cost price of the TV was.

    A friend owns a bakery and gets people trying to negotiate. The "Give it to me at this price, or I'll never use you again" line comes up a few times a week. He often found people still came to him after saying that. But now he bans people that use that line. So be careful when you negotiate. .

    I remember a small business seminar and in it they said "don't be afraid of firing customers".

    This article made me laugh. What a refreshing way to look at the world! Everyone in business has one goal: to get us to open our wallets. I love the idea of making it as hard as possible to get me to part with my hard earned.

    Jo and lordbluray +1

    i run a division of a reasonably large company - if a consumer is an arse - then i basically hold a mirror up to them, work with them but they never ever get my bottom line. however a courteous empathetic genuine person will get more than they expect everytime.

    @Brian: you actually see that quite often. Some of the big retailers seem to have a "no negotiate" policy now - they'd rather lose the painful negotiators to competitors, and keep fleecing the 99% of people who don't negotiate, than set a precedent on cutting prices.

    That said, they will all do better than retail. It's just that they're getting used to the guy who pulls out his smartphone to check StaticIce, and they have prepared responses for them now.

    An addon to #7 is that you can ask for other things thrown in. If you're buying a laptop, figure out which high-markup accessories you need/want and ask them to do a bundle price for you.

    Also, once you think you've gone as low as you can, ask "how much for cash?". They'll often knock another couple of percent off.

    You guys are getting worse and worse as time goes by.

    Your articles such as this disgust me. You are deliberately trying to indoctrinate your audience into a negative way of thinking with negative articles like this with "be an asshole to everyone you can for best results!" as your tag line which ends up making things worse.

    You really need to discuss your articles with one another before posting stuff like this.

    Agree with poster. I've been with Optus for the last 10 years. The first few was great until they releasted the iphones. Network got saturated and the service started to slow down, but guess what? They raised the price on Cap plans, call rates, flag fall and recently took away OnNet calls. Of course im going to wag my tail and cry!

    I do like a bargain and shop around before purchase, but I would not resort to some of the underhand methods suggested. I will pay a few dollars more for good service, especially when the retailer has done their homework and knows the product.
    One favourite method of mine is to go for the recently superceded model, if it meets my needs, they tend to be discounted to clear.

    I work for a large airline... and you know the people I waive fees / bend the rules (that I can) for? The ones who are nice, genuine about the reasons they're canceling / changing their bookings etc and who are courteous enough to show a little respect to a fellow human being... What would I do for the author of this article? Nothing, wouldn't waive a fee or budge on anything. Feel like escalating it to a manager? Great, I'll tell my manager how rude you've been and that I don't feel we should do anything...

    I have no issue with people haggling or trying to get the best price (but being nice about it) - but the moment you start resorting to threats or acting like a d!ck... that's where the line gets drawn.

    Summary of article.. spend your life acting out like a whiney arsehole to save money.

    What a great statement on modern society. And worse still that it probably works.

    Not for me though. I like to shop around but I'm not spending my time diluting my soul by badgering customer service reps trying to earn a living and acting like I'm so much more special than the rest of society. I'll leave that to the haters. Karma has strange ways of popping up in our lives.

    Just so that everyone is aware, this post was written by a reader (me), so don't aim your criticisms at LH. Also, it's more opinion than advice, feel free to ignore and/or disagree with it. I appreciate that some people draw the line well before the tactics outlined here, for the record, this isn't how I play every time. If anything, it is worth at least keeping some of these point in mind when doing the retail thing. I'm glad to see it got people commenting thoughtfully and substantially.

    You have sunk to a all time low LB. Come in to my shop and treat me or my colleagues like that and expect to be asked to leave and not come back.

      @Nathan - http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/07/act-like-a-new-customer-to-get-better-deals/comment-page-1/#comment-133150

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