By saving $500 a month, you could have $12,100,000 over 60 years if you keep asking this one question...
The embarrassing reality hit me about 20 years ago: I was a wimp.
At the time, I was lining up for a bus in Casablanca, Morocco.
“Sixty-five dirham,” the grizzled man behind the ticket counter said.
I wrestled with my wallet.
I buried it in the front pocket of my jeans to discourage would-be pickpockets.
If someone groped around my groin, I was going to know it.
I paid the attendant the equivalent of $10 for the three-hour ride to Marrakesh.
I was wearing a backpack, and another man told me I owed an additional 20 dirhams to put the pack in the luggage area beneath the bus seats.
So, I handed him the cash.
While I carried my pack towards the bus, another guy snatched it.
He wasn’t a thief…at least, not in a traditional sense.
He didn’t work for the bus company.
But he tossed my pack onto the bus and demanded 20 dirhams.
“No,” I said. “I paid for my ticket and the baggage.”
My bravery ended there.
He followed me onto the bus, spitting insults and demanding money until I caved.
In my noodle-legged state, I’m sure I gave him five times more than what he asked for.
While in Marrakesh, I enjoyed a cup of mint tea with an affable merchant named Muhammad Ali.
He said most tourists are naïve.
He laughed when I told him my story about the bus.
“You are probably a lousy barterer too,” he said.
Mr. Ali was right.
It was time to get smart… while travelling and at home.
I soon learned that if a merchant or service provider’s profit margin was high enough, a surprising number would give me a discount if I asked.
Plenty of us already do this for our employers.
For example, thirty-nine-year-old Renoir Mazarello says, “I recently got a 15,000 AED discount on a company car by dangling a carrot of future corporate vehicle purchases.”
Renoir, a sales director who has lived in Dubai for 19 years asks “Why seek deals that only benefit your employer?”
“I pay the cheapest laundry rates where I live in Business Bay,” he says.
“A variety of laundry shops and apps price a formal shirt/pant anywhere from AED 4-8. A high-quality laundry, which I love, didn’t service my area. So I enticed them by offering to pool four of my neighbours who wanted to cut down on laundry costs but not compromise on the finish. I offered this laundry company five customers including myself, weekly pick ups at AED 3 per piece.”
Consider what we could do with the extra money.
For starters, we could donate it.
As I referenced in my book, Balance, research suggests giving money to those in need (especially if we can see the result of our giving) enhances our life satisfaction and our health.
We could also invest it.
For example, imagine saving an extra $500 a month just by asking for discounts.
A paltry amount, you say?
You have a two-year-old and a five-year-old.
What if you put such savings in a trust earmarked for their retirement (my recommendation is that you never tell them you have done this).
A $500 monthly investment would grow to $12,100,000 over 60 years if the money averaged 8.9 percent per year.
Some people might say, “I’m not experienced at bartering.”
Fortunately, you don’t have to be.
In NPR’s This American Life, they asked a reluctant NPR reporter to walk into stores and ask for discounts.
He was instructed to say, “Hey, you’re a good guy, I’m a good guy. Can you give me a good guy discount?”
The reporter found that it often works.
It’s even more effective when you give a bit of love.
Finance journalist, Kerry K. Taylor says, “I just chat with sales associates and I get discounts. On one occasion, I was at an airport’s car rental agency,” she says.
“I asked the attendant how her day had been. The woman had been treated badly by a customer who was upset at the company’s shortage of SUVs. So I gave her a hug and I told her the shortage of SUVs was not her fault. What was she supposed to do, build one?”
Kerry didn’t ask for a discount.
But she got one, and an upgrade.
You could also ask for discounts on cars, home purchases, renovations, boutique hotels, sports equipment… just about anything.
In 2006, I asked a real estate agent, “If I use your services to sell my property, could you drop your commission by one percent?”
That saved me $4,800. I invested that money in a diversified portfolio of ETFs.
It’s now worth about $12,000.
In other words, I earned $12,000 for asking a single question.
And that money will continue to grow.
If it averages 8.5 percent per year, it will be worth $138,700 in 30 years.
When I asked my friends on Facebook who gets discounts just by asking, one says she gets deals on her family’s dental costs.
Another friend earned a discount on lab work when she was pregnant with her son.
A third (much to her chagrin) says her husband got a discount on her engagement ring.
This is worth doing…especially if you can compound the savings or donate the money to someone who needs it more.
For my part, I’ll soon be visiting Morocco for the first time in 20 years.
It will be nice going back to the place where I was schooled.