When and How to Ask for Discounts on Services

Last week, we had a potential Airbnb guest message us and ask us to lower our rate because she and her two daughters (ages unknown) would “just be sleeping there.”  On the one hand, you definitely won’t get a discount if you don’t ask for one, so good on her for asking. On the other hand, what reason or incentive do we have to undersell our service?


When to ask for a discount?

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for discounts, as long as the request is polite and isn’t framed like it’s expected. Here are some reasonable instances to ask for discounts.

Item Damaged

If an item has cosmetic damage but still usable, it’s reasonable to ask if the price can be discounted. My prom dress junior year was beautiful. It was white, with purple detailed flowers, and sequins scattered all over it. You couldn’t really tell the sequins were there unless you were up close, or if the light reflected off it in just the right way. There was only one dress left, and some of the purple thread was loose and tangled with the sequins. My mom thought she could cut it and make it look like new. When we got to the register, she pointed it out to the cashier, who then took something like 10-15% off.


Coupons at the Register

Many stores regularly issue coupons. I know some craft stores that issue new ones every week. There’s no harm in asking at the register if there are any coupons you could use. If you have a smartphone, there are a ton of coupon apps, too, that you can use while you’re in the store.


Cash Discount

This one works best in medical situations, but it also might work if you’re making a large purchase at an independent store. Ask for a cash discount. A lot of medical offices will take 10% off your bill if you can pay in cash. There is sometimes a discount for paying a bill in full, as well. (Not so) fun story: the day my mom died, I spoke with the hospital payment center about her $130,000 hospital bill. They told me if I paid it in full I would only have to pay $103,000. Completely reasonable. (Not at all. I didn’t end up having to pay any of it-but it took awhile to resolve.)


Floor Model

If you’re shopping for an electronic or appliance, consider asking to purchase the floor model. Obviously, you run the risk that it might be damaged-cosmetic it or otherwise-because it probably has been handled by many people. If the floor model looks good, and works as best you can tell, ask if you can buy it!

Ask at the End of the Day

This works best at flea markets, yard sales and farmer’s markets. People have yard sales mostly because they’re looking to make room in their house. At the end of the day they don’t want to bring all that stuff back inside-this is the time to try to make a deal. Don’t be a jerk about it-if the price is already reasonable don’t ask to pay only a quarter.

The same goes at a Farmer’s Market. Food does eventually go bad, so vendor’s might be willing to sell at a lower price. Make an offer that is advantageous to both you and the vendor if you’re going to go this route. Or just ask “are you willing to give a discount?”


Price Match

One time Mr. Beach Life and I went to Best Buy to buy a part for his laptop. He didn’t want to wait for Amazon to ship it in 2 days, so we actually went to a store. We got there and the part was more expensive in store than on Amazon. I looked at the Best Buy website and the part was priced comparable to Amazon. So, when he went to buy it he told the cashier that the Best Buy website listed it at a lower price and could he get it for that. And he did!

Don’t be afraid to show that other retailers are selling the same item for a lower price. Most retailers want you to spend money in their store and have a price matching policy. Price matching at the grocery store can sometimes be a pain with relatively little pay off, but it is easier with a potentially bigger payoff in electronic and appliance stores.


Discounts on Airbnb

I don’t think there is anything wrong with potential guests asking for discounts. Within hours of creating our Airbnb profile someone asked us to lower our rates since we didn’t have any reviews. I think that is a reasonable request. However, they wanted us to lower our rates by 75% for 3 weeks. That part was not reasonable.

If you’re going to ask an Airbnb host to lower their rates, provide reasons why it would benefit both of you. Some hosts might accept a slightly lower rate (10-20%) on a last minute booking if they really need the money. Just remember, for at least some bookings you are requesting to stay the night inside someone’s house. Hosts generally know what the going rates are in their area and it might not be worth it to them to host a stranger in their house for less than their going rate.

We decided to decline the guest for a number of reasons. One, she did not give us a lot of information about herself. Our space is in our house, and even though guests can access our living space we want to have an idea of the people who are going to be living with us. One time a young man wrote to us only “Going to a show!” We declined.

Second, she didn’t offer what she thought would be reasonable. If she had wanted us to go from $100/night to $85/night, then perhaps we would have been open to that. We are transparent in what value we place on our space since we have set rates. It is up to her to come to the table with a number.

Third, we felt the risk of a bad review was too great. If we had lowered the rate to $85/night and then she wrote us a bad review because since she “was only sleeping there” she didn’t feel like the space was worth the money she paid, it could cost us many bookings in the long run.


Do you ask for discounts at retailers? What strategies have you been successful with?

Disease Called Debt

4 Responses

  1. Mr. All Things Money (ATM)


    These are great tips for asking for a discount. I always try to get a discount for whatever I’m purchasing. Most of the time it works. Also, in this day and age, it’s pretty easy to compare prices or look for online coupons, many stores have their own apps that frequently send out electronic discounts. I especially like Target store’s app ‘Cartwheel’ as it lets you scan any item in the store and tells you instantly if it is on a discount or not.

    Anyway, nice post.

    Mr. ATM

  2. Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

    I once bought a small grill at Home Depot – it was the last one and it was the display model, so I joked with the guy that there was totally a discount because we don’t get a box or anything and it’s been sitting out, right? He knocked 25% off. I made sure I was really pleasant about it, but also never forgot. It really doesn’t hurt to ask.

  3. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    It sounds like you had some pretty nervy potential guests, but that’s good to keep in mind anytime you’re hesitant to ask for a discount. Like you said, it doesn’t hurt to ask and if they can find the nerve, so can we. I find that cash discounts are also good for independent contractors, like electricians, plumbers, or remodelers.

  4. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    Great list of discounts, both where to ask, but also why and when. It’s good to fit your strategy to the venue. I used to work for a used merchandiser and lots of folks thought that they should approach our wares the same way that they would at a flea market or yard sale. Nope, we didn’t work that way at all and trying to haggle on each item just upset the cashiers who didn’t have pricing authority.

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