Can I Get a Discount? Learning the Art and Science of Negotiation

Is it possible to get a discount on every day items for no other reason than being a “good guy”?

That’s what This American Life host Ira Glass and producer Ben Calhoun wanted to find out in a 2014 podcast episode called “The Good Guys”.

In it, Calhoun recounts a story of his friend, Sonari, who became obsessed with saving money.

Sonari, he’d interviewed this negotiations expert from Columbia University Business School. And the guy told him about this technique where you say, can I get a good guy discount on that? You’re a good guy, I’m a good guy– come on, just, you know, a good guy discount.

15-20% of the time, Sonari would get some sort of discount.

Calhoun, however, felt like a jerk walking up to cashiers to ask for a good guy discount. He felt even worse when they said no.

Eventually, he got a 5% discount on some cookware.

Like the sword from the stone, my friend. Behold– the good guy discount. Apparently, it can work for anybody. It’ll work for you.

But can we can just stop for a second? I don’t think that you should try it. I’m not going to try it again. Sorry, Sonari.

I just don’t think that we should go throwing around the term “good guy,” like it’s some kind of coupon. I think that “good guy” means something…I think I’d rather have whatever that is than a discount.

I agree with Calhoun – being a decent human being is worth more than getting a few bucks off of some item. I don’t enjoy putting other people on the spot. It doesn’t make me feel like a “good guy”.

At the same time, I’ve kept my mouth shut on far too many occasions when there was money to be saved because I wanted to be the nice person. And I didn’t want to be told no.

Sound familiar?

It should because according to a 2013 Consumer Reports Study, only 48% of people shopping for everyday goods and services even tried to bargain for a better deal. But 89% of people who haggled got a better deal at least once.

Just for asking.

And that’s why, as uncomfortable as it will be, I’m going to give the good guy discount a try.

The Negotiation Challenge

Some people are born negotiators. I am not one of them. I’m the silent and agreeable one who concedes so as not to ruffle any feathers.

But whether we like it or not, we’re always selling and we’re always negotiating. Knowing how to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, sell an idea and get what you want from others is one of the most important qualities to possess.

It’s something I want to work on.

This is the month where I finally force myself to ask – for the discount, lower price, better rate, freebies – you name it.

Every day (and ideally every time I open my wallet), I must negotiate something. It doesn’t always have to result in money saved, it could mean a freebie or an extra.

In the process, I hope to learn to be better at:

  1. Speaking up
  2. Communicating effectively and tactfully
  3. Being persuasive
  4. Not being so afraid of rejection
  5. Not being intimated by the “bigger guy”
  6. Not giving in so easily (and being persistent!)
  7. Recognizing that just about everything is negotiable
  8. Seeing the other party as an ally and not an enemy

I’ll be calling up my cable company, bargaining at the farmers market, asking for discounts at the store (online too), freebies at restaurants, and sniffing out opportunities wherever I go.

I’ve also got a stash of books, resources and a few “negotiation expert” friends on speed dial who are helping me out with advice and support.

I’ll be sharing my wins and losses in the coming weeks. and I hope you’ll follow along (please subscribe to the email list here!)

In the mean time, if you have any good bargaining tips or stories, leave me a comment below!


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