5 Easy Ways to Get a Store Discount

These simple strategies can earn you big savings.

Cashier and customer at grocery store checkout
Getty Images
By Jim Wang

In early January, "This American Life," the weekly public radio show, did a story about "good guys," which started with a discussion about the mythical "good guy discount."

The premise was that by simply asking, in a rather awkward way, for a discount at the register, you could get one. The story continues with hosts Ben Calhoun and Ira Glass trying, several times without success, to get this "good guy discount." They may have failed, but here are five ways to increase the chances you'll succeed.

Be friendly, polite and nice. When you ask for a discount at the register, you're asking the cashier to do you a favor. You don't know if a discount is available and you need his help. Being friendly, polite and nice to the cashier can go a long way. Smile, say hello and ask her about her day as she rings up your purchases. When it comes time to pay, that's when you ask if there are discounts for which you qualify.

Accept you'll fail most of the time. Some stores simply don't offer discounts of any kind. They don't run promotions, they don't have coupons and there's no way for a cashier to ring up a discount. Other stores run promotions all the time. If you've heard of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBY),
you've probably seen one of their ubiquitous 20 percent off coupons. They come in nearly every mailer, apply toward almost everything except a few name brands, and never actually expire, despite having an expiration date. If you forget a coupon, the cashier has a book of bar codes he or she can scan to give you the right discounts to help you save. Depending on how nice the cashier is, sometimes she will even scan bar codes reserved for competitons' coupons to give you even more savings. It pays to be nice in life!

Get lots of practice. There is only one way to get comfortable with failure: experience it. Once you've felt the sting of failure, it doesn't hurt as much the next time. And when you do fail, it's really not a big deal. Most cashiers will say "sorry, we don't have that," or something similar. If you think you'll struggle with this, pretend you're acting or playing a persona. Pretend you're testing out different strategies, like the result when you're friendly versus simply being polite. Let it become a game, and failure stops being as big of a deal.

Try obtaining discounts at smaller shops. In the case of a large store, cashiers don't usually have the freedom to give you a discount unless it's already part of the company culture, as is the case with Bed Bath & Beyond. With smaller stores or at farmers markets or smaller venues, you may be speaking with the proprietor, and he has the flexibility to do anything he wants. The store may not advertise a three-for-two discount but it might go for it if you ask. If it's near the end of the day, the owner might prefer to sell the item at a lower profit margin than not at all.

Take advantage of an affinity group. Are you retired or active military? Are you of a certain age? Military, veterans, student and senior discounts are everywhere, but some stores don't advertise them. To find out if the store has one, just ask. Are you a member of the National Military Family Association or AARP? Membership organizations often negotiate special discounts for members, and they may have done it at the store you're in, and those discounts may not be advertised.

If you find yourself having trouble trying these strategies, just remember that a few seconds, even if they're uncomfortable seconds at first, could save you a lot of money in the long run. It's worth the effort.

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I've had experience using expired Kohl's cash within a week of expiration. Politeness goes a long way. Politeness is also fairly effective manner of avoiding traffic tickets. ;)

September 26 2014 at 11:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny, I never was given the 20% discount at Bed Bath and Beyond when I did not realize my coupon expired. Can I quote you next time I have an expired coupon??

February 14 2014 at 1:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lowes stores offer a 10% discount on everything for military veterans with a VA identification I use it all the time.

February 14 2014 at 1:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The writer of this article
Completely clueless to retail
There's a Difference between getting a discount and wanting to participate in an episode of
"Extreme cheapskates"

February 13 2014 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Being an antique and flea-market dealer - a lot of times there is room to barter. When asked if I would be willing to make a deal, I would reply "Yes, but don't insult me!" If a jerk said will you take ??? (an extremely low price) I would say "Sure I'll take ???, ACTUALLY doubling the original price!! Way too many times the jerk already had his 'LOW AMOUNT' clutched in his grubby little meat hooks!!!! I can still recall a lot of the disgusting looks on the 'perps' faces!! A joy to behold!!!

February 13 2014 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Pardon me," said my elderly sales representative to the druggist filling his prescription for a 24 hour bug. "Do you offer a clergy discount?" Amused, I watched as he made his purchase at half price while my other employee purchased the same medicine at full price. "I never told him I was a clergyman," he later explained.

February 13 2014 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is NOT five ways to get a discount. It's ONE way---ask. Then be prepared to fail to get any discount. Worthless article.

February 13 2014 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

I owned a retail business for 14 years. We gave a 15% discount if people said they saw our web site. Even if they didn't, we coached them ("Repeat after me, "Oh yes, we saw your site, and forgot the web coupon.'") What amazed me were the people who still asked for more--rudely. We were extremely customer-oriented, but I 86'd people with no qualms if they got rude or too pushy. Who wants a customer like that? Or their friends? When dealing with a small business person, always remember the Golden Rule.
P.S: If you work for some large corporation who've coached their "customer care" representatives to say "no" at all costs, just think how you'd feel being treated the same way at a local business.

February 13 2014 at 7:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I was a retail store manager for 36 years. What you are asking the cashier to do is negotiate pricing (illegal in most states) and, if caught, give up their job.
BAD IDEA. I dealt with people like you and when caught, they were asked to leave the store. If they persisted, we banned them from the store.
Stick to couponing.

February 13 2014 at 7:17 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to took4ever's comment

So you are saying you asked a customer to leave for asking for a discount? Seems a bit much. Wouldn't a polite "no im sorry we do not offer discounts" have worked ? If I asked for a discount and was told to leave the store you can bet your but I would not have returned and I would do whatever I could to make others see how you treat customers. Businesses have closed in my town for that kind of bs. Somehow I don't think being banned from your store would have hurt anyone too much.

February 14 2014 at 1:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

and all of this is to get a what, 5 dollar or 10 dollar discount? (Yawn) Completely meaningless to me. Im not wasting my life haggling. If you don't have the money to buy a particular item then dont buy it.

February 13 2014 at 6:41 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to monyaka64's comment

If it is so meaningless to you why bother reading and commenting? Nice try at being superior (YAWN) Personally I do not ask for discounts I don't like putting the clerks in that awkward position and thankfully I am at a place in my life that I don't need to. However, good for those who do it I seriously doubt the people who do this do it because they cannot afford what they are buying they do it because they want to. I think most will feel that your comment was a meaningless waste of time...I know I did. Only responded to point out your ridiculousness. You have a wonderful life up on your pedestal.

February 14 2014 at 1:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply