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Frugal Find: Negotiate

   Posted On: March 14, 2014  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

Sticky name tags class up any affair

As bottom man on the totem pole at work, I had the distinct pleasure of being in charge of creating name tags for an event. The first step in this process was to wander down the street to Staples and procure name tags — the clip on kind because we’re classy like that and no one wants to poke holes in their clothing.

I strolled into Staples, boss’s credit card in hand, and gasped in horror when I saw the specific name tags I needed cost upwards of $85 for 100 name tags. This seemed outrageous! Even for clip-on name tags with card stock paper you can feed into the printer with ease.

Keeping my disbelief in check, I kindly asked the Staples sales clerk if they perhaps had a box of 50 name tags instead of 100 (I only needed to make 30). She ushered me over to a computer and proceeded to look up the item in the Staples online store.


The sales lady’s original intent was simply to see if the larger Staples store a few avenues over offered the 50 box count. Instead, she ended up revealing that Staples online sells the exact same box of 100 name tags for $30 less than in the store.

In a friendly manner, I inquired why this box of name tags was offered for $30 less online? The response: Ummm, things are just cheaper online.


A friend who was with me sighed as though she knew what was about to happen. “Erin, this isn’t even your money. It’s the company’s money and they can spend $85 on name tags. The leftovers will get used.” [I glared at her for potentially diminishing my negotiating power]

The rationale that it wasn’t my money wasn’t enough. At this point I’d become entrenched in a situation about principles. I simply couldn’t pay $85 for an item with the $55 option taunting me.

I put my game face on and started negotiations, like the black markets totally legitimate markets of Shanghai had taught me to do. One of my key tactics is the “walk away.” Granted, there will be other times you simply don’t have the luxury to walk away from the table, but I try to ensure my foe doesn’t know that for as long as possible.

After hearing the the online price was cheaper, I set the box down and told the friendly lady I would love to buy this box of name tags, but simply couldn’t justify spending $30 more in the store.

In the easiest negotiation ever, her manager turned around and said, “it’s okay — we’ll just give you the online price here in the store.”


I returned to work, name tags in hand, and proudly told my boss that I’d saved $30. Sure, $30 isn’t even a blip on the radar to my company, but I still couldn’t handle over-spending when a cheaper option was so blatantly obvious.

There are plenty of other times in life to negotiate: cable bills, cell phone plans, even with your debt! Learning how to negotiate is important, but knowing isn’t the same as doing. Know how to negotiate and be sure you actually utilize the skill set!

Those who need some tips should listen to this NPR Planet Money podcast featuring what happened when an FBI hostage negotiator bought a car.

 When have you negotiated for something you wanted or needed? 

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27 responses to “Frugal Find: Negotiate

  1. Nice work. I am solidly in the middle between introvert and extrovert, but when my principles are rubbed the wrong way, that might be the time when my extrovert side comes out the most and goes in negotiation mode!

    Although, I will say that when it is my company’s money, I am less likely to care. Just my nature, I guess.

    1. I probably just also like any opportunity to do a little negotiating. Plus, if I had lost it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal!

    1. OHHH! That’s a good future post (unless you’ve already written it and I want to see it). I’ll have to let my sister know that because she loves Target.

  2. Great story! I’m with you, many times the art of saving money is about principal, not the actual price difference. I’ve been in that situation so many times and it’s funny to see how friends/family react to the bold stance of frugality!

    1. I know all my friends and family expect it when my personal money is involved, but I understand the eye roll when it’s company money. I just like any opportunity to save some cash!

  3. A friend used to do this all the time at Best Buy. They would look up items online and find the largest difference in price between online and store. Then they would ask the cashier to match the online price. No problem.

    ….then they would return the item to the store getting store credit of the full price.

  4. I know there are times when I should have negotiated more but for one reason or another, have not. One story that stands out to me is when my father-in-law saved my wife $1,000 on her car. They found a used car that she liked and he said they’ll buy it but only if they dropped the price by $1,000. That was literally something like 20% savings off of what they would have paid if they wouldn’t have asked. The dealer went for it and she drove off $1,000 (theoretically) richer.

  5. I actually did something similar at Macy’s. I saw a suitcase online that I wanted, but didn’t want to pay the shipping, so I went to the store (which was in walking distance) but found that the price was more expensive in the store. I showed the salesperson the website and he agreed to price match to the online price.

  6. Good job! It does kind of boggle the mind why things cost different at the same store when it’s sold online. I did this recently at Babies R Us and asked them to price match their own online store. I think most stores will do this. Staples also price matches competitors too. Although I tried to get them to price match on Amazon, they wouldn’t do it. While they price match to Amazon, apparently the deal I found was not actually Amazon, but an Amazon distributor. Oh well.

  7. Yikes. I’m running an event in a week and have to get name takes. Hopefully I won’t run into the same issue, but might just have to use your negotiation/walk away technique to make the cheaper price happen. Thanks for the tips.

  8. I would have done the same thing, company money or not. $30 is a decent difference in price, and the reasoning that things are cheaper online is not very convincing. My old bosses loved getting discounts on things, so it was kind of a fun challenge to get things at the lowest price for them.

  9. Yes indeed it was about principles and also your habit of not letting get tricked with stores overpricing their product. I congratulate you sir on your personal finance blog. Hopefully stores get proper coordination on the prices they set. Not only is it confusing but maybe the clerks charge extra. We consumers don’t know. They could be making up prices on the products they are selling.

  10. Things are probably so much cheaper online because it’s so much easier to comparison shop online! I’m glad they ended up giving you the online price, and I am with you. I would have questioned it too, even if it wasn’t my money.

  11. The last car I purchased, I bought for 48% off the asking price. It’s important to remember that when looking at an item, it’s never about what the other person is asking. What is important is what the item is worth to you.

    And in the case of the name tags, good job! The worst they could of said was “no.”

  12. Nice. That would’ve been crazy if they didn’t give you the online price.

    I negotiated a lower price on my internet bill for 3 months a little while ago. I felt like queen of the world when I hung up the phone. It was awesome.

    1. I know my internet bill will hike in July when this year is up and I plan to put my negotiation face on! Major props to you. I might have to give you a shout about your tactics when it’s not face-to-face.

  13. Exactly, you should put down the item (instead of keeping a firm grip on it) and appear to be ready to leave if you want to negotiate. Negotiating is a habit gained over time. Once you know you can buy things cheaper or get more money for your product you cannot stop exploring what the bottom/top price would be. You can save thousands of dollars in one year depending on your total spend.

    1. Negotiating is such a great skill and can make it so you earn more money instead of just saving it as well. Major win-win.

  14. Solid! I feel the same way about paying for something in a store when I see it online for much cheaper. In my experiences, management is usually willing to provide a discount because they don’t want to lose the sale, but I have no problem walking away if need be. Even if it wasn’t your money, who wants to spend more when you don’t have to?

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