Leverage Legitimate Frustration to Generate Discounts

by Kevin on June 29, 2011

I’ve shared stories in the past on how companies are willing to negotiate to keep you happy. In the past, we’ve saved money on our cable bill just by asking.

Today I’ll show you how to leverage a legitimate frustration you have with a company you already do business with to save money. I’ll share the story of the scenario first, then dissect my negotiating tactic to get a discount.

The Great Washer and Dryer Discount

For those that have been keeping track recently, my wife and I just bought a house. I shared how we saved about 50% on our washer and dryer by utilizing a work/life discount program my employer has; the same program we used several years ago to buy our first home’s appliances.

I’m sure many folks who read the size of the discount we got thought it was too good to be true. There must be some kind of catch to what equates to a “buy one get one free” deal on a brand new, name brand, front loading washer and dryer.

It turns out they weren’t exactly incorrect on that…

The Great Delivery Mix Up

We closed on our home last week and are moving this week. We’ve been spending the time in between cleaning, painting, and bringing over items that you are more likely to be broken when moving large furniture such as our dishes.

We scheduled our washer and dryer delivery for last Friday when we were both off of work to paint and repair the home all day. We confirmed our order earlier in the week, received a follow up call the day before the delivery, and received one last confirmation call about an hour before the delivery. The delivery truck arrives and I greet the pair of beefy guys set to move everything inside…

…until one of them says, “You just ordered a washer, right?”

Actually, when you look at the delivery slip, it says we ordered a washer and the 4 prong dryer cord to be installed with our dryer. Yet the dryer is no where to be found on the slip. How much sense does that make?

Finger Pointing and Outsourcing

The mistake isn’t the mistake of the two guys in front of me. We are their last stop. They are just there to do the heavy lifting and put stuff in place. I politely inform them of the mistake, they make a few calls, and the finger pointing begins. No one is really sure why our dryer wasn’t on the truck even after multiple confirmations that we ordered a washer, a dryer, and a dryer connection cord. The delivery company blames the manufacturer and says the unit must be backordered. The manufacturer outsources delivery to the company, which increases the chances of a mistake.

Regardless of where my dryer is, they do have my washer and bring it inside.

While they (thankfully) carry it up to the second floor, they proceed to drop the unit on the plastic drip pan. You may know of this as a washer pan or overflow pan. It’s a simple plastic tub that your washer sits in, it has a hole, and it drains overflowing liquid to a drain in the bottom so your laundry room doesn’t flood. It costs about $15-20 to replace.

Now I’m missing my dryer, I have a busted overflow pan, and I have to be back at the house at a specific time to receive the dryer at some point in the future.

I have legitimate frustration with the process.

Leverage Frustration and Your Business for Resolution

I am frustrated, but I did get a killer discount on the two appliances. You might think a little bit of hassle is worth that kind of discount. I did.

But I knew I could negotiate a better deal with the company anyways, so why not? We did pay $70 for the delivery and installation.

Have a Goal in Mind

But before I call, I have to know what I’m looking to get out of the call. I would like to get the entire delivery fee waived, but would settle for splitting the cost down to $35. At least then I could afford to replace the drip pan and still save a few bucks.

Having a goal in mind is critical when you are negotiating whether with a company or with a home seller. If you aren’t set on what you really want, how can you convey that to the other party in the negotiation?

With my goal in mind I call the manufacturer and walk the representative through what happened in a calm voice. He is very apologetic and agrees I am due some recourse for the hassle. I keep my mouth shut in terms of mentioning specifics around what I want. You give up immense amount of negotiating leverage by giving the first number, so I wait.

He clicks through a few screens, pulls up my order, and informs he can completely waive the $70 delivery charge. Success! Oh, and what’s this? He can also send us a new drip pan via FedEx at no cost to me.

Key Negotiation Takeaways

1. Understand the business situation.

We have now purchased 5 appliances from this company. I’m one of several thousand employees that have the opportunity to use this program (even though some of them may not be informed enough to do it). They want to keep me happy to earn repeat business.

2. Be polite.

A big reason they want to keep me happy is I’m not a jerk on the phone with anyone in customer service. I wasn’t that upset customer that screams at the first person that answers the phone. I didn’t yell at the delivery guys because the mistake likely wasn’t there and yelling isn’t going to make a dryer appear.

In contrast I was polite. I spoke clearly. I had my facts ready – my order number, my address, even the name of the company that did the delivery. I calmly walked the representative through the issue and didn’t blame him. You are much more likely to receive a positive resolution by being polite.

3. Have a goal in mind.

If I didn’t have a goal in mind I might have jumped at a $15 discount on the delivery service simply because the company was offering something. Negotiating can be awkward and uncomfortable, so once a number is thrown out you may be tempted to jump all over it simply to get things over with.

4. Never state your target number first.

In this case I didn’t even have to negotiate to what I wanted – the representative gave me more than I was going to ask for. If I had thrown out a $35 discount, the representative would have jumped all over that and saved his firm $35 plus the cost of the drip man. On the other hand, if he had offered $35 initially, I could still negotiate a bigger discount. If they’re willing to do at least that much, they could probably do more. (In this case I didn’t ask for more because he stated he couldn’t discount the price of the units any further, so the only thing left to discount was the delivery service).

Negotiating can be awkward, but the rewards can be significant. I’m a big fan of big wins (negotiating on big purchases) rather than hundreds of tiny wins (cutting coupons every week). A $70 discount falls into more of the “medium wins” category for us, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at saving that much money with a 10 minute phone call. Have you used this type of leverage to get a discount in the past?


Tracy @ usingtimewisely.com June 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm


Tracy @ usingtimewisely.com June 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Kevin, Sorry about the one word comment. (Hit enter when putting down my laptop.)

But, congratulations on a job well done. I differ with you in one respect, I enjoy the large, medium, and small savings. Cutting those coupons helps me to save 50-70% each week on my family’s groceries.

As your family grows, you may change your mindset. Just keep an open mind and keep up the great savings while spending time keeping your home in order.

Crystal June 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I completely agree with you on your negotiation tactics when calling in a complaint. 100%.

I also agree with Tracy, I enjoy the small, medium, and large wins. 🙂

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