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Smart Buying

Negotiating: Save on Everything If You Know How to Ask

Allan Stark goes to bat for those who shy away from negotiating (you can sign up for his services at He'll try to strike a deal with anyone -- cell provider, car dealership, credit-card issuer, even a physician -- and split the savings with you 50/50. His top negotiating tips:

Suck it up. "Some people would rather have a root canal than negotiate," Stark says, "but it's easy." All you have to do is ask. And if you're turned down, be prepared to ask again.

Negotiate over the phone or in person. It's hard to negotiate over the Web because you can't make a personal connection. Pick up the phone and call customer service.

Be a mirror. If the person on the other end speaks loudly, speak even louder. If he talks softly, talk softly. Stark says people are more comfortable around folks like themselves, so you'll be able to get further with your requests.


Keep it light. "Like sex, humor sells," says Stark. Keep the conversation light, and don't get upset when you're talking to clerks and customer-service reps trained to follow scripts. They'll be more willing to work with you if they feel relaxed.

Know when to fold 'em. "More can get you less," says Stark. If customer-service reps aren't willing to budge, don't push them until they get hostile.