My Experiment: Asking for a Better Deal

Getting lower prices can be easier than it sounds.

By + More

If just asking a question could put money in your pocket, would you do it?

According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of the new book Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, many women miss out on higher starting salaries, store savings, and other benefits because they fail to make simple requests.

The power of "asking for it," they say, can result in everyday lower prices, as well as a significant increase in lifetime earnings. In fact, Babcock recently told me that while she was out shopping for jewelry, she asked for a lower price and ended up making the purchase at a 20 percent discount.

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of the "ask for it" approach, especially when it comes to shopping. Perhaps at farmers' markets, but I assumed most large establishments would set their prices and stick to them.

To test my theory, I did a little experiment. For a minivacation, I wanted to go away for the weekend with my husband to a hotel near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Hotels there can go for $300 a night or even more, but I wanted to spend around half that amount.

So I decided to ask for a better price. I called the hotel of our choice and asked if I could get a discount. (Well, I admit: Following the stereotype described by Babcock and Laschever, I did not feel comfortable making this call, so I tried to get my husband to do it. He declined.)

Almost as soon as I asked for a better rate, the receptionist replied, "Oh yes, we can give you that room for $160." I was shocked. I accepted on the spot and immediately told my husband how brilliant I was.

Babcock and Laschever are onto something. Sometimes paying less and saving more come down to simply asking for what you want.

• Readers, have you ever gotten a better deal simply because you asked for it?

• Check out this week's Carnival of Personal Finance for tips on a cheap but romantic Valentine's Day and other money-saving strategies.