How Research Earned Me $150 Per Hour

by Kristen on August 22, 2012 · 25 comments

in Guest Posts

Today we have a guest post from reader WilliamB. Enjoy!

The Frugal Girl has, more than once, told us how some online research and buying parts has saved her money. Here’s another example. (I’m not a funny or pithy poster but maybe someday…)

Part the First:

Last week I bought a VCR/DVR to dup some videos onto DVD. After much back-and-forthing at the store it was established that
- the store had only one model of VCR/DVR in stock
- the floor model was the only one the store had
- the store no longer stocks that model
- the store lost the manual and couldn’t print it out for me
- the store lost the remote
- I could return the machine for any reason.

I used these negative characteristics to negotiate a 40% discount off the original price of $160. I also opened a store account to get an additional 10% off anything bought that first day.

Then I set about finding a remote because despite the “record” buttons on the machine, it can’t record a DVD without the remote. All the used ones I found priced out to about $20 including shipping. That was more than I had in mind but still covered by the discount.

Then my friend suggested I call the manufacturer.

D’oh! Why didn’t I think of that?

The rep told me they could sell me one, $18 including shipping. Well, at least it was new. Then she asked the magic question:

“When did you buy your machine?”

“Yesterday.”

“Then it’s still under warranty. We’ll send you the remote for free.”

“You remember that I told you I know it didn’t have a remote, and got a discount for that?” (because it’s not worth mortgaging my soul for an $18 remote)

“Yup.”

So my new $160 machine will cost me $86.

Part the Second:

At the same time I bought a 22″ LED TV with lots of inputs (Mr. FG would know what I meant) to use as a combined TV & computer monitor for $239. The next day I saw the same item advertised at another store for $180.

Price match time! Another $59 for me.

Because of the way the store processes price matches I don’t know how the first day discount from my store account opening will play out. They’ll charge something between $180 for the TV (no discount because the TV was processed as returned) and $156 (price minus discount, minus price differential). From a moral perspective it should be 10% off $180 = $162. If necessary I will argue with company for $162 I shouldn’t be penalized for how the store processes price matches.

Part The Summation:

By doing about an hour of extra work I saved $151, or 38% of the upfront price. Even if I have to spend another hour arguing with the credit card company (which I’ll do because that’s the sort of ornery cuss I am) it’ll be $75/hr. Score!

__________________________
Today’s 365 post: Mint is a persistent little bugger.

Joshua’s 365 post: Phew!

Leave a Comment

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Libby August 22, 2012 at 8:24 am

William – I always love reading your comments on the blog. How great to have a guest post from you.

Awesome negotiating! Thanks for sharing and enjoy all of your new toys : )

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2 Stephanie August 22, 2012 at 8:41 am

You don’t get to make up their price match policy. They might not even price match at all. And saying that you are going to call and argue with them to receive $18 is ridiculous and rude. I work for a call center. Having people call in with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, trying to tell ME how to do MY job is horrid. So many people think that when they call in, the person on the other end is not human. But we are. And trust me, we don’t make enough to deal with the verbal abuse that spews out of the mouth of “ornery cusses” like yourself.

On top of that, it is up to the STORE to decide how you are charged for the product, not the credit card company, even if the credit card in question is a store-specific card. They are two separate entities. One can not be praised or punished based on the actions of another. Would you complain to McDonald’s for something that Wendy’s did, and expect McDonald’s to compensate you?

Congratulations on getting a deal on a close-out floor model. Using the manufacturer’s warranty to get something for free that wasn’t rightfully yours is morally wrong. And opening up a new credit card to save 10% puts a ding on your credit score and gives you one more bill to pay and after interest rates, will actually be spending more.

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3 Kristen August 22, 2012 at 9:02 am

Stephanie, the company did know that the discounted model had no remote, but offered one anyway. In a situation like that, I wouldn’t say no.

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4 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 9:51 am

Stephanie, I’m with you 100%. The whole “moral perspective” thing made me gag. I work in guest service for a major retailer, and there are always people trying to get something for nothing who feel they are more “special” than the next in line.

And you’re also absolutely correct that the credit card company has nothing to do with store policy. He’s going to try to harrass someone and then pat himself on the back.

Ugh.

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5 Shannon August 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

Hmm am I reading his post wrong? It seems to me he called with the intention of buying the remote, and was honest with the rep about having bought the model with no remote. I don’t get the holier-than-thou remark. Oh well…

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6 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 11:20 am

I don’t have a problem with the remote.

It’s his attitude about the price match that’s over the top. I pity the person he talks to at the credit card company. Especially when he trots out his “moral perspective” (his phrase, not mine), as he’s sure to do.

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7 Shannon August 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

Ah, gotcha. Well I have to agree that he should 10% off the actual money he laid out. That said, it never hurts to ask for clarification, and hopefully he will be nice and polite to the rep. You’ll be nice, won’t ya William??? ;-)

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8 Kristen August 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I definitely don’t support being rude to customer service representatives. Mr. FG and I try to be unfailingly polite and kind in these situations because even when a company is at fault, it’s usually not the personal fault of the representative.

So yeah…my stance is that you should ask for what you’re entitled to, but that you should also be polite about it.

9 WilliamB August 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm

@Shannon: Of course. “Ornery cuss” describes my persistence and outlook not, I hope my manners. (Ornery has always meant stubborn to me, as opposed to the secondary meaning of rude or uncouth.)

Mostly because being rude is a burden to one’s fellow man.

Partly because being polite works better.

Partly because most customer service reps have all the authority of a clam and arguing with them is pointless, time-consuming, and needless aggravating. Better to get kicked up to the supervisor, who often can do something other than follow the first-level instruction manual.

10 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Shannon, see Wiiliam’s reply to you below and note the way in which he belittles customer service representatives. This is the tyoe of attitude to which I was referring.

11 WilliamB August 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Actually, Crystal, that was an expression of sympathy. They’re not responsible for the system and most of them are just trying to get the job done. ‘Tisn’t their fault how few tools they’re typically given.

12 Bob August 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Stephanie – there are a lot of variables regarding whether opening up a new credit card is going to have an adverse effect on WilliamB’s credit. Since I didn’t write any of the credit scoring systems (and I’m guessing you didn’t either), we don’t know whether the new card will help or hurt his credit score. And keep in mind that your credit score is only relevant when you’re in the market for credit – if he already has a mortgage and isn’t planning to buy a car in the near future, even if the new card drops his credit score for a while, it won’t make a difference.

As far as “after interest rates, will actually be spending more” – the interest rates only apply if one carries a balance. Since this is a blog about frugality, I expect that most of us here know not to carry balances on our credit cards (since paying interest usually isn’t a frugal thing to do). And since WilliamB is a regular, I’m hoping he did his research to make sure there aren’t any annual fees or other gotchas that will wipe out the 10% savings.

For the “one more bill to pay” – if he never uses the card again, that’s one check to write (and one letter or phone call to cancel it sometime in the future). There aren’t a lot of people I know who wouldn’t be willing to write one check to save $28 on a new TV & VCR. Without knowing what store card it is (and then researching the terms of that card) I don’t know if there are any benefits from continuing to use it – if it’s a store that he shops at regularly, there probably are.

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13 Lisa Kelley August 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

I’ve been a lurker, in fact this is the first time I have ever commented on a blog, but I had to speak up in defense of Kristen. The stores make these “policies” to try to hook you into buying from them, and buy more than you intended. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of their programs and insisting that they honor them. As far as the remote, she was totally honest with the manufacturer’s rep. They offered excellent customer service and she accepted. I say, “smart shopping”!

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14 Kristen August 22, 2012 at 11:09 am

I think using a price-match policy is totally fine too. I probably wouldn’t argue over the 10% discount related to the credit card (too much trouble, and I’d personally feel like I already got a really great deal!) but I see no problem with the price-match.

(just so you know, it wasn’t me that did this shopping…it was a reader, as this is a guest post. :) )

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15 Shannon August 22, 2012 at 11:16 am

Well done WilliamB! When can we see you start blogging anyway?
Something to consider about this scenario with regard to ethics: the DVD/VCR was sitting there with no remote and no manual. The store would rather make any amount of money off of that than nothing at all, because most folks would not even think of buying it. And it’s better to have an item put to use than trashed. Just my 2 cents…

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16 SandyH August 22, 2012 at 11:22 am

I think this was a smart deal, and the “ornery cuss”remark was totally tongue-in-cheek! No doubt you do deal with a lot of abuse from rude people, and there’s no excuse for their behavior….but I feel you should learn from it instead of passing it on, which is what you did.

As Kristen pointed out, the company OFFERED the remote. THEY told William the machine was under warranty. Did you not read that part?

I say, lighten up. This is a lighthearted and nice blog, and I personally can’t stand any other kind. There are people who just live for confrontation and (Internet word) “snark”. Bah!

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17 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 11:47 am

I doubt the ornery cuss remark was meant lightly. He said he’d argue with a credit card rep an hour about it (…”which I’ll do because that’s the sort of ornery cuss I am.”)

Delightful attitude.

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18 Madeline August 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Probably, working in call center is very high stress and people don’t last too long in jobs like that. I say if it’s making you crazy find another job as soon as you can.

Consumers have to be so savvy now, to save money, maximize purchases and the deals the stores are offering..and sometimes the stores don’t make it easy to understand. Credit card companies DO offer extra protections on purchases.I have a card that lets me buy another item FREE if I BREAK the first item within 30 days.It happened, my husband dropped a lamp while installing it over our dining table.Got a freebie.My credit card company charges a lot of INTEREST (to those who carry balances, not ME!) and they have the money to do this stuff . I also have a card that pays for lost baggage while traveling EVEN IF YOU HAVE OTHER TRAVEL INSURANCE.I lost luggage one year and received $250 from my travel insurance company and ANOTHER $250 from my credit card company which I used to purchase the trip. We were on our way to a cruise and had to hurry up to find a ROSS to buy my husband a basic wardrobe! (His regular clothes were lost,l luckily his formal stuff was fine so we did not have to replace his TUXEDO!!) I spent $245 to get him a weeks worth of basics, so we netted $250+… it wasn’t MY idea to offer such extra credit card protection but I am not gonna turn it down!

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19 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 1:03 pm

I don’t work in a call center.

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20 Lili@creativesavv August 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I think William gives an excellent reminder that doing your research can pay big dividends. If you research ahead of a purchase, just what an item is worth (especially with used merchandise), you stand a better chance of getting a good deal, than the guy who walks in off the street with no research to back him up, and just pays whatever is asked.

Good example, and most of us do this, is buying a used car. Everyone knows to look up the Blue Book value. Imagine if you were the guy who didn’t do this and you went onto a used car lot and just paid the asking price. Foolish, right?

This works with all kids of things. You collect widgets and you know the going price on widgets in your area. You see a widget you don’t have, but want, at a garage sale. Well, you know the going rate on widgets, so you negotiate a price.

If I’m buying something that I notice a small flaw in (that I can fix or live with), I always ask (nicely) if they’ll give me a discount because of this flaw. If they say “no”, I then make my decision based on the full asking price. But if they say “yes”, well then it just may be a good deal. It never, ever hurts to ask. And sellers are accustomed to people “asking”, so it’s really no big deal, or insult, or thing to be intimidated out of doing. Just remember your manners. Mama always said you catch more flies with honey than vinegar!

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21 Crystal August 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I work in guest service for a major retailer.

When someone brings me a flawed item I’m always happy to discount it for them. The only exceptions I’ve made are the few times I saw people trying to cause a small amount of damage in order to get a discount. These folks have been few and far between, though.

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22 Liz August 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Wow, I’m really surprised at all the negative comments and unhelpful critiquing going on here. This is very out of place for this particular blog! I’m disappointed with this, but hope it doesn’t discourage Kristen or readers like WilliamB from wanting to continue and participate in this forum.

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23 Suzanne August 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm

I agree! I usually look for William B’s responses to posts. I hope this does not discourage Kristen from allowing William B to guest post again!

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24 DawnF August 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I look for WilliamB’s comments, too! I usually find them interesting and insightful ~ and when I read his “ornery cuss” statement I actually chuckled because I pictured him saying that about himself in a humorous way.

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25 Lisa August 23, 2012 at 12:30 am

Ditto!

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