Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It Pays to Ask

Today I will outline how your friendly accountant handles services provided by major corporations and how you can get many of the things you have for a fraction of the cost.

I live in the country where cable TV is unavailable. Instead, DirecTV provides my family with several hundred channels of quality programming. {cough} When local stations switched to digital, a few channels didn’t work, including the channel that broadcast most of the Packers games. Since I watch little TV, I was not bothered… until the Packers game situation arose.

The Packers play Minnesota in Lambeau Field this weekend and if the situation is unresolved I will miss it. {sigh} So, I call DirecTV and tell them to add the local channels. They say, “Sure, you just need a new receiver box. Fifty dollars please. Oh, and your bill goes up three bucks a month.” I explain I don’t want it that bad since I could swing for a new $20 antenna and get it for free. In the grand spirit of customer service they transferred me six times before I hung up and took a different approach.

The accountant in me was boiling by now. The only way to win this battle is to make it personal. I called Disk Network and got their best deal that included a free receiver and local channels and then called DirecTV back and told them I wanted to cancel. This brought me to a totally different department. They didn’t transfer the call then. Now I was offered a FREE receiver and an instant $50 credit on my bill to pay the next twenty months of local channel costs. They install the whole thing Friday morning.

To sweeten the deal, about six months ago I called and talked them into giving me a $10 per month discount for a full year. All the new goodies are in addition to the $10 a month discount I already had.

I tell this story so you can use it as a template to save money. Commodity items are easy to get discounted. You can apply the same philosophy to phone service, cable, credit cards, bank products, and more. A rule of thumb is: if it is a mass produced product or mass provided service, it is subject to discount.

Where doesn’t it work? Let me illustrate with an example I am intimately familiar with: accounting services. You can keep your friendly accountant and get a discount if you do it right. If you are a business and have your books in order, I am willing to discount my fee in some cases. Never ask for a discount in the middle of tax season when I am working sixteen hour days. I will not take a pay cut to work more hours February through April; I would rather lose an account and spend more time with my girls. Sorry.

A better approach: ask for a free tax-saving consultation when tax season is over. I will always say YES. It is something I can do later, get my work done now, and is more valuable to you than a fee reduction. Let me save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in a free tax review versus a fifty or hundred dollar tax season discount. You see, even non-mass produced services can be discounted if you try. And I really don’t mind sitting with a client outside tax season working tax saving strategies.

When in doubt, ask. No harm, no foul. The worst that can happen is you stay where you are at. Ask businesses for goodies. There are many unadvertised deals to be had. I know I give a lot of tax consults gratis. If you don’t ask, I’ll bill. I’m not mean; I just want to feed the wife and kids.

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