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Magic words for better deals

Say 'birthday' or 'honeymoon' and the deals come rushing in.

By Karen Datko Apr 2, 2010 9:22AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


When it comes to discounts, it doesn’t hurt to ask.


Stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses are often willing to give you a discount or special service if you mention that you’re celebrating a special occasion that ties into your visit, says Steven Cohen, president of The Negotiation Skills Company, a consultancy based in Massachusetts that helps clients negotiate for better deals. “It’s not unreasonable to say to someone, ‘It’s my birthday, anniversary, what-have-you -- are there any extra deals you can offer me?’” he says.


Businesses have an interest in saying yes: It helps keep regular customers loyal year-round, says Dan Butler, vice president of retail operations for the National Retail Federation. Plus, a good experience may sway where they spend their money and celebrate on future occasions.


Some businesses routinely offer birthday and special-occasion deals; others may be willing to negotiate on the spot. You’ll have better luck if the purchase coincides with the event, Cohen says, i.e., “I just got a new job!” when purchasing a suit, “We’re planning our honeymoon” when booking a cruise, or “I just adopted a puppy” when loading up on pet supplies. Worst-case scenario, the salesperson offers congratulations but no discount.


I successfully used this tactic last week when redeeming various birthday discounts. Most notably, an Old Navy cashier stuck to the one-coupon-per-transaction policy when I tried to use a 30%-off coupon and my birthday coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more. I asked him if he would accept both as a “gift to me.” He agreed to ask the manager, and voilá -- dual discounts.


We’re featuring valuable coupons and sales each Friday to help you spend less on the items you buy. Found a deal we missed -- or looking for a better price on a specific item? E-mail me at or send me a tweet @kellibgrant.


Spa Week. The pampering industry tries to drum up business with periodic “spa weeks” throughout the year. An upcoming one is Spa Week Media Group’s Spa Week. If you sign up for a massage, facial, pedicure or other service April 12-18, the fee will be $50 apiece. Don’t get your hopes too high -- participating spas have been booking the appointments since March 15 -- so openings may be limited, if a service hasn’t already sold out. One spot that is still booking is The Red Door Spa in Baltimore. With the promotion, you will get a 29% discount on their $70 pedicure. Some participating spas are also accepting gift cards for the discounted services. Check to see if you can get one for less than face value to further improve the deal.


GameStop. Selection is limited, but the chain’s annual Game Days Sale attracts consumers looking for discounts of up to 50%, both online and in stores. “Assassin’s Creed II,” which was released last November, will be $30, down from $60. “World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade Expansion Pack” will be marked down by a third, to $20. If you use code GD10 at online checkout, you can save another 10%; code VALUE will result in free shipping on orders of $25 or more (a $5 value). Weigh which is the better deal -- you can use only one code per order.


Pottery Barn. The trick to taking advantage of the retailer’s current sale -- of up to 60% off -- is the shipping costs. Some items ship free, but most are subject to shipping charges. Those start at $5, but escalate to 10% of your order total if you spend $200 or more, and 15% of the total for orders of $3,000 or more. A $700 Bailey Console Table (marked down from $800), for example, would cost you $70 to ship. Another caveat: Items with prices ending in 99 cents are final sale and cannot be returned or exchanged.

Kate Spade. Through April 4, this fashion retailer is offering discounts on “select” purses, shoes, jewelry, and clothing, the operative word being “select.” Once you put the item in your shopping cart, you get an extra 25% off and free shipping. The code DONTFRET will take another 20% off orders of $50 or more. For example, a Boulevard Shopper Michaela handbag, originally $375, is on sale for $263. Once in your cart, it drops to $210.40, and then $157.80 with the coupon code (a 25% discount instead of the promised 20%). Altogether, that's a 58% savings. Anything with a discount of 50% or more before you add to your cart is considered a final sale item (no returns or exchanges), so shop carefully.


Related reading at SmartMoney:

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