How to get a discount even if there’s no sale

Everyone likes a sale

If you don’t see a sale sign, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a deal. Here are four ways you could save money the next time you shop online or in person.

1. Sign up
If you’re willing to supply a retailer with some of your personal information — such as your name, address or birth date — you could get deals in return.

“Consumers can visit the retailers’ website to sign up for coupons, or even download an app to receive alerts on discounts,” Maura L. Scott, an associate professor of marketing at Florida State University, said in an email.

“Online deals can be a great way to save money, provided consumers understand that they are providing something of value when they share their data with a company,” Scott said. Companies can use this information to track consumers’ shopping behaviors, for example.

Many retailers offer a one-time discount just for joining a mailing list or rewards program, or for agreeing to receive text alerts. (Though note that you might have to wait a bit to receive your coupon before you can get a discount.) Two recent examples we spotted: coupons for 12% or 15% off at online seller OSTK, -0.38% for signing up an email address, and 15% off one online order at makeup company Estée Lauder EL, +1.42% for joining its loyalty program.

2. Negotiate
Contrary to what you may think, the price you see on the sticker isn’t always the price you have to pay, according to Emily Hunter, an associate professor of management at Baylor University.

“I find that people in general don’t consider negotiating an option when they’re at a store,” Hunter says. “They think about it as an option at a garage sale, but not like a big-box retailer.”

One possible tactic: Shoppers can use a defect as leverage for a discount. (Think fruit that is bruised or a shirt that has a small tear or stain.) Additionally, if there’s any question of how much an item costs — such as if it’s not clearly marked on the shelf — try requesting the lower of the potential prices.

Even if there’s nothing wrong with a product, you can still ask for a lower price, Hunter says. Particularly on big-ticket items, retailers may want to work with you to win your business. To get the best outcome, be sure to clearly state what you want — such as 30% off — instead of starting with “what’s the best price you can give me?”

3. Just ask
If you saw a coupon for an item but forgot to bring it with you to the store, all is not lost: You can try asking for one at the register.

“They literally have them right next to the terminal,” Hunter says. “It’s just a matter of whether they’re willing to let you use it. This is where being really kind and polite really helps.”

If you’re shopping online, try messaging or calling the retailer’s customer service department to see if there are any coupon codes available that you could apply to your order.

Don’t forget to ask about other deductions, too. Stores sometimes offer senior, military, student or other specialty discounts.

4. Earn cash back
Sign up with cash-back websites and apps such as Ebates and BeFrugal to earn money back on your qualifying purchases. You won’t pay less for an item at the time of purchase, but you can potentially get money back after the fact — almost like a refund.

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