Haggle For Scholarships And Even Medical Charges… And Save Tons Of Cash

July 12, 2013  |  

Some people stand arms folded ready to negotiate a price down to a satisfactory cost. They’re at the furniture stores, car dealerships, and even garage sales. But who ever thought to haggle down health-related charges and school scholarships? Those bargainers saved themselves some serious cash, says Consumer Reports.

Let’s take Karen Wessel from New York, for example. She was afflicted with a cataract in her eye, but has no medical insurance to pay for the $10,000 surgery. She told the optometrist, which was located in a wealthy city, that she could not afford the costs and and asked if she could catch a break. “The doctor agreed to operate at a lower-cost clinic,” added Consumer Reports. “The facility fee was $1,100; anesthesiology, $300. The total: $2,400.” For the mathematically challenged, that’s $7,600 saved.

Wessel said her bashful demeanor and having a checkbook at hand showed that she was both appreciative and ready to pay on-the-spot. “The health insurance field is like a giant house of smoke and mirrors,” Wessel said. She warns others to be cautious — don’t overpay for your medical bills.

Doctors are willing to accept less if you “dispute an out-of-pocket charge,” said John Santa, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. They will try to make you feel liable for the charge and drown you in medical jibber-jabber, but stand your ground.

Only 19 percent of adults have tried to negotiate health costs, according to a recent survey from Consumer Reports, they saved an average of $300.

Don’t think scholarships are non-negotiable, either. A 23-year-old college graduate was accepted in several law schools that offered him generous scholarships, except for his first-choice school. He marched into his top pick and demanded that the admissions officers offer $40,000, telling them that other schools were enticing him with a larger scholarship package. They didn’t give him $40,000, but they both settled for $33,000 which was $3,000 higher than the initial offer.

Even with an 89 percent success rate of hagglers, as Consumer Report’s survey shows, the number of people who try to negotiate prices has fallen from 61 percent in 2007 to 48 percent this year.

The best strategy is telling the seller that you checked the competitors’ prices; about 57 percent of successful hagglers use this shopping tactic. Also, “[s]avvy negotiators know that politeness, friendliness, and a smile are harder to resist than tough talk,” concludes Consumer Report.

Your bargaining skills won’t get you much on Amazon or Walmart, but you should know that chain stores like Home Depot give their staff leeway to allow for some negotiation. Also, 33 percent of adults haggled down their cell phone plans and saved an average of $80. Thirty-two percent of adults have tried to bargain down their bank or credit-card fees; they saved an average of $100.

The survey, commissioned by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, questioned 2,000 American adults about their haggling habits.

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