Singapore is no Bangkok, so try to haggle over the price of that ramlee burger at the pasar malam and you could find yourself with egg on your face. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to negotiate your way to a lower price every now and then.
Unbeknownst to many, there are many instances where flexing your bargaining muscles can actually save you a bit of money. Here’s when you should pile on the charm.
Credit card interest
If you’re carrying a balance on your credit card, your heart must sink each time you receive your bill and discover that you’re paying more and more each month thanks to compounding interest. Credit card interest rates hover at around 25% per annum, which is shockingly high. And they’re getting higher.
Anyone who’s struggling to pay off a credit card balance needs to consider giving the bank a call and asking nicely if the interest rate may be lowered. You don’t have to do it on your own, either. Credit Counselling Singapore can offer advice on how much you can afford to pay back each month and then negotiate with the bank on your behalf, so don’t be too shy to ask for help.
Medical and legal bills
If you’ve recently landed yourself in the hospital or had to fight a legal battle, the prospect of a hefty bill could be even worse than the ordeal itself. Fortunately for you, when it comes to bills, especially for lengthy itemised ones, doctors and lawyers—or their bosses—frequently have the discretion to offer discounts.
If you’re planning to use your insurance to pay your bills, you can be sure the insurance company will be haggling with the doctors or lawyers to lower the price. Even if your lawyer looks mean and surly, or the doctor has seen you without your clothes on, don’t be too afraid to ask for a discount or to raise questions about any items on the bill that seem suspiciously expensive.
Your salary and benefits package
While a Singaporean will boldly drive to Malaysia and try to sneak back in to save money on petrol, Singaporean employees have a reputation for being meek and acquiescent when it comes to their salary and benefits packages, and as such few pluck up the courage to negotiate after a successful interview.
Unfortunately, with a passive attitude, many local employees risk getting lowballed or seeing their wages stagnate. Then they complain to their MP. If that sounds like you, know that negotiating your salary and benefits is not going to put you at a disadvantage or make potential employers ditch you for someone else. So if you’re unhappy about the fact that you’ll have very few days of paid annual leave or your salary is below market rate, speak up.
Employees at F&B establishments rarely have the power to give you an outright discount on drinks. But if you arrive during happy hour and know you’ll be staying till late, try asking the staff if they can extend happy hour to you by a few hours or even all night. You’ll be surprised, but many will oblige, or at least check with the manager if it’s okay.
A friend of mine tries this trick at every bar he goes to and has managed to get all night long happy hour deals at a quite a few places. Being friendly and sociable helps, of course—you’ll get nowhere if you make a demand.
Small business purchases
While you might not exactly be able to ask for a discount on that nail clipper at Watson’s or your McDonald’s cheeseburger, when you make purchases from small businesses, it can’t hurt to ask for a discount—especially because you’ll often get one. Even if you’re not speaking with the business owner himself, many salespeople are given some level of discretion when it comes to knocking a few dollars off the price.
Clothing shops in Far East Plaza and push carts in big shopping malls are often prime candidates for a bit of bargaining. If you have your eye on several items in the store, ask if you can get a discount by buying multiple pieces.
What bargaining have you done in Singapore? Tell us in the comments!