How To Look Like A Fool When Asking For A Discount

This post may have affiliate links. Please read the Disclosure Policy for complete details.

I have lots of clients who make me shake my head.

There are the people who hand their kids everything on a silver platter.

There’s the guy who calls at least once a week with a new scheme to avoid paying taxes (“scheme” being the operative word).

There’s the other guy who doesn’t want to take a payroll check but wants a bigger tax refund (because you can’t get a refund if you don’t pay anything into the system).

There are even people outside of my business world who I see that are just living beyond frugal and into the cheap zone.

Then there’s the person who inspired this little story.

That and an article discussing negotiating fees with your accountant.

But since I had that article still pretty fresh in my mind, it only made sense that that exact scenario would occur the very next day!

Maybe I’m naive, but I think the people I work with are entitled to make a living doing what they do.

And, if they are really good at it, then they should charge an amount commensurate with that level of service and quality.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to work with them (and neither should you–why work with someone who isn’t awesome at their job or doesn’t think enough about their quality to charge accordingly).

So I guess that’s why I don’t really bother asking for discounts, haggling, or bitching about prices for every little thing.

But, I do understand that most people aren’t of the same mindset and that’s cool too, however, when it comes to asking for a discount on something, this is one very good example of doing it horribly badly.

I did the taxes for this couple’s business. A bill was sent to them along with a copy of the return and this is what was sent back:

"Any 'wiggle' room here? I'm the only one with an income"--not entirely the truth.
“Any ‘wiggle’ room here? I’m the only one with an income”–not entirely the truth.

You see, not only do I do the accounting and tax preparation for the business, but I also do it for them personally, so I pretty much know exactly what is going on in their financial lives.

Here are a few facts:

  • Fact 1:  This is a terrible business–he’s a musician and gets very little work–but there is also very little overhead which means it isn’t a financial drain when business is slow.
  • Fact 2:  He could be gigging with someone else and taking a little less money, but he chooses not to. Plus anything he got hooking up with another band would be an improvement over the current situation. Hell, he could do any other job and it would be an improvement financially!
  • Fact 3:  The business actually had a +$10k improvement from the prior year, giving it a profit for 2013, so things have improved (even if just slightly).
  • Fact 4:  The fee for the corporate income tax return has been the same for 4 years and they have been allowed to pay in installments as a courtesy
  • Fact 5:  The wife just said they are going to be buying an RV this year so he can perform at RV parks and expand on the business’ exposure.
  • Fact 6: The bill is for everything for an entire year–accounting and tax preparation all included!

Granted, they aren’t in the best financial shape in the world, but they aren’t exactly starving.

And, every attempt has been made to accommodate their perceived situation as “struggling”.


There is such a thing as taking advantage of a situation and trying to play the sympathy card, especially when it’s doubtful that anyone else would have bent as much for them as my company had already.

And, let’s just say that providing great customer service doesn’t mean catering to every whim or demand of a client either.

It makes the request even more idiotic when you consider all of the facts that I laid out above–why not have the husband get a job in between gigs that aren’t exactly rolling in?

Why not sack up and hook on with another band for a little while?

I have empathy for what some people are going through, but in this situation, and in particular, after reading that other post I mentioned earlier, I just laughed when I got this in the mail.

It’s perfectly ok to try to swing a better deal in some cases, but there is also a completely, utterly foolish way to try it and this is it.

So, please, if you are going to try to negotiate on the price of something, make sure you aren’t coming off as foolish as this couple did.

BTW, I didn’t say anything about it other than to say explain that while my own costs have gone up, I didn’t pass that along to them and mentioned that many tax preparers charge that amount just for the corporate return itself, let alone rolling the accounting stuff into it as well.
Here’s something to consider if you’re calling me petty or unsympathetic right now:

How would you react if you owned a business and this kind of request was made of you?

What if your clients were more than able to afford your fees–and you know it– but just didn’t feel like paying?

What if it was you who had to give up your pay to placate a cheap person?

Think about that before throwing insults toward others in this exact position!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. I like what your response was, and I’d probably go with something like that.

    And yes, I agree this is a totally stupid way to ask for a discount. Negotiating after the fact (i.e., the work is already completed) is never acceptable, in my opinion.

    Plus it’s even more hilarious that you basically know their entire financial story as their accountant and they still chose to go the “we don’t have enough $$” route to try to save a few bucks.

    1. In some cases, I think it’s ok for an after-the-fact negotiation, especially in cases where you don’t know what the exact ill will be (which happens in some accounting and law offices as they choose to bill hourly instead of by the project).

      The fact that she didn’t even realize all her accounts were open to me was definitely the kicker. I mean, it’s one thing to try to get sympathy for the crappy business, but I know everything that is going on and why so don’t even try that with me.

      I honestly thought I couldn’t be surprised any more when t came to this type of stuff, but once again, I was proven wrong lol.

  2. You know I could write a novel on this topic… but I’ll spare you since you hear my rants on a regular basis. To me there is a huge difference between truly being unable to afford something and choosing to spend money on other things. Either way, people have to make choices – they may not be able to do everything they want to do with the budget they have available. But it’s far less annoying when the person is limited by a low income or a health problem versus those who throw money everywhere, THEN act like they need a discount.

    I have a new response for potential clients who ask me to discount my services – “Which features would you like to remove to bring the price down?” I know that doesn’t necessarily work in your case but it has worked wonders for me. Funny how people want to pay less but receive more….and how we’ve created a society where they think that’s perfectly reasonable.

    1. Yeah, it would be pretty tough for me to remove any part of the service, but for you that is a perfect response. Or, you can tell them that you’ll lower the price, but unfortunately the quality is built-in so they’ll be trading that for a little cash savings.

      My biggest point (aside from the way the discount was approached of course) is the fact that people don’t seem to think the people who perform services for them are entitled to make a living on par with the quality of work they deliver. If that’s the case, go hire someone who does design “on the side” or get your neighbor’s “genius kid” to do your tax return…then you won’t have to worry about price (instead you’ll have to worry about getting it redone the right way).

    2. Agree with you there – they wouldn’t accept the same if they were the service/product provider, but it’s this feeling of entitlement, like they deserve something at a discount just because they don’t want to pay. Kills me!

  3. I’ll always try to see if I can get some sort of affiliation discount. But other than that, I do like Andrea’s approach. If I can’t afford the whole shebang, I’ll see what part of it I CAN afford.

  4. Well, you can always overcharge to begin with and then artificially knock off a few bucks. But, that might not be the best option. I think I would offer a payment plan before I knocked off an already reasonable rate. When you work hard, you deserve to get paid. If some people can’t afford that, then they shouldn’t accept your hard work. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’ve never been a fan of pumping up the price then giving a “discount” just to seem nice. It just seems really unethical to me. (Actually my parents always comment about how the grocery stores do it by increasing the per-unit price on the items they offer at BOGO pricing in the weekly circulars and it always seemed like a bogus psychological trick to me).

  5. I’d just tell them there wasn’t any wiggle room. I don’t think there’s any harm in asking for a discount (even if they were rolling in the dough) but I would have left it at asking instead of providing a “reason” why. Also I hope you also bill them separately for their personal taxes 🙂

    1. Personally, if I feel that I am being billed fairly for what I am asking for (assuming I know what “fairly’ is), I don’t ask for a discount. Now, if something went wrong during he process, that’s another story.

      They didn’t send in their docs for the 1040 yet, but it definitely gets billed separately!

  6. I completely agree, there are some things that you just shouldn’t negotiate about. I’ll admit that even being in the personal finance world I’m pretty uncomfortable with the whole negotiating for everything. I think on really big purchases it is expected but not for everything. I also think that there is something to be said for being generous with people who do really good work and deserve to be paid well. I’m a fan of paying well for people who deserve it.