It’s Amazing What You Can Get Just By Asking

Everyone has heard the advice, “It doesn’t hurt to ask.” But my experience has been far better than that. Time and time again, I’ve seen that it often pays to ask.

Just by asking, I’ve gotten fees waived, better tables at restaurants, lower prices on subscriptions, and as I’ll describe below, a costly vehicle repair more than reimbursed by the manufacturer.

Life happens

We used to have a Toyota minivan that we kept for 17 years. For most of that time, it was great—very reliable, with no costly maintenance or repair surprises.

However, at about the 15-year mark, the driver’s door started making the sound you might imagine a door would make if it were dying. Every time we opened it, there was a horrible screeching sound followed by a pop. To be honest, it was embarrassing.

A Toyota body shop estimator said it was unlikely the door could be repaired. It would probably have to be replaced — to the tune of $3,000! That’s about what the van as worth at that point!

Sometimes ‘no’ means ‘maybe’

I tend to ask lots of questions, and in the midst of a conversation about how the door could suddenly stop working properly, the estimator gave me a critical piece of information. Their shop had seen other Siennas from the same model year with the same problem, and in some cases Toyota covered the cost of a new door or a repair.

I wonder if that would have come up if we hadn’t talked so long.

So I called Toyota’s U.S. headquarters, explained the problem, and said I was facing a possible $3,000 bill. Sure enough, the person I spoke with said the company has received other complaints about this issue and even extended the warranty by a couple of years to cover the cost of repairs. However, in our case, that warranty had expired long ago. He said I was out of luck.

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

I could have let it go at that, but I didn’t.

I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t impatient. I just calmly said that since they acknowledged it was a manufacturing issue, wouldn’t it still make sense for Toyota to help fix the problem? I mean, shouldn’t a vehicle’s door continue to work properly even after all these years?

He said he’d see what he could do, which I took as a glimmer of hope.

In the meantime, I scheduled the next step, which was for the repair shop to take the door apart to see more clearly whether it could be repaired or would need to be replaced. My wife and I talked through the worst-case scenario. As painful as it would be, we agreed that we’d rather spend the money to fix the van than replace it.

A double dose of good news

A few hours after dropping off the van, the body shop called to say the door could be repaired for a little over $500. Still a lot of money, but way better than $3,000.

A couple of days later, I heard back from Toyota. My contact said the company had agreed to give me a credit worth $750 that could be used for future maintenance and repairs.

I told him the door ended up being able to be repaired for $500, so I’d be very happy with a $500 credit. He thanked me for that information, but said they’d keep it at $750. Wow.

Just say something

I never try to be manipulative about what I ask for, but I do make requests somewhat regularly. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask for anything, you just have to speak up if you’re dissatisfied with a product or service.

In fact, when I was getting our van fixed, I had to rent a car for a couple of days. The rental car smelled like smoke. I noticed it when I was driving away from the rental place, but it had already taken some time to get the car and I needed to get to work, so I decided to put up with it.

Still it bothered me.

When I returned the car, I politely said, “I just want you to know, I was a little disappointed with the car. It smelled like smoke, which gave me a headache, and I had to drive my daughter to her music lessons in that car,” all of which was true.

On the spot, the person checking the car in cut my rental fee in half.

Do you tend to speak up—to make requests? Why or why not? What good deals have you gotten just by asking? Politely asking for a better price can be a form of good stewardship.

This is a great skill to teach to your kids as well, which I talk about in, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money ManagementPolitely asking for a better price can be a form of good stewardship.

Take it to heart:For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” – Matthew 25:14-15

Take action: If it’s uncomfortable for you to ask for things, start small. Ask for a sample at the ice cream parlor or deli counter. Ask a neighbor if you could borrow a ladder. As you get more comfortable with it, ask for more. When a service provider lets you know about a price hike, call customer service, tell them you’ve been a loyal customer and would like to stay with them, and then ask if there’s something they can do about the upcoming price hike. Always be prepared for a “no,” but I think you’ll be surprised at how often the answer is, “yes.”

Read more: Now’s the Time… to Manage Your Recurring Bills

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4 Responses to It’s Amazing What You Can Get Just By Asking

  1. Connie Grotenhuis November 16, 2023 at 4:48 AM #

    Recently I ate out at a chain steakhouse type restaurant. I received my salad in a timely manner, but I waited and waited and waited for my entree. I kept looking at my watch and finally the waitress came and said my food had been served to someone else. She said that my entree was being prepared and it would arrive soon. When it arrived, I had been seated in the restaurant for over an hour. I said that I didn’t see how they could get repeat business with such slow service. I didn’t ask for a credit, but the restaurant manager came and spoke to me and I reiterated the same comment. When it was time to receive my bill, I asked the server for it. She said the manager decided that I wouldn’t have to pay for the meal under the circumstances. I said I wasn’t looking for that but she said that was what had been decided. I did give the server a tip. Because of the way the restaurant handled the situation, I have returned twice recently for takeout orders. Instead of permanently losing a customer, they kept one.

    • Matt Bell November 16, 2023 at 10:35 AM #

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Connie. It shows that sometimes just politely expressing disappointment or dissatisfaction with a product or service will prompt the company to take action. It definitely pays to speak up.

  2. John Robinson November 15, 2023 at 5:52 PM #

    In line with this article, I’ve learned over the years that the answer to the unasked question is always no. Sometimes when the question is asked, the answer will be no but, more often than not, the answer will turn out to be a yes.

    • Matt Bell November 15, 2023 at 7:58 PM #

      It’s like the famous Michael Jordan quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” For people who aren’t used to it, it can be a little intimidating to make requests. But once you get the hang of it, it truly is amazing how often the answer is, “yes.”

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