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Bills you might be able to negotiate

written by: sherisaid•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/29/2011

Everything about the economy has changed, and some types of businesses are changing with it. In an effort to save their sinking businesses and retain loyal customers, some retail and service providers will bend over backwards to offer incentives.

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    Doctors

    If you have to pay for a procedure yourself, or your doctor does not bill your insurance and you pay up front and await reimbursement, ask your doctor to lower your bill in exchange for cash payment. You may be able to negotiate a discount between 10% and 20%, which can represent significant savings. Your doctor may be willing because this cuts down on man-hours for his office...so for him, it may represent a break-even proposition. Another thing you can try is to offer to pay up front for the discounted rate your provider or physician charges to insurance companies, which can often be 30-50% less than he would charge an uninsured person.

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    Independent businesses

    Small, independent businesses are really feeling the squeeze right now. You may be able to negotiate a discount on services like drycleaning or take-out restaurant food. Approach the owner and remind him that you've been a good and loyal customer, explain that you can't afford to continue at current rates, and ask for a 10-20% discount. Offer to pay cash in lieu of credit in order to save processing time and fees.

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    Hotels

    The tourist industry may be the hardest hit of all businesses during slow economic times. Many potential travelers are opting for a staycation close to home instead of an expensive trip. To cut a deal, call the hotel directly – not the corporate reservations desk – and ask to speak to the reservations manager. If the hotel has a lot of empty rooms, you may be able to negotiate a lower than advertised rate or an upgrade, especially if it's the last minute. If they won't deal and you have the option to do so, shop around.

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    Phone and cable

    Phone and cable bills are heavily padded, so it's up to you to pay hardball. Call your provider and tell them you want to cancel. Don't bother with customer service, they can't help you. While you're navigating the endless automatic voice system, just repeat, loud and clear "cancel". When talking to the rep, be nice and polite. Tell him you have enjoyed the service, but can no longer afford it, so you must cancel. That's all you need to say, he will have a negotiation tactic ready with lower prices to retain you. The more valuable a customer you are – longer term, bills paid on time – the better chance you have of negotiating a great discount. The first offer won't be the best offer. Keep repeating that you can't afford it until they offer a really sweet deal…and make sure it's a permanent offer and not a temporary dangling bait. In the unlikely event they can't or won't make a deal, consider actually shopping around. It's a very competitive market.

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    Veterinary Services

    It's easy to ignore your pet's expensive shots when times are tough and vets know it. Big chains are unlikely to work with you, they often don't have th authority, but local operations will often work out a deal, either for a discount or a payment plan or both. This is another area where shopping around may benefit you. Locations in pricey areas have bigger bills to pay. Driving a few miles into the country to a rural vet could save you a bundle if the nearest vet won't negotiate.