Do You Qualify for The Good Guy Discount?

By Jane Mountain | April 1, 2015

We all know them. There are those people, almost always guys, who seem to attract free stuff or great deals all the time. Stephen’s best friend routinely gets offered stuff: they’ll give him a bonus burrito at the burrito shop, upgrade his seat on the plane, or let him on the flight without paying for his extra luggage.

People bend the rules for him all the time, for no better reason than he’s just a really good guy.

What is The Good Guy Discount?

I’ve known a few guys who always get extra-special treatment (it’s always guys), but I’d never heard an official term for it until I listened to the This American Life episode called Good Guys.

The first segment is all about The Good Guy Discount. According to reporter Ben Calhoun, to get The Good Guy Discount, you have to follow these steps:

  1. Choose something to buy.
  2. Ask for the Good Guy discount.
  3. Save money.

The script for step two goes something like this:

Hey, you know, I’m a good guy, you’re a good guy, can this thing I’m about to buy be a little less expensive?

When Calhoun actually tries it, he’s a miserable failure, coming off sounding more like a Pathetic Guy than a Good Guy. Lesson one, if you sound uncomfortable with your own request, you’re not getting any kind of discount.

Where To Try for The Good Guy Discount

If you’re travelling for an extended period, a few bucks saved here and there can make a huge difference to your bottom line. As broke cycle tourists, we often used the Broke Cycle Tourist version of the Good Guy strategy to try and get a discount.

Hey, we’re so broke we can’t even afford to take the bus! We had to cycle around your country. Can you give us a discount?

And it worked. A lot.

Hotels are the ideal venue for trying out The Good Guy Discount. Hotels tend to charge a huge range of prices for their rooms, depending on how you booked it, when you booked, and what time of year it is, so the people at the registration desk are usually empowered to give you a break on the price.

In Asia, we almost always asked for a discount when checking into hotels, and routinely got it (I’d say 80% of the time). Sometimes this discount went hand in hand with a demotion to a broom closet next to the laundry room, beside the elevator, with no window. Not a huge win, but it did save us money.

Related: Higher Than We’ve Ever Been Before

If you’re flying with bulky sports equipment (say, a pair of bicycles) or excess luggage, another great place to play the good guy card is at the check-in desk. Flight crew rarely have the power to waive your fee altogether, but many have the liberty to record your bag weight however they see fit or pretend you only have one bag when you really have two. One check-in clerk made sure our bikes were only half on the scale, so they weighed in much lighter than they really were.

Check-in attendants also have the power to upgrade you, so being a good guy at check-in is always a good idea.

Of course, markets around the world are the best place to get steep discounts just by being a good guy. There is almost always room for negotiation at a market, whether you’re buying fruit, souvenirs, or clothing.

But the Good Guy discount doesn’t apply only in foreign countries. You could try it at your favourite restaurant, a sports store, or next time you buy tires for your car. Every time you save with a discount, pop the extra into your travel savings account, and you’ll be on the road in no time.

How to Get The Good Guy Discount

As Ben Calhoun ably demonstrates on This American Life, trying to wheedle your way into a discount will get you nowhere. Wheedlers are not Good Guys. Outgoing, boisterous guys who make dad jokes and hold up the lines – those are the guys who get the discounts.

This is how they do it.

First, make a connection with the cashier. Whether it be an almost-creepy compliment (Those earrings are mesmerizing!), a shared trial (It’s so hot today, you must be sweating something awful back there!), or just an expression of interest in the cashier as a person (Hey, how’s it going for you today?), there must be some kind of opening salvo that says:

I am a human being, you are a human being, we share the same troubles and the same joys. We are the same.

Don’t worry if this takes a minute, don’t worry if there are impatient people rolling their eyes behind you in line, don’t worry about anything besides briefly brightening the day of the person who is about to help you.

Once you’ve established rapport, open up the subject of the product you are about to pay for, and imply that you’re still on the fence about the purchase. Ask a question about it that you know will be answered in the negative, like “Does the room have an ocean view?”. When you find out that no, you will not be able to see the ocean from your window, make your disappointment apparent.

All the while, of course, you will maintain a friendly, fun attitude. It’s just you chatting with your new best friend, the cashier.

Now it’s time to go for the discount.

Chances are, the cashier can’t afford whatever it is you’re buying (do you know how little cashiers earn?), so use this as another opportunity to bond.

Whew, this room is pretty expensive for me, I might keep looking around for a bit.

You might even start to walk away, but before you go, you’ve gotta ask:

Is that the best possible rate? You can offer me a good guy discount, can’t you?

You don’t have to use the Good Guy line, but the implication is there: we’re friends now, so you can give me some money off, right?

Chances are, if there is any wiggle room in the price, and your cashier friend has any power, you will have just saved some cash.

Should You Use The Good Guy Discount?

On This American Life, Ben Calhoun’s big struggle is with the whole principle of The Good Guy Discount. He believes that asking for a discount is the opposite of being a good guy. After all, only a jerk would make someone else feel uncomfortable on purpose, right?

But he’s missing the point.

Expert Good Guys don’t make the cashier feel uncomfortable – they make the cashier feel good. By treating them like a fellow human being, like an equal, in a job where most people barely acknowledge their existence, the Good Guy brightens the cashier’s day. In fact, the really good Good Guys aren’t even trying for a discount, they’re actually just good guys.

Their ability and desire to make a random stranger feel good is the reason Good Guys finish first when it comes to getting deals and discounts.

Is There A Good Girl Discount?

I’m not sure if The Good Girl Discount really exists. I’m certainly not a natural at it; it takes a huge burst of energy for an introvert like me to become an energetic smiling Good Guy. I’m sure there are women out there who do it just as well as men, but I don’t know any, and I don’t remember them from my days working as a cashier.

Maybe the closets parallel for women is the Flirty Girl discount? It uses the same principle – make the cashier feel good – and results in free drinks and special treatment for women who can pull it off. The only disadvantage? This technique works best on male cashiers and most cashiers are women.

Do You Qualify For the Good Guy Discount

What do you think? Are you a women who has mastered the art of the Good Girl discount? Do you know a woman who has? What are your tips for using the Good Guy angle to save money when travelling?  

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  1. Comment by Jane

    Jane April 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Hey Andreé,
    Your dad is so lucky to be a natural! It takes so much practice for some of us to get it right (I’m still terrible at it). Just remember, at least in Western countries, no one will give you a discount if they can’t afford it – so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

  2. Comment by Andrée

    Andrée April 2, 2015 at 6:28 am

    Hi Jane!
    My Dad is naturally a so good guy that he often get a special treatment without even asking! We are having fun with this in my family.
    David and I are very bad for asking discount. We are in the medium range of revenu and are very uneasy to pretend we are totally broke. Hopefully we will learn because when we will stop working for travelling, we’ll be broke soon if we don’t learn every trick to save money. Thank you for all your advices, I will try to benefit from it!

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