Just Asking Politely Sometimes Does The Trick

Reader Tim tried to pay for his Subway meal with a debit card today but was foiled by a technical snafu with the card reader. He didn’t have cash on him, but there was an ATM machine in the store, so he withdrew the funds and paid the old-fashioned way. The trouble was, he was now stuck with a $2 ATM fee for a $12 purchase.

He decided it was worth at least asking if the store would reimburse him the fee. “I asked the manager if she would give me $2 off my total.

She did more than that, rounding the price down to $10 from about $12.60.”

As Tim points out, “It never hurts to ask for a discount if you were inconvenienced during a transaction.

You usually want to talk to the manager… [and] remember that this person is doing you a favor, so be polite.”

(Photo: Getty)


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  1. thepounder says:

    So true, at least where I live. Manners do often work. Sure, it may be lost on some people who are either not at all observant, or indifferent, or just plain douches, but it doesn’t hurt to ask nicely anyhow.

    And don’t just be polite when someone’s doing something they don’t have to do for you…

  2. BrockBrockman says:

    Acknowledging that asking politely does not always work, this is some of the best advice I’ve seen on Consumerist. “More flies with honey than vinegar,” or some other equally inane and axiomatic saying.

  3. homerjay says:

    This is especially true at companies like Subway. As ‘fast food’ goes, they’re the finest in every way. Well managed, well staffed, good product, and great service.

    (I only use the term fast food because I figure out what other catagory to put them in)

  4. markymags says:

    I like to start my transactions by responding politely to the customer representative’s greeting and continue on by asking how their day is. If they don’t greet me first I usually start off by asking them how they are doing. I try my best to do this under any and all circumstances. One can never tell when it will help in the future…

  5. Televiper says:

    Sometimes that gesture of putting the ball in the other person’s court can go a long way.

  6. Craig says:

    Supposedly there was a study that showed you have a better chance of getting your way if you use the word “because” in your request.

  7. amoeba says:

    I wouldn’t agree with you HomerJay. “they’re the finest in every way. Well managed, well staffed, good product, and great service.” I live in a college town and most of the workers are either college or high school students. the service is sloppy and the treatment is awful. Although, the managers seem to be more civilized and they give me coupons after the bad experience, in which I don’t use very often.

  8. bluegus32 says:

    I have found that it’s always best to be polite for precisely 4.2 seconds.

    And then fire-bomb the place.

    . . . .

    er . . . . I mean — always be polite.

  9. mrmysterious says:

    I eat the same Subway 2-4 times a week. The employees are generally competent and friendly. A few months back I was picking up a sub for the CEO and myself and I was checking out when I realized that I had left my wallet in my desk drawer. The owner waived my bill. Kudos to them for doing a stand-up act for a regular.

  10. homerjay says:

    @amoeba: Well, there ARE exceptions to every generalization.

  11. twoply says:

    Unless they could not read cards at both the register and the pin pad, he could have just done the transaction as credit and saved everyone the trouble.

  12. jamesdenver says:


    Any photos of you holding up a giant size pair of pants?

    Just kidding. I like Subway too. And Quiznos. (Although their franchising misadventures and shenanigans would fill pages and pages of Consumerist.)

  13. ElizabethD says:

    $12.60 — that’s a big meal at Subway! 8-O

  14. zolielo says:

    Be polite, neutral, and honest. It goes a long way in almost all aspects of life.

  15. ry81984 says:

    The same situation just happened to me a month ago at Subway.

    Their debit machine was down/rebooting. The manager gave me my food for free because I already waited about 5 minutes and they could not get it to work.

  16. amoeba says:

    @homerjay: You are right, you are right! ;-)

  17. amoeba says:

    @elizabethd: I almost flip out too :-D Anyway, he must had been very nice to get that much food under 10 bucks! the system works yay! Seriously, you have to be nice and polite (and everything written in Miss Manners book), even if the cashier is a bitch.

  18. kc2idf says:

    I have also done this, though at a grocery store rather than a Subway.

    I had about $30 worth of groceries, and the card readers were out. There was a Key Bank ATM in the store, right near the checkout lane I was using, but it charged $1.50, on top of the $1.00 my bank charged. A supervisor who had been wandering the space near the checkouts to help calm customers authorised the $2.50 discount on my groceries, and I went home a happy customer.

    I was prepared to leave the entire order at the lane if this didn’t happen this way, but made no mention of this, trying a polite request before trying attitude.

    This all took place over ten years ago.

  19. stpauliegirl says:

    My bank charges a $2 fee for just talking to them on the phone, so whenever I call them up, the first thing I do is politely ask the telephone banker if they can waive that fee for the call. I call them at least every two weeks, and I haven’t paid the fee in over six months.

  20. JMH says:

    It’s funny that this came up today; last night I was out with a friend whose job has him living abroad in France for a year, and he made a remark to the effect that “French people aren’t so bad if you don’t act like an asshole American.” My response was “That’s basically true for anyone – most people are perfectly pleasant if you’re not an asshole.” It’s true, really.

  21. RvLeshrac says:


    That assumes that he had a debit/credit card, which some don’t, and also assumes that the franchise owner shelled out the $10-$30,000 per store for the touch-screen terminals with built-in card processing software. Some stores have them, the majority of stores do not – primarily because it isn’t worth the expense when compared to volume.

  22. orlandoinsane says:

    It’s amazing to me how much being calm and polite can make a huge difference. Strangely, as my roommate from Taiwan informed me, it is the opposite where he is from. The more angry and irate you are, the more a business/person will be motivated to assist you…