Tom Chiarella writing for Esquire:
Remember that the only representation of you, no matter what your station, is you -- your presentation, your demeanor. You simply must attend. Stand when someone enters the room, especially if you are lowly and he is the boss, and even if the reverse is true. Look them in the eye. Ask yourself: Does anybody need an introduction? If so, before you say one word about business, introduce them to others with pleasure in your voice. If you can't muster enthusiasm for the people you happen upon in life, then you cannot be gracious. Remember, true graciousness demands that you have time for others.
Tom Chiarella took a stack of $20 bills with him to New York City just to see what he could get by offering them to the right people at the right time. Turns out, quite a bit. I probably linked to this a few years ago (it's from 2003), but it's worth another look. I just love this kind of thing...probably because I'm too much of a candy ass to ever attempt something similar.
A twenty should not be a ticket so much as a solution. You have a problem, you need something from the back room, you don't want to wait, you whip out the twenty.
I could have stood in line at the airport cabstand for fifteen minutes like every other mook in the world, freezing my balls off, but such is not the way of the twenty-dollar millionaire. I walked straight to the front of the line and offered a woman twenty bucks for her spot. She took it with a shrug. Behind her, people crackled. "Hey! Ho!" they shouted. I knew exactly what that meant. It wasn't good. I needed to get in a cab soon. One of the guys flagging cabs pointed me to the back of the line. That's when I grabbed him by the elbow, pulled him close, and shook his hand, passing the next twenty. I was now down forty dollars for a twenty-dollar cab ride. He tilted his head and nodded to his partner. I peeled another twenty and they let me climb in. As we pulled away, someone in the line threw a half-empty cup of coffee against my window.
A few months later, Chiarella tried the same technique in Salt Lake City, Vegas, and LA.
I pushed around; the ballsier I became, the more success I experienced. I got tablecloths, a personal garlic press, a dozen extra forks in one meal, chopsticks in a steak house. I bought primo parking spaces from people who had just parallel-parked.
Aha, turns out I linked to a similar article by Chiarella in which he haggles on items like hot dogs, TiVos, and gasoline. (via big contrarian)
Update: Ah, I've also previously linked to this one, from Gourmet in 2000.
It's just after 8 P.M. on a balmy summer Saturday and I'm heading toward one of New York's most overbooked restaurants, Balthazar, where celebrities regularly go to be celebrated and where lay diners like me call a month in advance to try and secure a reservation. I don't have a reservation. I don't have a connection. I don't have a secret phone number. The only things I have are a $20, a $50, and a $100 bill, neatly folded in my pocket.
Everything is open for negotiation and for three months, Tom Chiarella tried to get deals on everything, from a hot dog to a gallon of gas to a TiVo.
Within weeks I discovered that restaurants will typically give you four desserts for the price of three if you ask for a sampler. That a draft beer is generally good for a free refill with a little prodding. That you can get an extra 20 percent off at Ikea by pressing past the cashiers, past the floor salespeople, up into the bottommost managerial rungs, by comparing the price of one perfectly well priced dresser with its slightly less well priced but better-sized counterpart one floor down.
Update: Bargainist has a piece about how to haggle that's worth a look.