Getting a Deal
It was our office intern's birthday today so several of us took her out for lunch. It took 40 minutes or so for our food to come and so I asked for the manager and said, "our food eventually came and we enjoyed it but it took 45 minutes. Can you please offer us a discount," and handed him the bill. A few minutes later he came to our table with a 20% reduced bill. They asked me to explain a bit how I worked it out. I think there are a few things to keep in mind when asking for a discount based on poor service, performance, etc:
It is unlikely the manager knew we had waited that long and the bill didn't come with a discount. You aren't out much by asking so you mine-as-well. In this case, as with most, the manager was happy to offer a discount in the hopes that we would return and spread the word that they were accommodating rather than had poor service.
2) Make sure to talk with someone who has the authority to grant your request.
In the case I mentioned above, this meant realizing it wasn't the server's fault and she probably couldn't offer us a discount, so I found the manager.
3) Have them make the first offer.
The manager has a better sense of what is reasonable than I do so I punt to him. I didn't say "i'd like $10 off" just that I'd like a discount. It's very hard for him to say no to a discount of any sort and once he has mentally committed to it, he'll likely make a decent offer. You appear nice, and then have room to bargain further.
4) Be Nice.
This is implicit in 3. I made sure to point out that the food was good. It's embarassing for a manager who care's about his/her business to find out about an instance of poor service or performance. Everyone does better when negative (constructive) feedback is tempered with the positive.
The main takeaway here is that the key is asking. Do it nicely and make sure it's to the right person and you'll get plenty of discounts in the years to come.