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The Power of Chat

Image Source: Flickr user mrlerone

Previously, I wrote an article about “Life Sudoku,” offering a few day-to-day alternatives for people who enjoy brain exercises but dislike number-play. One of the suggestions was to strike-up conversations with random people.

Over the past while, I’ve been putting my own advice to the test and amongst other Life Sudoku tactics, I’ve started chatting all the time, everywhere I go. The conversations have been stimulating but more interestingly, a side benefit began occurring: I’ve been getting discounts and saving money everywhere I go, without specifically trying to. In fact, the more I engage people at places of business, to my amazement, the more money I seem to save. As such, I really wanted to share my experience with our readers, as saving money is a big part of the “used” lifestyle. If I can benefit financially from impromptu Life Sudoku, then I’m sure you can too.

Here, in short, is how my last few weeks have gone:

The ball got rolling shopping for dress shoes. The employee helping me had a British accent, so I struck up a conversation about where she grew up, how I’d recently travelled near her home town and about how her and I went to the same university but that I wound up becoming a stay-at-home dad (which meant I had a tight budget for dress shoes). Without hesitation, she offered me a 20% discount if I found shoes I liked. Well, I did and wound up saving $20.

Next up, my wife and I were arrived at an American pay-parking lot, for the purpose of attending a $200 function. With a wink and a smile I told the attendant that we were unfortunately cashless in a cash-only situation but that perhaps parking was built into our $200 expenditure. His reply to me was also with a wink: “You could spend $10,000 here and I’d still ask you for $10 to park but if you don’t have cash, just go inside and use your credit card.” Once inside, I discovered that he was mistaken and they did not accept credit cards but since we were such “friendly Canadians,” they’d just let us park for free. Shazam! Another unexpected $10 savings.

Also while in the States, we rented a private home instead of a hotel. The owners were roughly our own age and successful entrepreneurs of organic wellness products, which wound up catalyzing a great conversation between the lot of us. When we wound up leaving, not only were they sad to see us go, they were completely happy to overlook the dinner plates our daughter had broken. “Your daughter is so radiant, don’t worry about the plates. That’s what they’re there for!” Plates are there for breaking? Wow, what a crazy response but I took it, especially since it would have cost about $75 to replace them.

A few days later, on a flight over the Pacific Ocean, I wound up getting guerrilla-style snuggled by the lady sleeping in the seat next to me. She was curled up like a cat, rubbing her feet and shins all over my thighs, draping her arm over my stomach and moaning sounds of sleepy contentedness. Being shy and probably far too polite, I let her be and got up to walk around the aisles. Laughing at the silliness of my situation, I couldn’t help but share it with the flight attendants. They sympathized, told me they’d seen it a thousand times and then promptly offered to upgrade my seat to an entirely empty row in business-class. While I didn’t technically save money, I did side-step a money related barrier to wind up thoroughly enjoying an 11-hour flight.

Then just the other morning, I struck up a conversation with a coffee shop barista about how sad it is that their day-old baking can’t be donated to places like soup kitchens (due to insurance issues/legal reasons). The employee shared my sentiments and responded with, “We can’t donate our day-olds but I can give you one free as long as you’re in-store.” In response, I obviously said, “Yes, please!” So apart from a friendly, engaging conversation, I also received a little early morning cheer in the form of a 100% discount on my bagel and cream cheese; a savings of $3.75.

There are a few other instances such as check-out discounts at the grocery store, jumping an appointment cue and receiving a free cellphone case but I think the point has been made. This could all be dumb luck of course, but I’m not usually the recipient of random discounts, upgrades and free stuff. Instead, I’m pretty sure it’s a result of the practicing a little conversational Life Sudoku. Who knew so many pleasant surprises could arise from simply talking to people? Well, I do now and I’m not hesitating to recommend the “power of chat” to anyone. A little talk, it seems, goes a long way and can leave you with a bit of cash to spare. Plus, there are the added bonuses of exercising your brain, boosting your happiness and maybe even making a new friend.

Having lived on both coasts and smack-dab in the middle of the prairies, Mark believes himself to be quite the well-rounded Canadian. That being said, he sure does struggle with appropriate regional diction. Remind him again: Is it pronounced scallop or skahllop?

4 Responses to “The Power of Chat”


The power of a smile.
Last summer is was walking in Berlin with my daughter that was visiting me and preparing for a 2 months volunteering in Tanzania. I did smile to a lady that was sitting and she smiled back. I came back 2 steps and told her thank you for her smile (people in Germany do not smile to much when they don’t know you) She replied that where she came from everyone smiled to others. She told us that she was from South Africa and my daughter said: are you from Capetown, I a dreaming of visiting this place. She replied that yes she was and we change subject and chat for 20 minutes. At the end, she said to my 26 years old daughter that if she was going to visit her city she would invite her to stay at her place. My daughter did her 2 months of volunteering and after spent 2 weeks at our new South Africa friend! The power of a smile!



    That’s a wonderful story and a I like it even more because it relates to South Africa & Tanzania – both places I’ve traveled a few times! Also, the idea behind chatting and smiling reminds me of a book I read a while back called “Superconnect”, which basically says that it’s advantageous to purposely talk, chat, smile with people outside of your normal social sphere (people in your sphere are tapped out as far as opportunities, plus they’re almost always similar to you).

Lisa Higgs

I really love how you linked being engaging with people as a way to unintentionally save money. Just last week I struck up an entirely silly conversation with the cashier at a bulk food store about the maple syrup they had on display at the cash, and I ended up with a student discount I didn’t even ask for … and I’m 34!



    Thanks for the compliment, Lisa. And hey! I’m 34 as well. Good to know it’s not just the 20-year olds getting friendly discounts. Hope your chatting continues to serve you well… mine has dried up since writing this article. I guess that’s what micro-analyzing something will get me.

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