It takes more than ten seconds for the 50 and 20 and five-pound notes to squeeze through the mouth of the cash dispenser. My finger tips are sweaty in anticipation. I grab them, count them, smile. I'm going shopping, power shopping on London's Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road. Cash is outstripping sales, they say, and punters haven't been spending this much cash since the recession set in. I've left my plastic behind and I'm on a mission to find out just what bargaining power a woman with a bulging wallet really has.

I've got a greedy glint in my eye as I take pounds 50 worth of CDs up to the Virgin Megastore counter. "pounds 50 worth of CDs there," I say, leering like Dirty Den. "What's your cash discount?" The shop assistant looks completely incredulous. "We don't do them". "What, no cash discounts, ever?" I ask, sounding more incredulous than he did. "Only if you spend over pounds 250, then you get a 2.5 per cent discount and, if you spend pounds 300, you get 5 per cent." In that case, I say, I'll leave it. I walk off, feeling short- changed.

Anxious to get rid of some of this dosh before somebody gets rid of it for me, I head for one of those small electrical shops on Tottenham Court Road; they're invariably putty in your hands at the mention of the word cash. "Car stereo, please. I'd like to spend around pounds 400." I um and ah over a thief-proof casette radio with RDS and CD/MD changer control. I want it. "pounds 430," the man says. "Hmm," I say. "What's your best price?" "pounds 400", he replies jovially. "What about cash?" I ask. "Are you going to buy it today?" he asks. "Oh, yes," I say. "I'll just nip off to the cashpoint." "pounds 390, then," but then he shows me a super-power Pioneer cassette and RDS tuner, recommended retail price pounds 499. I want this one even more, but my eyes give nothing away. "And your best price?" I ask, with a smile. "pounds 425," he says. "And your best cash price?" "pounds 400." Done.

That's more like it. pounds 99 richer, I head off to a consumer durables chain store in search of one of those all-in-one TV and videos. There's a beaut for pounds 449. I'd love it, I say, but oh, the price! "What's your best price for cash?" I ask.. He simply taps on the computer, then taps his head. "I could do it for you for pounds 399," he says, smiling.

Next stop, that over-priced designer-furniture store down the road. There's no budging on the pounds 310 maple veneer dining table or the poncey wine rack. "We only do discounts for bona fide companies," says the sales assistant, begrudingly. "And you have to spend over pounds 500."

Unimpressed, I nip into the ethnic furniture store next door. I cut a path through the baskets and hammocks, the silk flowers and shop assistants and ask to see the manager. "Is that nice pounds 349 pine chest of drawers in the sale?" I ask. There are no "sale" signs to be seen. "There is no sale at the moment," he replies. "Aagh!" says I, "so what is your best price on the chest of drawers then? I'd like to buy it today. Can I get a discount if I pay cash?" "No," says he. "You get a discount of 10 per cent if you spend over pounds 2,000," he explains. I remember the market technique: barter, then walk away if you're not happy with the price. "I'll leave it then," I say, but as I make for the door he calls after me: "I could offer you 10 per cent."

By this time I'm getting cocky. In a small jewellers shop on Goodge Street, I go for the jugular. "It's a fixed price," is the reply as I flash the rainbow of ochre and turquoise, salmon and lilac in my wallet. The pounds 85 Accurist diving watch remains on the counter. Next stop, a fancier jeweller near Oxford Circus and a covetable pounds 540 Lag Huer sports watch. I whisper the magic word, the assistant whispers to his manager and, hey presto, it's mine for pounds 490. Easy.

I've saved pounds 234.90 so far and, with a swing in my step, I pick up pounds 285 worth of exec suits from Marks and Spencer. "How can I pay?" I ask, leadingly. Or so I think. "With Switch or Delta." "Or cash?" I proffer. "Or cash, madam." Quids in, I think. "What kind of discount do I get if I pay cash?" The sales assistant looks like a mangy dog has just relieved itself at her feet. "We don't offer any discounts, madam." I scamper, tail between my legs.

For a while, it's all uphill. No joy with three pairs of pounds 39.99 shoes from a chain shoestore, only pounds 14 off a pounds 195 candelabra and no joy with a pounds 150 diving watch or a flight to New York. When I ask for a discount in a small classical CD shop, the owner replies pompously: "This is not a hotel in Germany, madam." This is not good and I can't forget those blue suede loafers. So I go into another branch of the same shoe store, and gather up the same three pairs of shoes. "Any chance of a cash discount?" "Listen, we had a man in here yesterday who bought pounds 4,500 worth of shoes ... I could offer you pounds 2.99 off each pair."

I tot up my savings: pounds 256.87. I smile in that "I've just won the jackpot", goofy kind of way. Next stop Knightsbridge.