Friday, October 14, 2005

Not all "Sales" are Sales!

It was a wake-up call. Buzzing with enthusiasm, I called my friend Ellen about a terrific sale at a national chain. With every purchase of $50 in merchandise, shoppers received $25 in free clothing.

Who could resist such a deal?

I couldn't, but Ellen could: "I'm saving," she said. I should have followed her example.

But needing a bit of "retail therapy," I headed to the sale where I purchased top-quality clothing for bargain prices, such as a cute $100 jacket for less than $15. But I learned a valuable lesson: A sale is not always a sale.

Consider the evidence: Armed with my register receipt, I looked forward to collecting the free clothing as I had earned coupons worth $50. But the discount didn't work quite as I thought.

The $50 discount applied to a future purchase, the sales staff politely told me.

I smiled back and looked forward to my next shopping trip, with the promise of $50 in free merchandise.

But not so fast, I learned on my follow-up shopping trip. To collect on the advertised deal, I would have to spend another $100.

At that point, I really saved a lot. I left the store, with the merchandise remaining on the shelf.

Clearly, a sale is not always a sale.

The shopping aisles are filled with fellow shoppers,
who, like me, have failed to read the fine print. One of my newspaper editors, for example, recently stood in line at a major retail store, hoping to save dollars with a discount coupon issued by the chain.

Her savings turned to dust as she promptly discovered
that many brand names and products, including items on her shopping list, were excluded from the coupon savings.

Based on that example and many other hit-and-miss shopping exploits, I've put together this warning list of shopping pitfalls.

* Buy one-get-one half off: Don't fall for this promotion, unless you really need an extra pair of shoes, another sweater or an additional pair of frosted sunglasses.
Otherwise, it makes more sense to buy just one item.

* Rebate offers: To save money from this type of promotion, you really need organization.

That's because collecting rebate savings often depends on tracking deadlines, receipts and other documents. If you can't maintain the cumbersome paper trail or find stamps by the postmark deadline, it's best to look for specials where the savings are immediately delivered at the cash register.

* New wardrobe/alterations required: A deal is not a deal if a new garment requires either expensive alterations or a new wardrobe. With that principal in mind, I've recently saved a lot of money by limiting my wardrobe to a small range of colors.

A new garment,therefore, has to match or compliment my existing selection of clothing. And if it doesn't fit, I drop it.

Of course, retail therapy, (I love that term), provides a buzz of good feeling, aka: New-stuff Happiness!

But if your pleasures from shopping are short-lived, consider this a wake-up call. I did.

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