Why I’d Rather Pay Retail Prices At Outlet Malls

by JT on November 26, 2010

Bargain hunters may disagree, but paying retail prices not only saves you money when shopping, it also saves a lot of hassle — take it from me! Just recently, I bought a famous brand name briefcase at an outlet mall. By shopping at the outlet mall, I was hoping to obtain a high-quality briefcase at a lower-than-retail price. Instead, I ended up with an item I couldn’t even use. Little did I realize that by not paying the regular retail price, I was sacrificing some very important aspects of shopping: service, salespeople, and selection.

My briefcase is an excellent piece of work — except for one thing: its expandability. The case is just too large for everyday use. The briefcase I ended up buying is an overnight briefcase, for a true road warrior — which I certainly am not. A greater selection paired with great customer service would have saved me from this pointless purchase!

 Shopping around for a Briefcase (source: Scott Maxwell @ Flickr

Why I’d Rather Pay Retail Prices At Outlet Malls

Don’t get me wrong, outlet malls are great places to find bargains, and everyone knows that low prices are the holy grail of retail. Who doesn’t love to find cheap deals and discounts from major retailers? However, to offer lower-than-retail prices, outlet malls must cut costs in other areas: generally, through smaller staff and less customer service. If you have already done your comparison shopping and know what you want — and can find it on sale at an outlet mall — then perfect! But if you need greater selection or help making a decision, it might be better to just pay retail.

Impartial Salespeople
I really thought that I had spent enough time with the salesperson to make a good decision, but in reality, the whole transaction took less than five minutes. Now, I am stuck with this huge briefcase that I don’t even use. Initially, I was concerned that the briefcase was too large. When I voiced my concerns about the size, the salesperson “helped me” compare the case to a much larger briefcase as evidence that this one wasn’t too big. Manufacturers and retailers alike have shoppers convinced that bigger is better, and briefcases are no exception.

You should never shop for a briefcase this way. Completely caught up in the art of shopping, I began thinking that maybe the salesperson was right. I might need to carry a laptop or notebook in my briefcase someday, which meant I might actually need a larger briefcase. However, portable computers have shrunk in size, and today, many people use a smart phone, an old PDA, or a net book for their computing tasks while on the go anyway. I couldn’t compare the overnight briefcase to a smaller one because the selection of products was limited in the outlet store. So I made the best decision I could at the time…and I was wrong.

At the outlet mall, instead of having twenty different styles and brands of briefcases to choose from, I was limited to three or four — and only ONE brand! This lesson is crucial in almost every shopping decision you will ever make. You should be able to shop around and compare a range of sizes, colors, and brands. Consider which features are important to you and which are the most necessary. In the end, you have to live with — and possibly even wear — what you buy. If the product doesn’t truly fit your needs, walk away and absolutely do not settle for just anything.

In a regular retail store, the salesperson would have had me look at several types of cases before I found the one that suited me best — no different from trying on clothes when clothes shopping. I might have even chosen a bag instead of a briefcase, who knows! Had I been willing to pay the retail price, I might have found the perfect bag or briefcase for me. Ironically, I might have even spent less money because I would have gone with a smaller and more useful briefcase that had a lower regular retail price.

A Word to the Wise When Shopping Around
Where do people who are trying to save money and buy smart go to research products? Yes, the Internet. Be careful though — many online product ratings by consumers have become rather cumbersome. The ratings that customers give are often not about the products themselves, but about their order experience. When people are upset about a purchase, they want to tell everyone, but seldom do they spread the news of good experiences. The order experience is very important, but you should make sure the buyer is rating the product itself when you find an online review. BestInClass.com is a great source for digital camera reviews and HDTV selections. Epinions.com is a leader in online product reviews: the website does not sell products, so you don’t have to worry about experience reviews. ConsumerSearch.com is also a quality website. ConsumerReports.com is a favorite old standby as well. And you already know that many online stores or magazines also contain product reviews. But before you buy anything, be sure you know how to spot rip-offs when bargain-hunting online!

What Did I Save?
At this point, my giant briefcase and I need to part ways. And now, I have to go to all the trouble of selling it to someone else. Some would say I have experienced the sad tale of caveat emptor and buyer beware… Can I sue the store for their bad service? No, and it wouldn’t be worth more of my precious time and money. That type of service is actually part of the store’s business model: to them it is simply less service, not actually bad service. So should I consider a store return? Can I return the giant briefcase? I could, if I were anywhere near that particular outlet mall. But most outlet stores will only issue refunds in their store. I feel that the real problem is that I just did not know how to shop. Shopping is a hassle to some people, and many people try to get around that hassle by not becoming informed consumers. In the end, I should have paid retail and saved time and money!

Contributing Writer: Louis Gereaux

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kara November 26, 2010 at 7:30 pm

“I should have paid retail” is your takeaway from this experience? Because you bought a briefcase that was too big for your needs?

Wow. That’s hardly a “smart wallet” conclusion.

How about instead .. you should have researched the brands/styles of briefcase you wanted. How about instead … you should have thought about what you wanted in a briefcase and how you would use it before you went and bought something simply because it was a good deal.

You absolutely didn’t make the best decision you could at the time. You made a poor decision and you’re blaming the salesperson – whose job, btw, is to sell, not to discourage you from buying something. Of course you’re limited to one brand at an outlet … that’s the POINT of an outlet – for a manufacturer to sell it’s product at a discounted rate – not to be a warehouse of all sizes and styles.

If you had doubts about the briefcase, you should have NOT bought anything at all and gone and done further research. You should have gone out and looked at sizes, styles, shapes, and so forth BEFORE you went to the outlet mall.

This is not a post that befits a website that is about “improving your finances” (ref the header of your blog). A proper takeaway to improve finances would not be “pay full retail” but DO YOUR RESEARCH.

I’m really disappointed in this post.

2 The Smarter Wallet November 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm

You make great points Kara, and glad to hear your opinions. You are right, the onus here may be on the consumer, to do their research and to find the merchandise that is best and right for them. But what we share here is also an opinion. The point being made here as well, is that perhaps by paying more, we may be able to get better quality goods, service, etc. Is this always true? Certainly not. But the saying that goes “you get what you pay for” is also true. At the same time, this is an outlet mall after all, so there’s an important expectation that prices here are below retail.

When it comes to general shopping though, some people won’t care about paying retail, while others care a lot. Ultimately, it depends on how you want to spend your time and money. Some people, believe it or not, would rather pay more if they can save time. That would mean, avoiding having to do the research and perhaps hoping someone can provide them the short cuts to point them to the right item to purchase.

A briefcase seems like an item you can very easily shop for, so this may not be the best example for this, but I believe that when you buy a big ticket item, you’d like to get some good help. A car, house or an appliance may be examples of things we need a little help on — and whether you like it or not, we’re paying for that customer service (e.g. we pay a realtor or car salesman for that service). For some of these things, the price may be built into the markups that consumers are seeing.

Again, this is all just an opinion, which we are all entitled to. There are really many ways to look at this and it depends on where your priorities lie.

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