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!
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.
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