Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bargain!

This post stems from a conversation the Doctor and I had the other night about how, in America, nothing is ever priced at what it supposedly costs.

Not only do most shops appear to have a permanent sale on; but it is not unusual that you pick up an item in, say, Gap, and go to the checkout to find that it costs a completely different sum - usually about $10 less - than the price tag. (This is, of course, always a pleasant surprise and tends to make you feel positive about the shop, so I wonder if it is deliberate.)

The Doctor has a colleague who has some iPhone app that lets you compare prices in different shops. So, for example, he was in Staples, and found that an item actually costs less around the corner in Rite-Aid. Apparently, when he pointed it out to the store manager, they simply lowered the price for him. This has also happened to me - I recall one occasion when I wanted to buy a marker pen that didn't have a price tag, and they just gave it to me for free.

In fact, I am constantly surprised that store staff seem to have complete free rein in these matters. I'm sure that in Britain, lowering the price of an item would require lots of tutting, hours of computer research and quite possibly a phone call to Head Office. Can you imagine trying to bargain down the price of stationery in WHSmith? Er, I don't think so. Whereas here, you could probably go around a shopping mall behaving if you were in a Moroccan souk, if you had the nerve.

I suppose it's all part of the American culture of customer service; 'the customer is always right' and all that. (Apart from in government offices, places like the Department for Motor Vehicles and the US Post Office, where the customer is regarded like a highly dangerous criminal).

We Brits are, on the whole, not that good at it. For example - I hate being followed around clothes shops and asked questions, and nothing is more likely to make me leave without buying anything. I'm also bad with coupons - the staple of any shopper on Long Island. We're used to supermarket loyalty cards in the UK, but redeeming a printed coupon you get sent in the post? I always forget to take it with me, and by the time I do, it's out of date.

Our family had one particularly shameful episode where we had a meal at a Wendy's burger restaurant (a slightly nicer version of McDonald's) on our way to Vermont and received coupons for a virtually free meal next time. What happened? The Doctor immediately threw them away in the bin along with the rest of the packaging on his tray. This didn't stop us going back to Wendy's the following week on our return journey - but, we agreed, the meal was so cheap it wasn't really worth losing any sleep over.

We are clearly bad bargain hunters.

12 comments:

Nota Bene said...

Normally in the UK, things are more expensive at the till, compared to the price tag...

Almost American said...

I suspect so much just seems so cheap to you compared to the English prices that the savings are not worth worrying about!

I got a 30% off coupon via email to use at Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic this week and actually remembered to take it with me today. I got jeans for the boy for $10, and yoga pants for the girl for around $6! I was so pleased with myself! Of course, this is why they both have far more clothes than they need most of the time. (Tho' this time they both really did need certain items.)

Knackered Mother said...

My money off coupons are always pinned to the board in the kitchen. Where they stay until they are out of date. Same, we're hopeless couponers...must try harder.

Expat mum said...

I love the way sales assistants in the USA don't act as if it's THEIR money you're trying to steal. At a recent large purchase in Sportmart a few months ago (we're talking ski gear, so big bucks) we had some mega coupons. Our total came to about $300 so the sales guy rang three separate sales up so that we could apply a different coupon to each purchase. I couldn't believe that he told us how to do it and took the time to ring everything up again. We saved about $75.

Iota said...

Coupons and vouchers are a way of life here. A friend recently gave me a list of websites to go to, to print them off. You can save a lot of money if you can be bothered.

I know Wal-mart matches reductions in other stores, because once a cashier said to me "tell me it's banana day at Aldi, and then I'll be able to charge you 18c per pound for these". So I did. As Expat Mum says, it's nice that the staff are on the side of the customer, not their employer!

'Cross the Pond said...

I miss coupons and super-sales. When we come to the US this summer we will clean up with the sales, coupon cutting and bargaining. If it's not a bargain, I'm not interested! here in the UK - shopping isn't as much fun!

Mwa said...

We get sent coupons as well, and I sometimes cut them out but always forget to take them. Just now, we have saved up stamps for a cutlery set and let the date pass on that.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

I started doing the coupon thing here in the UK when I was pregnant and got loads of baby related coupons and they have helped me make a saving. If you can be bothered to sift through all the junk mail in the US that you get, there are some good offers in there!

I have a thin plastic wallet thing that I carry in my bag with any coupons I have so I have them to hand, could be worth a try?

Also, did you know Bed Bath & Beyond take coupons even when they are out of date?

Metropolitan Mum said...

I tried to return an item I bought at a clothing shop. It had dissolved itself in the washing, which wasn't my fault as I washed it as instructed. I had to wait half an hour for the manager to come back from the bank, because the shopgirls weren't allowed to give me a store credit. I mean, three girls. Just standing around, waiting for the manager to come back. Grrrr.

nappy valley girl said...

NB - that's absolutely right....it's why it's so surprising to me here.

Almost American - we were in Gap on Sat and everything was 30% off anyway!

KM - I know, why is it so hard to remember to take them?

ExpatMum - they also recommend you to take out a storecard just to get the discount, then cancel it!

Iota - yes, it is nice. Not sure how the employers feel about it!

Cross the Pond - well, I think you probably just have to accept in the UK that everything is the advertised price! Once you've got that, it's quite easy....

Mwa - a whole cutlery set? Well, that would have been quite a coupon! Mine are normally for free milk or nappies....

Tanya - we did suspect that about BB&B - but thanks for confirming it! We won't be throwing those vouchers out now....

MetMum - that does sound extremely annoying. (I always somehow manage to feel bad about returning things, even if they are quite clearly broken!)

geekymummy said...

I love your remark about the DMV and the post office. At the tiny local subpostoffic near my office they actually had an FBI "wanted" sign for Osama Bin Laden on the wall. Just in case he happened to be buying stamps in Hayward CA.

nappy valley girl said...

Geekymummy - that does not surprise me in the least.....