November 14, 2016

shopping tips

 As we approach the busiest shopping days of the calendar year, I recently considered the many stages of my shopping life.  Back when I was single and living at home after college, my Mom and I hit the mall on a regular basis.  Two factors impacted my abundant free time:  an out of town boyfriend, and no kids to care for.  Decades later I find myself weaving my visits to the mall around my husband and six kids.  While so much has changed, one shopping habit that remains constant includes a strong focus on the discount racks. 

When we were newlyweds, Coach's full-time student status translated into years of forbidden mall visits.  Once kids began to arrive on the scene, I became an avid garage sale shopper.  This bleak situation was a far cry from my shopping preference, but I adjusted quickly to accepting the rush of a good deal regardless of whether or not it occurred in some stranger's dirty garage.  After studying the local ads, promising sales dictated which route I would take as I mapped locations based on sought after items.  I quickly learned which subdivisions boasted the best financial deals.  By diverting Laddie's attention I could sneak future Christmas and birthday gifts into the trunk saving our tight budget a bundle. 

Gradually I gravitated towards second hand stores.  Consignment shops, I discovered, offered great deals.  Many a good find was stumbled upon during my carefully planned trips to area stores where I shopped their inventory of winter coats, clothes with plenty of wear left in them, and fancy maternity dresses for weddings.  For years I wore a soft velvety name brand skiing pullover with a bedazzled zipper that I purchased for a steal at a consignment shop.  I received several compliments on the shirt, but always cringed hoping no one would ask me where I bought it. 

I am not ashamed to admit that I constantly returned gifted items in order to utilize the funds for outstanding deals for purchases that I felt served more of a purpose.  When Eddie was born, a woman I babysat for years earlier presented me with an incredibly generous baby gift.  In addition to an outfit for Eddie worth more than anything I owned in my closet, she chose a Kate Spade diaper bag for me.  While the diaper bag was beautiful, I cared little about parading around with a pricey bag loaded down with diapers, wipes, and storage for soiled clothes.  I was shocked at the amount of cash the Neiman Markus saleswoman counted out the day that I returned the status symbol diaper bag.  I felt guilty about not keeping the gift, but I fell in love with a beautiful, warm winter coat and I used the cash to buy it at Neiman Markus.  In my tight budget world, I decided that it made more sense to exchange the gift for something that I really needed.  The number on the coat's price tag still made my eyes pop out a bit, but knowing that I would use it for years to come helped me justify the indulgence. 

For years I shopped in spurts at various department stores.  While I still maintained my strong tendency to inspect the sales racks, my opportunities to shop were dwindling thanks to our busy household.  Running to close locations with good deals became my shopping spree focus.  I refused to commit too much time to searching racks for clothes so I narrowed my radius to places where I was sure to make a few quick purchases. 

I don't remember when my first visit occurred to my current favorite store.  It reminds me of a friendship that has been relied on for so long that it is now hard to recall what life was like without it.  My appreciation for the store has developed into a weekly visit that I rarely miss.  I'm confident no other store can replace its priority in my shopping agenda.  After repeated trips, I discovered that further reductions on already reduced items are scheduled to be marked down on the same day each week.  If I crave an item on the sale rack, but I still can't afford it - I simply wait until the next week in hopes that it gets marked down again. 

In addition to learning to be patient, I have devised a few other strategies to secure the best possible price for my selections.  This department store requests sizes from other locations and shipping is complimentary.  If I suspect an item might be reduced the following week, I can request it from another store if my local store doesn't have my size in inventory.  Once my request arrives at thee nearby mall, I have five days to get to the store to pick it up.  I cross my fingers in hopes that by the time I get to the mall to collect my item, it has been reduced since the previous week.  I hesitate to wear my new clothes as I wait to see if the price becomes more acceptable.  Sadly, at times I return a beautiful sweater that hasn't become the low price item that I had hoped it would be. 

Sales ticket for a reduced item.

Price adjustments might be my favorite aspect of this awesome store.  Once I have purchased something on sale, the store will adjust my receipt and credit me the difference if the price is reduced again in the next two weeks.  Needless to say my wallet and purse overflow with saved receipts that I keep on hand in case the purchase price I paid is reduced on the weekly reduction day.  By requesting a sales item from another store that I have already purchased from my location, I buy myself more time for the price to drop.  If the requested item is reduced from the time I made my request, then I simply return the original, pricier version. 

It can be embarrassing to ask a sales person to review a receipt in order to check whether or not a prior purchase has been further reduced.  Recently a sales woman in the juniors department refused to conduct a price adjustment for me.  Apparently she could see on her computer that I had already received my sanctioned eight adjustments for the year.  I almost fell over.  Eight?  Since when were price adjustments limited to a specific number?  No one warned me about this.  Although I admit to perspiring a bit more than anticipated, I simply walked my receipt down to one of my favorite and more familiar salesmen in the young men's section.  I help my breath as he agreed to adjust my receipts not paying any attention to the fact that I had benefited from eight adjustments that week, let alone the year. 

Please don't be confused and imagine me as a sharply dressed woman.  Despite my successful bargain hunting, my constant shopping routine, and my price adjustment rituals, I typically resemble a frazzled mom wearing a thrown together ensemble chosen more for comfort than for style.  A few weeks ago, I tried on a very cute sweater at my favorite store.  I asked the sales woman if the brand tended to run large as the sleeves seemed excessively lengthy.  She shrugged and informed me that I should definitely consider myself a size small.  The extra length in the sleeves was due to the new trend to hide hands

Just when I think I have mastered the art of shopping, I realize that it isn't enough to be an expert deal-achiever.  I now have to worry about understanding trends.  Who has time to read fashion magazines and watch trendy TV programs with a fashion focus?  I cannot be expected to make weekly visits to the mall, sneak limitless price adjustments from favorite sales people, and stalk desirable sales items in addition to carving out time for that kind of nonsense.  Now I learn that I have to attempt to hide my hands? 

I turned to this informed sales woman, who was working in the hip-clothing section that I had ventured into, perhaps erroneously.  She had certainly celebrated more birthdays than me.  I rolled my eyes.  'Yes, hands.  Those nasty appendages.  I rarely use mine and I definitely think it would be best if they were hidden away.'  She and I shared a chuckle about how absurd it is to wear something that would hide your hands.  Then I met her at the counter where I fumbled around for my MasterCard in my purse overflowing with receipts waiting to possibly be adjusted, . . . and I bought the sweater. 

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