Have you ever stood in line behind people at the checkout counter who had coupons and none of the coupons matched the items they were buying? The coupon said Bounty paper towels and they had Scott. They needed to get creamy peanut butter and they had crunchy. Or, they were supposed to buy two packs of bacon to get the third one free and they had only one. Even worse, the item in the cart matched the coupon but the coupon had expired. Bummer.
Now I’m no extreme couponer myself, nor any type of shopping guru, but I do love a good sale as much as the next guy and always feel that sense of satisfaction when my money is well spent. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like getting a good deal on a purchase. Whether it’s saving money on airline tickets, finding marked-down brands at the thrift store, or buying a pair of shoes at a BOGO sale, we have to admit that it feels good to snag a really sweet deal.
For some shoppers, this feeling can be almost euphoric–and I’m thinking about the after Thanksgiving sale while I’m writing this. Every year we see rational Americans totally losing it at these Black Friday super sales, getting crushed and trampled upon in the hopes of being one of the lucky firsts to get their hands on that big screen TV or other hot ticketed item, and even coming up with strategic moves with friends that would enable them to better divide and conquer.
Some of you are probably smiling right now as you reminisce about the madness. You had a blast as you slid across store aisles at the crack of dawn, dodging laden shopping carts whilst caught up in the throngs of the shopping frenzy.
For others, the mere thought of standing out in the cold at 5 a.m., waiting for your favorite store to open, shoots little darts of fear into your heart–I mean, there’s absolutely no way!
Given all of this, whether you’re a hardcore bargain shopper who goes all out, a shopper who has no clue about what he or she is doing, or one who loves a good sale but would still like to leave the store in one piece and with some shred of dignity, I think some basic rules should apply.
First of all, play nice.
Don’t be the type of bargain shopper who gives the rest of us a bad name. Don’t…
- hoard items, hiding them so others shoppers won’t be able to find them–so that only you will know where they are on your return visit to the store.
- grab up all of the merchandize on sale, leaving none for the other shoppers coming behind you. (It’s not your personal sale.)
- run over other shoppers with your cart trying to get to the last sale item.
- insult the cashier when you get to the register and your coupons don’t match the items in your cart.
- take the last sales item out of someone else’s shopping cart. (I’ve never actually seen this one with my own eyes, but I understand it does happen.)
- Be organized and prepared. Double-check the date on your coupon before making your purchase. As a matter of fact, check it before even leaving the house and wasting a trip to the store.
- Read store signs and labels carefully and make sure that they match the items you’re getting. You don’t want the embarrassment of holding up the line while an employee runs off to check on a price or name brand. (Awkward.)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a rain check–most stores are really good at offering them when they run out of sales items and will allow you to come back at a later date to make your purchase.
- Sometimes you may have to bow out gracefully and take a pass on a coupon, even though it’s a really good one. Yes, three dollars off on a bag of cat litter is a really good deal, but do you even have a cat?
When a bargain seems too good to be true, it usually is.
- Think twice about buying a hundred-dollar laptop that comes from the trunk of a car from some guy named Jeff. This might sound like a no-brainer, but people who get caught up in the thrill of getting something for nothing often make irrational decisions they wouldn’t normally make.
- Beware of fake coupons, bogus sales, and sometimes even honest mistakes made by the companies themselves. As was the case earlier this year when United Airlines mistakenly offered customers first class, round trip tickets for $74.00–due to a glitch in their system and a “third party error”–the bookings were not honored by the airline, leaving hundreds of customers who tried to take advantage of the deal furious. These instances may be rare, but they do happen. So if it seems too good of a deal, investigate a little further before making an unwise purchase
So, when was the last time you had a real cha-ching of a deal?
Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World by Mark Ellwood
How to Shop for Free: Shopping Secrets for Smart Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing by Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose
Smart Shopping by Cecelia Minden