Sunday, November 22, 2015

Retail Manipulation

Kohl’s must be apopleptic. Right in the middle of its Black Friday prequel, the power went out at the local shopping center. I can hear the collective gasp of the cash registers.

The turkey has yet to be served and retailers are already trotting out their big guns in anticipation of yet another frenzied holiday season. They’re offering dizzying discounts to consumers who are beginning to feel like they need a course in Common Core math to obtain the best price. Slim, beautifully dressed shoppers dance across the TV screen swinging bright red bags. They obviously never trudged a mile from the parking lot or sweated their butts off in the mall while being assaulted by odors from the food court.

Should you buy in store or online?

Which is better the 20 percent offered from Friday to Sunday or the $5 off in store on Monday only?

Don’t forget the $15 cash back (it happens only once a year) if you spend $50 between Nov. 23 and 29; it can be used only between Nov. 29 and Dec. 6.

Wait. If you order online and have your items delivered to the store, will you still be charged sales tax? Or shipping? If you go directly to the store, will you find the item in the right color?

Amazon is apparently offering sales that last five minutes to keep you frantically checking the website. I confess that I did check to see if there were any good prices on coloring supplies (ack! 64- and 74-count sets of Gelly Roll pens … and … and sets upon sets of PrismaColor pencils!). Yeah, I have Amazon Prime, so I’m a sucker for a deal there.

I don’t do a lot of holiday shopping, or shopping in general. I rather stick pins in my eyes than set foot in a mall. But there are a few things I could use.

The electric blanket control on one side of the bed died. I need bras and underwear, plus I could always beef up my winter staples – jeans and turtlenecks.

I played the Kohl’s 20 percent off game with the blanket, plus I had a gift card I was hoarding from last Christmas (I told you I hate to shop…). Since Kohl’s is pretty much in my back yard, I went over. I got the blanket, but it wasn’t the color I wanted though it cost only $61.25. I saved $102.40 – wait! Did anyone really pay $159.99? The color I preferred was online and available; however I didn’t take the time to figure out how to use my gift card online.

Kohl’s also had the bra I liked online for $19.99, but if I waited until Black Friday or put it on my Black Friday watch list, it was only $14.99 Or would it be cheaper just to run back to the store and use my 20 percent off card? Forget about it. My boobs can hang low a while longer.

I checked out the turtlenecks. If I played the game, they could have been as low as $4.99 online. I had checked the store and couldn’t find any amid the stuffed shelves and racks. Then I remembered I wasn’t that crazy about the last turtlenecks I bought there.

Underwear. In the store the display was a mess and I couldn’t find my size. And online I couldn’t figure out which ones I had been buying. Scratch that.

Jeans are my everyday staple. I’ve only purchased them online because the store never has my size, and well, you know how hard it is to find good-fitting jeans. Do I really need another pair? (I have three.) A mailer from Catherine’s offered 40 percent off (only between Nov. 20 and 22) and $25 off Nov. 23 and 24 (if I spend $75) and “Mystery Deals” on Nov. 24. Be still my heart.

Last year I bought some sweaters at Dress Barn. They fit well and I wore them a lot. Maybe I should get another black one. Going into the website, a pop-up offered me 20 percent off if I submitted my email address, the banner offered 30 percent off (through Nov. 22), and the sweater I liked was $34.95, “bogo” 50 percent off. I bailed on that – the other colors were close to what I had and I just wanted the black one.

I tossed a mailer from another store – never shop there.

The catalogs. Signals, Norm Thompson, LL Bean, Lands End are alluring. The merchandise is top quality and priced accordingly, but at least they don’t play the merchandising mind games, unless you count free shipping.
The online frenzy of auto-play ads, banners, "recommendations," and pop-ups? I have never been so grateful for Adblock Plus. 

If all this is making me crazy, I pity the person who has kids and a large family to shop for. How do they know they’re getting the best prices? Do they play the coupon/discount/flyer game? Or do they head for the nearest store that has everything on their list, price be damned?

Or perhaps they take a stroll down Main Street and thoughtfully select items that will benefit local merchants rather than line the pockets of Big Box CEOs. That doesn’t require Common Core math.

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