Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other Gimmicks

I consider myself a pretty savvy shopper.  As I type this I am wearing a plum J. Crew Lady Day Coat that currently sells for $365 (except not the plum color anymore, one of the Obama girls wore it and so J. Crew retired it out of respect and I am sure the president is very grateful that J. Crew showed such enormous respect for his teenage daughter's choice of coats) that I paid $40 for, new, on eBay.  And it was worn by Jenna Elfman in a TV Show and considering her immense star power (I'm joking, for the record) this is a big deal; frankly if there weren't so many die hard Dharma and Greg fans out there I probably could have snagged this for less but as it stood, people were literally killing each other to try and get Ms. Elfman's once worn coat.

So I've been getting emails about all these huge deals going on.  Neiman Marcus Last Call had 40% off your entire purchase starting midnight on Black Friday but they have that same exact deal going on every other week.  A friend texted me excitedly about J. Crew having 30% off your whole purchase but I have an email filled with J. Crew 25%, 30% and 40% off your whole purchase offers.  I considered going out to get some things on Friday but it's just all gimmicks.  It makes me wonder who these people are that are foaming at the mouth over all of these deals.  I saw many, many ads about the Big Box stores opening early and even on Thanksgiving night, but no information about any actual good deals they would be offering.  And really, why would they?  People are guaranteed to be buying around this time of year, so why would stores be slashing their prices by any discernible amount?

People fall for it though.  Every damn year they fall for it.  So I am going to advise you how to not fall for the awful gimmicks that make you think you're getting a great deal (really Saks, 10% off? Why even bother?) and actually get a great deal.  Here are my shopping tips:

  1. Go to eBay and set up some saved searches.  Now.  If used clothes bother you, select the option that ensures you are only viewing "New with Tags" clothing.  If something has more than one day left on it, just watch it and do not bid.  Bidding now does nothing but ensure the price goes up and if you are bidding to guarantee you win it actually kind of does the opposite; say you put in a bid much higher than the current minimum bid price, like $50 on a $4.65 item.  That means that if someone else willing to pay as much as you starts bidding, the price gets jacked up to $50 very quickly, whereas if you hadn't bid yet, that person would likely put in some other lower bid and keep the price down.  Then, everyone else who comes after them is bidding up a much lower price rather than adding on to your $50 max bid.  The thing that ensures this is that eBay asks you to put in the maximum you are willing to pay when you bid but most people underestimate what they would have to pay, so even though someone would pay up to $50 they are more likely to put in a much lower amount hoping they are on their way to a great deal.  Bid at the last second and steal that dream from them.
    1. Go to a department store and try some stuff on.  Get a feeling for your size in various different brands that you intend on searching for so you aren't going in blind.  I always needed to try things on but now that I have a good feeling for my size in the brands I buy from the most, I can pretty much tell if something will fit me from its listed size and appearance.  Additionally, measure yourself and clothes you own that fit you.  Lots of sellers list measurements of their items and if these match up to clothes you already have that you know look good and fit well, then you can be pretty sure that an item will fit, and fit well.
    2. Go to and start sniping.  Gixen uses the item numbers from the eBay listings and puts in your bid in the last 3-4 seconds of the auction, giving someone who is just putting in minimum bids each time almost no shot of outbidding you before you've won.  It also keeps you from engaging in bidding wars, where the idea of having something and winning clouds your judgment and you end up paying way more than you had planned on just because you got caught up in the moment.
    3. Find some good damn sellers and start checking their newly listed stock frequently.  Lots of sellers somehow procure overstock/returns from department stores and sell you these brand new items at massive discounts.  BHFO is a great seller to start with, and items I've gotten from them have had Bloomingdales return stickers and Nordstrom markings.  Everything has been brand new with all tags attached, and prices start at $0.99 so there are definitely some opportunities for good deals to be had.  Find more like this!
  2. Go to a department store outlet in person.  Nordstrom Rack, Neiman's Last Call, Bloomingdales The Outlet, Saks off Fifth, any of em.  Don't go to brand specific outlets like J. Crew or Ann Taylor or Banana Republic because they are selling you outlet specific clothing.  The designs may be similar but the materials are not, and 50% off a significantly overpriced blouse made of inferior materials is not anything to write home about.  The department store outlets sell real stock from their stores, and the only one I have noticed with outlet specific stuff is Saks, who now has tons of its own house brands to sell.  If you dig, you can find some really good stuff.  The outlets I go to are in a bit of a bad area and have no other nice stores in the whole outlet mall, which is great because it means there's less competition for the good stuff.
  3. Go to TJ Maxx.  Find one with a Runway near you, because that's the section that has all the higher end stuff.  Tags will be purple.  Runway items can be returned to any TJ Maxx so if you see some random purple tags in your local non-Runway TJ's, be sure to check them out.  They will probably be good quality and are more likely to be on clearance since they start at higher prices most people are unwilling to pay.
Just please, please, don't pay full price for things and don't fall for these marketing gimmicks designed to get you in stores and paying vastly inflated prices.  Why would you pay full price if you don't have to?  And why would you buy clothes from Forever 21 when you could get good quality alternatives on sale for similar prices?  Last night I bought a (new) Theory sweater for $32.00 from eBay, tags originally said $215, and H&M or F21 sweaters aren't much cheaper but will definitely fall apart sooner.  Just try it out, I promise you'll like it.  Note that I did not give away many eBay sellers' names - I can't give away all my secrets, but if you look around you might find some good ones to hang onto for yourself.

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