Have you noticed that “Christmas” sales start earlier every year? Some people—like me—might argue that there are always sales: Friends and Family at Saks, Macy’s Doorbusters, and Loyalist, Double Reward Points at Bloomingdale’s. There’s pre-Christmas and post-Christmas; there’s Black Friday, which now begins on Thursday, and let’s not forget Cyber Monday right after Thanksgiving weekend. While some sales are better than others, it’s pretty rare to walk into a store where there’s NO sale.
Once in a while, Henry and I stroll into a department store and notice that everything is full-priced. If I’m at Bloomies, I’ll ask the salesperson: “Is this going on sale next week?” Often s/he will say: “This is the ‘pre-sale.’ I can give you the sale price if you pay for it now and pick it up next Thursday when the sale begins.” On those rare occasions when no sales are anticipated, I usually find that if we wait a week or two, the price still comes down.
Sometimes, if you’re a good customer, a loyal salesperson will put something aside when a sale is imminent. Henry had his heart set on a black blazer, so his favorite salesman put a size 42 S aside for two weeks. Henry saved 50%, and he didn’t have to worry that his size would be sold out. Of course, Henry has bought all his suits from this salesman for the past ten years, so you might say it’s only fair.
Even when we don’t venture near stores or boutiques, sales announcements still bombard us. We start with the “New York Times,” delivered first thing in the morning. When I open the front section, sipping my first cup of coffee, my dining room table is showered with leaflets and flyers from Best Buy, P.C. Richards, Walmart and Toys R Us. There’s even an 8 page insert from Petco that tumbles out of Henry’s “New York Post” as he tries to read the sports section. What a waste of paper, I think, as these scatter into a mess that I dutifully put in the recycle pile.
Cyberspace is worse than the newspaper. The moment I check my emails—a must, even during holiday season sales mania—I’m confronted (and occasionally seduced) by a variety of deceptively tempting announcements. “Career Resources – Free Upgrade to Premium.” Career Resources was a service I looked into for Max. Despite the fact that I specified the entertainment industry, they had offered “data entry” and “pizza chef” positions to my son. No thank you. Delete. I open “email@ExtraCare from CVS” because we shop there so much that I am expecting a 20% off coupon. Next is “Best Buy, your $5 reward certificate.” I don’t delete that one, but I don’t open it either. Fortunoff’s wants me to “Shop Early for the Holidays! Great Hanukah gifts…” Deleting Fortunoff’s isn’t enough; I report it as spam. Believe it or not, there’s another email from Best Buy: “Geek Squad – Say Hello to Your Internet Security Software.” I say goodbye instead. Delete.
Speaking of cyberspace, I am also besieged by promotions for Cyber Monday—the shopping “holiday” for people who prefer to buy discounted holiday gifts online. Ever since Cyber Monday made its 2005 debut in the U.S., it has become a wildly popular international marketing term for on-line retailers in Canada, the UK, Portugal, Chile and Japan. The biggest Cyber Monday retailers include Walmart, Target, BestBuy and Barnes & Noble. If you know exactly what you want, it’s a great way to enjoy Black Friday’s savings while avoiding the stampede of competitive shoppers and long lines at the cashier. Also, if one on-line location runs out of the flat screen TV you wanted, you can navigate to another site instead of racing to another store in your car. No wonder 38 million consumers (mostly men) have shopped from the toilet!
Later in the day, I go downstairs in our apartment building to gather our mail. Surprise, surprise, our mailbox is stuffed to capacity with catalogues and sales promotions. I can barely get my hand in (or out) of the narrow, metal slot. It takes all my strength to yank out the glossy catalogues from Sak’s and Bergdorf’s, the Bloomies brochure on a house-ware sale, the postcard from the Gap offering 2 for 1 on tee-shirts, and Ralph Lauren’s “private sale” invitation. Victoria’s Secret is giving away free panties, or tote bags if you spend $75 or more, and Banana Republic blah, blah, blah. Most of this goes straight into the garbage. Even the most enticing catalogues aren’t worth schlepping into the elevator and upstairs to our apartment. I stand in the mailroom, flipping through a beautiful catalogue from Bergdorf’s, admiring the exquisite merchandise (uniquely not on sale). Sighing, I toss it into the garbage can already overflowing with other tenants’ discarded catalogues and sales announcements.
Sometimes I don’t throw the advertisements away. Sometimes the sales sound so good that Henry and I can’t resist checking them out. Devoted admirers of Ralph Lauren clothing and home goods, we occasionally succumb to the sale coupons for their already discounted store at Woodbury Commons. However, even if Ralph Lauren is practically giving away merchandise, we ONLY shop at Woodbury Commons if the weather is nice. After a 75 minute car trip—which doesn’t include time spent competing for a coveted parking spot—it’s often a long walk back to the store.
The other big issue to consider when checking out various sales is the quality of what’s being offered. Don’t you find that what you like isn’t in your size? If you happen to be a popular size, forget about it. Even when I do manage to unearth my seemingly elusive size, chances are my “eureka” moment will be short-lived. That “perfect” dress will probably pull across my hips, turn my arms into sausages, or be too short. A jacket that fits across the shoulders will be too big in the rest of the body. If I want the next size up or down, I’m out of luck.
Of course nobody wants to pay retail. That’s why the “Holiday Sales” keep creeping backward in the calendar. Once upon a time, Christmas shopping kicked off at Thanksgiving. And remember the days when the best sales were AFTER Christmas? The Great Recession of 2007 changed everything. Now there are sales 24/7.
Take my advice: if you don’t like what you see today, just wait till the sale next week.