United States of America Shopping Tips by melosh
United States of America Shopping: 89 reviews and 91 photos
Maybe this should be a warning or customs tip:
"Black Friday" refers to the Friday right after Thanksgiving when the heavy Xmas buying begins. It is called black because it is said to put the merchants "in the black" which means puts them into the profit range. ("Being in the red" means a business is losing money.)
The shops and malls are likely to be packed with crazy shoppers. Viewed as a tourist you might find it interesting to wander through the stores just watching the people, but I would not recommend actually trying to buy anything at this time. I do not think any savings you might see from a special sale price would be worth the time in lines and traffic.
If you want to see the same craziness but with much lower prices wait for the first shopping day after Christmas.
What to buy: If you really want to buy something on "black Friday", make sure it is something on sale with a really good price.
If you wait until after Christmas, the best savings will be for holiday related items. Decorations, gift wrapping materials and things thought to be good gifts that were overstocked are commonly found at 50% of more off their original prices. This can also be a good time to buy winter clothes.
Theme: Department Store
Vendors are constantly trying to expand the English language in order to produce further sales. For a foreign visitor trying to find good prices the terms might be confusing. Consider the following:
"FOR SALE" means the item is offered for purchase. When a purchase has been made the vendor calls it "A SALE". When "A SALE" is advertised it is suppose to mean that special low prices are being offered for a limited time. There are a lot of modifications for this last type of SALE that really mean nothing; Gigantic sale, Blockbuster sale, Big sale, Greatest sale of all time are just a few. One thing to remember is that the sale price may be higher than the normal price at a nearby store.
There are all sorts of seasonal and holiday sales, but you may actually see better prices in the after holiday "clearance sale". The most famous is the post-christmas sale when a Christian can learn how much they could save if they were of a religion that allowed then to get all their clothes after the holiday. A tourist to the USA at that time of year could save a lot of money.
What to buy: Buy things on sale, but be aware that are other more terms you may encounter where the word sale may not be included.
CLEARANCE SALE-- Selling off of items that have not been selling well at a lower price to clear the shelves.
GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE-- This generally means what it says, but some stores seem to be continuously going out of business - Particularly furniture stores and oriental carpet stores. It almost seems that some open with going out of business sales.
CLOSE OUT SALE -- See above, plus sometimes used as "year end close out", "summer close out" or "product close out" The suggestion is that they are giving better prices so they can close there books showing maximum profit.
TENT SALE -- You may or may not see a tent. The sale tends to have a theme like "tools" and offers lots of poor quality items for very low prices.
MIDNIGHT MADNESS -- The stores want you to believe the prices are extremely low, but I am not mad (as in crazy) enough to go shopping at midnight so I can not comment on the prices you will find.
EARLY BIRD SPECIALS-- Usually this means a special price for early arrivals at a restaurants. This may be restricted to senior citizens and may be refered to as SENIOR EARLY BIRD SPECIALS. Recently some stores have taken this idea and offered early bird 6AM store openings with "great sale prices." I am not going to stand in line at 6 AM even if the price was incomparable.
PRICES AS LOW AS . . .-- This can border on misleading advertising. Or the famous bait and switch sales trick. There are sure to be some of the lowest quality items imaginable at this low price, but . . .
What to pay: When you respond to sales you can expect to pay less that some arbitrary "regular" price for a particular store. Whether this means that you are getting the best price is really the question.
When you are really trying to save money you can try "flea markets" --usually outside town in an open area, "garage sales" -- usually in someone's front yard but occasionally in a church parking lot, and "thrift stores" -- especially those run by not-for-profit organizations like Goodwill and usually found in low rent regular store buildings. Only in the first case are you likely to find new items for sale. Rarely, you might find a craft cooperative with good prices.
But be warned: Street markets in the USA associated with festivals are often, if not always, characterized by what you might refer to as tourist or special event pricing. It is kind of like the high prices you find for snacks and drinks at theaters or sporting events. Many times the sellers of things like art and special crafts have high priced stores, and bring those prices with them to the festival along with their credit card machine.
If you are thinking of buying some things from a store you have three directions you can go: First you can head to a specialty store whether big or small where quality and reputation get high priority and prices tend to reflect this emphasis. These are the places that may carry hard to find items or will happily order them for you. Secondly you can head for a mall, where you will find multiple specialty stores with most being part of large chains. The location in a mall tends to raise prices but the concentration of competition will tend to keep this within reasonable bounds and generally lower than those of the specialty stores. And thirdly you can head for a gigantic discount store. Here the prices may be the lowest, but the selection although wide does tend to avoid the hard to find items that do not "move" quickly from the shelves. No matter how hard they may try the convenience and service can not match that provided by a good specialty store. You are much more likely to purchase a defective item and then have to experience the further inconvenience of trying to return the item for a replacement.
A large open space, usually with some shack like booths along with a larger "undeveloped" area for even more temporary shop setup. Lots of open field for parking. No impressive permanent structures as you might see in developing countries like Mexico or Brazil.
This is the opposite of the big discount stores or malls. Here you see unfettered capitalism. Prices are usually negoitable. The items available range from junk to jewels. There is old stuff-- some of might be considered antiques, and new stuff made by hand by Americans or manufactured in China. You may not find anything you want to buy, but you should have a good time exploring the offerings.
What to buy: Buyer beware. Purchase what you know and like. It could be anything. It could be nothing.
What to pay: Less than what you would pay in a store.
Directions: Usually found in open areas on the outskirts of towns and cities, although sometimes city growth has engulfed the location even to point of having large stores across the street or on either side of the market.
Theme: Local Craft
Orginally, factory outlets were little places attached or part of a factory where you could buy factory product at "factory" wholesale prices. I think this was an original American creation. The idea was so profitable that factories decided to open "factory outlet" stores in locations more convenient and more appealing for the consumer. Now whole malls have been created claiming low factory prices. Of course, many of the actual factories are now in China or other low cost producing countries, whereas the malls themselves are usually located off freeways outside of the high rent prices of cites and towns and usually require car transportion to visit. The attraction remains the low prices, although they do not seem to be as low as when they were just a little side business of a factory. If you are just going to experience this part of America, then you can ignore the cost of gas, but if you expect to save money you might consider this as part of the expense. The visit probably would not be worthwhile for the purchase of one pair of shoes.
Because they sell in large volume, be sure to inspect carefully your potential purchases especially if they are labeled "seconds". This would mean that there might be a slight defect you would not expect to find in a quality brand or in an item bought from a small store that must stand behind its merchandise to maintain a good reputation.
What to buy: US Brand name items when the brand is important to you and you need enough items to make the trip worth the trouble.
What to pay: Slightly less than the large regular discount stores and significantly less than the retail price you would pay for something at a regular specialty store.
Directions: Usually outside of town and cities accessible from the super highways.
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