Sucked In By A Sale

Long-time readers of my organizing tips may recall an earlier rant of mine on the tyranny of coupons (Coupons: To Clip or Not To Clip?)  Coupons induce us to behave in irrational ways that waste our time and create clutter.  Similarly, sales are likely to have the same effect.

When we are shopping for something specific, it’s quite delightful to find that the item we planned to buy is on sale and we can purchase it for less than expected.  However, our delight in discovering a sale often leads us into some self-defeating behaviors.  Here’s an example.

Last fall, I finished up with a client on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and decided to go bra shopping.  I had received a postcard notifying me about a sale at a store called Bra Smyth, which carried the bra I was wearing.  It was the last day of the sale, and my extremely busy schedule had prevented me from taking advantage of it sooner.  I was only about a mile away from the store, so I hopped on a bus and off I went.

After trying on a bunch of different bras (you ladies out there know how exhausting that process can be), I decided to try a new style in lieu of the style I was currently wearing.  Ordinarily, I would buy just one of a new style, wear it for a while to ensure its comfort, then buy a few more if it passed muster.  But it was the last day of the sale, so I threw caution to the wind and bought three of them.  The clearly stated store policy was “no refunds – exchanges or store credit only”, but I bought them anyway because they were on sale. 

Of course, after wearing this new bra for a couple of days, I determined that it was not as comfortable as my old style.  I was annoyed at myself for having purchased three of them, and determined to go back to the store to return the two unworn ones.   I had 30 days to do so, but since I was scheduled to see that same client again the following week, I would carve out the time to go back to the store.

Then Hurricane Sandy hit, knocking out public transportation in NYC.   My appointment with this client got canceled.  I finally made it back to the store, after the 30-day deadline had passed.  I threw myself on their mercy, citing the hurricane, and they gave me the store credit.  I had a year to redeem it.

I sat on that store credit for nearly a year.  In recent weeks, I made a mental note to use it, but my schedule was so packed that I despaired getting there.  Last week, a client canceled due to illness, so I was able to find time to go back to that store, go through the trying-on process again (hope springs eternal in the human breast, according to Alexander Pope), and use my credit to purchase two bras in my usual style.  

This story has taught me several lessons:

  1. Don’t let a sale lead you into buying more than you intended to.
  2. Don’t let a sale induce you to going shopping when you have an extremely busy schedule.  Wait until you can shop at leisure.
  3. Don’t buy from places that issue only store credits because this policy works to the store’s advantage, not yours.

Do you have any stories illustrating how sales sucked you into irrational behavior?  I’d love to hear them.

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