Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One Reason Why I Hate Shopping

Prior to last Sunday, I can't remember the last time I went shopping at the SI Mall. There's nothing that I needed that required heading out to the Mall. However, I was gifted with a nice-sized gift card to Macy's. I did have a few things that were possibilities for purchase, so out to Macy's I went.

Once upon a time Macy's was really a middle of the road department store, and a fairly middle class one at that. It was considered more expensive than Sears or Penney's and carried certain brands that those stores didn't, but "normal" people shopped there. It was quite possible to get what were really good bargains, especially during sales. However, judging by the prices and by the brands being sold, Macy's would far rather find itself in company with Bergdorfs and other stores of that ilk.

I walked that store from end to end, from floor to floor, and despaired of ever finding anything to spend my gift card on. Not only was my eye not captured by most of the merchandise, my "careful with money" hackles were being raised. In the purse department I tried and failed to find any purse smaller than a suitcase in size. I really don't like those mega-sized purses. Finally one caught my eye because it's size was only a bit out of the range I prefer. So I opened it up, and I saw a yawning chasm--no dividers, no compartments except for one tiny slot to put a cell phone into. I closed the purse and glanced at the price tag just out of curiosity. Holy moley!!! That purse was $428 dollars, and advertised as a spectacular price. The brand? Coach. The department was full of this brand's offerings, and $428 was not the most expensive of the purses offered.

Throughout the store I was faced with the same dilemma--merchandise at prices I was not going to pay because in no way, shape or form was what was being sold worth that kind of money to me. I finally took a breather outside of the housewares department and literally found myself leaning on a solution to my what to spend the gift card on dilemma. I was in the luggage department. No, virtually all the suitcases on display were way more money than I was going to spend. But there, in a corner, a "special sale before 1:00PM" sign caught my eye. Finally, an item at a price that was acceptable for that item, that was actually a good buy. We killed a suitcase on our last trip and it needed replacing. I bought the suitcase, but even with the tax I still have 1/3 of that gift card remaining. I have no idea what I'm going to get at Macy's with the $35 left. No, a pair of polyester gloves made in China are not going to get me to shell out $39 a pair, I don't care whose label is in them.

The funny thing though was that the parking lot was jam packed. Someone mentioned to me that people are already starting their holiday shopping. So yes, someone is going to buy all that way overpriced "labels-to-die-for" stuff. I just wish I understood why. I think of all the things that $428 could buy, and a purse just isn't first on the list; in fact, it doesn't make the list at all. And yes, I imagine there are a whole lot of people who are going to consider that I am the oddball for thinking that way.

19 comments:

Kayla said...

Take a deep breath Prof. You really haven't been in the stores much if these prices are shocking you. What I don't get is that these stores like Macys are also selling pantihose at 12.99 and way way up a pair for those branded products. Don't know about you but I'm lucky if I get a week out of a pair. They always manage to catch on something and run in an obvious place. Blessings on cheap stores and the Internet for selling them at 1.00 a pair and sometimes on a clearance sale at even less.

Abba's Ranting said...

i haven't liked going shopping for clothes in stores since i was teenager. thank god for the internet. the only thing i can imagine in regards to your post is that because stores like macys can't compete with a lot of internet sites, they mark up their prices high so they will make their money on those people who, for whatever reason, prefer conventional department stores.

btw, one benefit to macy's, although i wouldn't pay double for this, is a generous return policy

Anonymous said...

A lot of what is happening in stores may reflect what's going on in the economy -- much greater chasms between the haves and have nots. The stores that are thriving are those that cater to the lower end quality/prices -- i.e. Walmarts, and the upscale -- think Sax, Armani, Tiffany's. Many of the middle of the road retailers have struggled or disappeared. Macy's is trying to get more of the upscale market. Demographically it's a small market, but it's where most of the money is.

BTW - I share your dislike of department stores and malls. I haven't been to either (except for an outdoor outlet mall) in about 7 years.

tesyaa said...

A gift card or a store credit isn't worth spending if it forces you to spend MORE. That's why stores love selling gift cards - either you don't use it and they keep the money, or you come in and spend more than what's on the card. I know people think cash is a tacky gift (in some cases, it is), but it's so much more practical.

Lissa said...

I'm with you on this one. But I've got a strange coach story. A coworker is really into those labels and bought a coach bag. She had it about a year and then was looking for something more in. She asked me if I'd like the bag since she was getting rid of it. The cost was zero so I said sure. The first time I used it was also the day of a PTA conference. You should have heard the comments. Seems like everyone recognized the label and the oohs and aaahs were coming out. And then someone mentioned that my husband or me must have gotten a raise because those bags weren't cheap and I'd never been seen wearing one before.

Free or not I stopped wearing the bag. I so don't need people to be making assumptions about me or my family based on a stupid purse. And just how is it that people who are always complaining that tuition is keeping them broke know about coach and buy it?

tesyaa said...

Lissa, it's too bad people made assumptions about you because of a purse ... for all they knew, you could have received it as a gift or bought it for a fraction of the retail price on eBay. (I admit I have done that a few times). Some Coach bags are flashy and scream Coach, while some look just like plain leather bags and you really have to look to notice it's Coach.

But I agree, if you're not comfortable with the assumptions the crowd is making, it's better not to use it.

Miami Al said...

Only funny because Coach hasn't been a high end bag designer in quite a few years... my wife has a bunch of them from our pre-kids era...

Nice bags, hold up nicely, need to be kept clean...

alpidarkomama said...

I call going to the mall "getting malled." I haven't been in years! I also had a gift card to The Gap that I couldn't make myself use because everything I found was so much more than I usually spend! I ended up selling it to a friend who regularly shops at The Gap anyway. Even though it was "free" money, I still couldn't make myself pay those prices. At least I could trade it for free money! :)

Sara said...

A bag costing over $400 is high end enough for me. Please don't tell me what the high end purses cost if this isn't high end.

I also have this question for the ladies out there. How many years do you wear a purse? Mine gets heavy use at least 6 days a week and sometimes on motzoai shabbos also. After a year it starts looking and acting worn out. By two years max it is worn out. I suppose I could understand that high price tag if the purse was warranteed to last for at least 10-20 years but it really makes no sense if that expensive purse doesn't last any longer then the cheaper ones do.

JS said...

Very good point that Anonymous made above about the profitable stores being the low-end bargain stores like Walmart and the high-end retailers like Tiffany's. It would seem there isn't much room left in the middle. The middle-class has either sucked it up and gone to Walmart and Target (and stopped mocking it as the French sounding Tar-gei) or has become more successful and started living it up.

I get the need for department stores, at least for clothes. But, for all other items, the Internet is a far superior source. Far cheaper, free shipping, no tax, and product reviews. Even with those ubiquitous coupons that many retailers hand out, it's still cheaper to go online.

Oh, and tesyaa, retailers like those gift cards for another reason: the float. They make interest from the moment the card is bought until the money on the card is finally spent.

Anonymous said...

Miami Al, Coach may not be in the top 5 of high end designers but they are still in the top 10. Tell your wife to hold onto those bags. Or head for Ebay if she isn't using them anymore.

I think Hermes gets the award for most expensive purse. They have one on Ebay going for $19,800. When a purse costs more than the mortgage on my house does there's something screwy going on.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't bother me that Macy's sells $400+ bags, its that its impossible to get any classic, well-made basics for anything close to a reasonable price. If you are female and want a nice classic wool suit for work, forget it. They are either polyester/rayon or have odd designs like collars with ruffles. Maybe if you want to spend $1000 and go to Brooks Brothers or Armani, but the basic suits, blouses, etc. that you used to be able to find at places like Lord & Taylors or Macy's in the $300 range for a suit - $50.00 for a blouse are extinct. You can't even get a basic wool cardigan or pullover.

Rae said...

I agree with the last anon that quality items are becoming scarcer. The prices are skyrocketing and yet everything is some kind of synthetic blend.

I was in a local mall to look at some wool coats that were being advertised at a pretty decent price given what things are costing today. I always check the inside labels on a garment to see the care instructions and there I found out that the coat was only 15% "extra virgin" wool and 85% a whole bunch of stuff that sounds like it belongs in a chemistry lab. Since when does 15% make something a wool coat?! And I'm pretty sure that "extra virgin" may apply to olive oil but to nothing else. That bargain was suddenly no bargain when I read the label. And how many people actually read the care label sewn somewhere on an inside seam?

Jason said...

I don't think you can blame the stores for the prices. If a store puts a price on something and no one buys it, then they either stop selling the item or they reduce the price. If consumers buy the item at the original price what incentive is there for a store to lower prices? They're in business to make a buck. It's pretty clear from what you say that Macy's has those customers who will pay the prices they are asking.

If it's the brand name you want you'll end up paying for that. If it's the item at a lower price you need to find a different store that might sell it cheaper.

Miami Al said...

Anon,

Well, the coach purses needed to be cleaned after a few years of uses, and she doesn't carry a small bag that often anymore, so never gets around to it. Maybe when she goes somewhere without diapers and wipes that will change. :) Also, Rue La La hit her desire for high end stuff and there is a Coach Outlet about an hour from here. But she's paid sub-Coach prices for way over-Coach handbags on Rue La La.

My issue with Macy's is different. Federated bought Burdines, the Florida department store, during the department store consolidations in the 80s. After a number of years, they turned them into Macy's. I realize that Macy's is an affordable luxury brand in NY, but we're not New York.

You used to be able to go into Burdines in February and buy pool toys, the clothing used to be more South Florida styles, etc. Now it's all Macy's... and it's very middle class New York... lame...

SaraK said...

Use your Macy's gift card online. Most of my Shabbat/dressy clothing is from Macy's. The return policy is fabulous, and they very often have free shipping (at least twice a month if not more).

You can also get great deals on kids clothes.

Anonymous said...

I always find good sales with coupons at Macy's. I also get wedding gifts from their Bridal Registry. Last week I spent less for a gift there than anyone was selling online and they shipped it free.
I have bought mattresses, clothes, shoes, and even maternity clothes for my daughters. I stay away from the stockings tho, they are always overpriced.
I would be happy to take that Macy's gift card off your hands if you don't want it.

SubWife said...

Shopping in Macy's requires a skill. One should wait for a good sale or hold on to a good coupon. I check prices before I buy anything and often Macy's gives the best price, especially if those are household items or children's clothes. And the return policy and the ability to see what you buy and examine it beforehand (something you cannot do over the internet) is also worth something.

debka_notion said...

The only thing I buy at Macy's is bras- their prices there aren't too bad, comparable to anywhere else I look for the same bras, although they also carry the more expensive ones. And last time I was there, they had some lasting deal on their store charge card, such that one got a free bra after purchasing 6.