thrifty tips for shopping retail

>> 7.01.2010

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here on the blog before, but I've worked at the Gap a grand total of three times. My very first job was actually as a sales associate at Gap Kids back when I was sixteen. Since then, I worked as a seasonal employee for two separate holidays.

There are some perks (amazing discounts, comfortable work clothes, and first look at sales) as well as some drawbacks (working on holidays, making very low wages, and standing on feet all day), but I loved the overall experience. Plus, I learned a lot about smart shopping! I was always surprised about all of the great money-saving options that the customers weren't clued in on! 

Top thrifty tips and store policies the average shopper doesn't know about:

1. Price adjustments- Ask your favorite store if they do these! If you buy an item that gets marked down in price during a certain period, you can return with your receipt and get a refund for the difference!!

2. In-store web orders- If a store doesn't carry or is out of an item, they can make an online order from inside the store. What does this mean for you? Free shipping!

3. Predictable markdown schedule- When I worked there, we did markdowns on Sundays and Tuesdays (ask a sales associate and they'll probably tell you when they do it). The smart shoppers would come in the morning of a new markdown and snag the last $6.99 pair of shoes.

4. Seasonal sales- Just like markdowns, these are very predictable. The big summer sales were always around July 4, fall around Thanksgiving, and Winter went on sale the week before Christmas.

5. Yes, the big winter sales started the week BEFORE Christmas- December 20ish. I always get amazing last minute presents by going that week.

6. Price codes- Some of the codes can be clues as to the sale's status. A ".50" meant full-price, ".99" was sale, and ".97" final sale/ last chance!

7. Friends and family events- These usually happen during slower parts of the year (spring and late summer) aren't just for friends and family of the employees. You can also save the 30% off during this time by asking the employees if they have extra coupons, going online to look for printables, and signing up for the store's mailing list.

8. Credit or "rewards" card- The big tip is that these aren't always a bad deal. If you don't have many credit cards, plan on paying off the entire card monthly, and spend a good deal of money at that store anyways... go for it! To get the most bang for your buck, plan a big shopping spree for the day that you sign up. You'll get 10-20% off of that purchase, then points towards your rewards purchases. *Make sure that sale items receive the discount and count towards your rewards. Also, make sure that there are special offers like discount days and coupons for being a "member."

9. Store locator- If the perfect sweater at the perfect price is sold out at your store, don't sweat it! Just ask an employee if they can scan the item and find out which other stores in your area have it. You'd be surprised what measures can be taken if you really want an item. I remember helping a lady make a call to a store eight hours away just to do a phone-order purchase the last pair of clearance booties.

10. Shop the slow periods- Mid-week, mornings, and weekday evenings are great times to get the most help from the employees. While you're there, just take a minute to ask them what tips they have for saving big in their store. Most stores don't have policies against sharing money-saving tricks, but they probably won't send out posters advertising everything either.

Have you ever worked in a retail environment? What tips can you pass on from your experience?

PS A little AC update... the motor in the three-year-old unit is dead, but it's covered by an extended warranty (that I didn't know I had)! I might have had to deal with a couple sweaty nights, but at least it will be free to fix!!
PPS The AC guy said it almost always pays off to buy the extended warranties, even the ten year ones. Good to know! 


Danielle and Clint July 1, 2010 at 11:25 AM  

First off...woohoo on the A/C deal! That could of been a few grand of a nightmare.

Thanks for the retail tips!

oneluckycouple July 1, 2010 at 12:02 PM  

These are great tips! I used to manage a retail store, and it does pay to do a little digging through bins when the big sales happen. I'm glad you're not having to pay for your A/C repairs!

Mrs. Chic July 1, 2010 at 4:13 PM  

I've worked in retial a few times when I was younger, I was bad - I'd snag the items I loved that were on sale and stash them in the stock dept.!! lol my mgr knew so it was ok - lol

Ask sales assoc. when bigs sales are coming up to save money or ask them to hold the iem for the next sale if tis 1-2 days away

Kim @ NewlyWoodwards July 1, 2010 at 9:13 PM  

That's great that your AC has the warranty. Good news, for sure.

I worked retail for (too) many years. Started when I was 16, worked at NY&Co through college and Dillards until I found a job in my field. I liked retail, but I don't miss holidays and weekends. I do miss having random days off and a discount.

However, while you can get awesome deals working retail, it wasn't for me. I don't have the willpower.

The biggest takeaways for me were mentioned by you, too - almost everything goes on sale at some point (at least at the stores I worked at) and that many sales will price adjust if things go on sale within 2 weeks. I always keep my receipts and double check as a result.

Great post!

Paula July 8, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

Thanks for these great tips! While I am an avid couponer for the past year-and-a-half, I haven't really extended it to other types of retail stores besides grocery stores and maybe Target.

Lauren July 26, 2010 at 1:10 PM

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