My latest shopping trip -- part two

The hardest thing about writing this blog is not wanting to sound like a breathless, retail-obsessed compulsive shopper. I think anyone who enjoys leisure shopping is in danger of exhibiting compulsive shopping behaviour at different times, and I'm always on the lookout for the telltale signs. With that caveat, I'll now detail the second part of my most recent shopping trip.

I went to my local shopping mall mainly to buy a present for a friend, but I also wanted to check out the clothes shops. This time of year is great for sales. There is Boxing Day and the days following, when great bargains can be had, and then a period when I find leisure shopping quite depressing  the goods have been picked through, the salespeople are dispirited and it all seems quite tired. By mid-January, however, there are often new things on sale. Having had a break since my post-Christmas hunt and gather, I thought it was time to see if there were any new bargains to be had  I still had some summer clothes items on my priority list, a list I keep and update constantly to ensure that I buy only the things I want and need.

Sure enough, I found a pair of cargo pants for $36  the right colour and style, and 20 per cent off the original price. I had been waiting for this clothes item for a while, and it was gratifying to finally find what I was after ('Waiting' is one of the techniques I recommend in my book).

I did my usual Inspired Shopping practice of relinquishing (very easy to do in a changeroom  I relinquish by starting to put the favoured item back on the clothes hanger, and if my intuition alarm goes off, decide to take it). I then decided to pop into a very fashionable clothes chain with a young image.

This store is very concerned with the latest trends and so throws clothes out that aren't selling well at huge discounts, often as much as 70 per cent. I found a black, sleeveless top with a pretty lacy panel at the neck for what I assumed was $8, down from $29.95 (the sale sticker had been ripped off, but other similar tops on the rack were $8 down from the same price). At such a low price, I didn't feel at all guilty that a sleeveless top wasn't on my priority list  in Melbourne we have many very hot days in summer and I knew I would get a decent amount of wear out of it.

However, the sales assistant seemed confused about the correct price. She wanted to give me 50 per cent off the original price ($14.95) , and I pointed out that there was a red tag attached to the garment that said '70% off', so she gave it to me for $10. Two minutes later I realised that she should have given it to me for $8, the price of similar clothes on the rack. I later calculated that 70 per cent off $29.95 is actually $9, but it looked as if the worker making the pricing decision had opted for the lower price of $8.

Now $2 is a tiny amount of money to quibble about when getting a bargain like this. I was still in the shop when I realised what had happened and debated with myself whether to insist on the greater discount.

It will, of course, be clear to the reader that I am super-sensitive to the tiniest price injustice in a retail store. I am always on the lookout for any attempts to rip customers off, and misleading advertising of prices sends me apoplectic. So this incident was an important experience for me: was I prepared to make a fool of myself for $2? No, I decided, I wasn't. It was clearly an honest mistake, and if I had to argue my case for any length of time, I wouldn't want to show my face in the store again, thereby preventing me from bagging future bargains. I had to give up on $2 as well as my pride and sense of self-righteousness. It hurt just a bit, but I stayed with the hurt and reminded myself what a tiny amount I had lost.

This little incident was an exercise in maturity for me. And please don't think I'm discouraging people from standing up for themselves in retail situations -- I'm not, and my book includes basic information about consumer rights. In fact, if I'd known as I stood at the counter that the correct amount, according to the '70% off' label, was $9, I would have insisted on paying no more than that. But having successfully argued the case for not paying $14.95, and with the transaction completed, I believe I made my decision based on common sense. This is one of the things I love about being an inspired shopper - I learn something new about myself, and get the chance to practise healthy behaviour based on that knowledge, every time I hit the stores!

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