Why Is Getting A Good Deal So Difficult?

The other day my son managed to lose a pair of pants from his school uniform. How he did this, I am not sure, since he was wearing them at school that day. Nevertheless, somehow between the end of the school day and the end of his bus ride home, he managed to lose his pants. I suspect that his pants were somehow misplaced as he rushed to change into more comfortable clothing before he boarded his bus. Alas, we will never know.

Regardless of what happened, the mystery of the disappearing pants forced us (and by us, I mean my beloved wife) to go on-line that night and order an additional pair of pants. My wife had had a rather frustrating day as it was, so she was less than thrilled to have to go shopping after dinner, even though the stores were conveniently located on our computer.

After a few minutes, I heard a heavy sigh from our computer room and my wife emerged. She told me, fatigue apparent in her voice, “I ordered the pants. But I did not go through any of your portals. I am just too tired today.”

Of course, I fully understand my wife’s fatigue. As the night wore on, however, I wondered why it has to be so difficult to get the best deal that a merchant offers. I understand the need for marketing, but I don’t understand why so many deals require us to follow a whole bunch of steps to get them.

Consider all of the things we do to get deals at grocery stores. If you are like me, you (i) research local grocery store flyers to determine where you can get the best sale prices, (ii) clip coupons from your newspaper, (iii) look for on-line coupons that you can print from home, (iv) sign up for services such as UPromise which pays you back a small percentage of certain purchases, (v) sign up for savings cards offered by your local grocery stores, (vi) look for rebates on products you like, and (vii) heaven knows what else. Do we really need to be required to present stacks of coupons, multiple pieces of plastic (reward cards) and then fill out lots of rebate forms just to get the best deal that is available?

On-line shopping is not much better. Before I make any purchases, I have to determine which savings portal I should use. Do I go through eBates or UPromise or something else? Then I have to check a bunch of coupon sites to determine what savings are available to coupon users. Then I have to check for available rebates. I am sure you take the same steps, so you get my point. Why do product manufacturers and retailers make it so hard to get the best deal that they offer?

A few years ago I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I spent a lot of time browsing in an antique store that offered great prices and even better negotiated prices. I trusted the proprietor and would ask him for his best price on an item if I thought I might want to buy it. When he gave me a response, I knew he was telling me the truth. I then based my buying decision on what I knew to be – or at least believed to be – perfect information. I miss that.

I understand that retailers and manufacturers cannot agree on the prices that the retailer will charge, but there has to be a better way to give us perfect pricing information. We should not have to cut and search and clip and mail and go through hoops to save money. But I suppose that is the point. Because manufacturers cannot dictate the prices that retailers charge, the only way that a manufacturer can bring down the price of its products and ensure that the savings are passed on to consumers is to force us cut and search and clip and mail. I suppose I should be thanking the manufacturers for trying to get my business. Unfortunately, I just do not have the time to send along a thank you note right now because I have to go through today’s paper and clip my coupons for tomorrow’s trip to Publix.

What do you think? Is there a way to make it easier for us to find deals? How do you manage your deal seeking? How much time is it worth to you to save an extra 4% or 5% on a purchase?

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8 Responses to Why Is Getting A Good Deal So Difficult?

  1. Ann says:

    I have to admit that it depends on the dollar value of the item and/or the frequency that I buy that item.

    For instance, Amazon has me hooked with its discounts and free shipping. Also, I spent some time recently on the purchase of a 4-in-one pot for cooking — I saw the same pot to $39 to $59!

    I’m currently debating buying a storage cabinet/workbench set up ’cause it’s at a significant savings, I can pick it up (no shipping) and it’s something I can really use to replace my cobbled together setup for some inside sculpting/carving. But we’ll see.

  2. Ron says:

    I’m new to marketing but I do know the basic tenet is to extract as much as you can out of the consumer for the value you provide. Submitting coupons and rebates aren’t supposed to be easy, just allows companies to segment their customers giving the extremely price-sensitive customers a lower-priced option. The online world will slowly even out and minimize the amount of slack marketers will be able to play with.

    But as you’ve mentioned, it even takes effort from the consumer in that perspective. In the end, companies and their marketers are doing their best to maximize shareholder value for their wares and services. Ideally you find a sweet spot where both companies and consumers are completely satisfied with their relationship.

  3. Anne says:

    When shopping online, I do – usually – scope out the best deal, whether earning cashback or miles through rewardsdb.com- it collates all the online offers and all you have to do is search for the store name. However, if I had to personally visit each of the sites to determine the best offer, I wouldn’t unless it was a large purchase. I would stick with one cashback place and just go through that.

    Sometimes I even forget to that online. On the other hand, I have at times ordered online for in-store pickup just for the miles.

  4. Diane says:

    I’ll keep an eye out for your son’s school pants – just let me know the size & color.

    Goodness knows I have enough extra socks, t-shirts, underwear, etc. here to clothe another boy… Why, I don’t know, but I’m convinced they drop clothes everywhere they stop, and my son has lots of friends stopping here.

    As for the portals, I have not been doing this. I do usually check Amazon before making purchases online, but that’s as far as it goes.

    I do use coupons & rebates when possible. Rebates are NOT easy to use, but I am relentless in completing them, keeping copies & following up.

  5. Lou Russo says:

    Of course, the retailers and manufacturers make it as difficult as possible to get the discounts and rebates figuring that most people will not bother and wind up paying the higher price. We try to use store and manufacturer coupons, especially at the supermarket. One store we use keeps a running tally of savings, and this year, my wife and I have saved over $400 at this store alone. (It’s just the two of us)
    I have used Upromise, but I find it not to be very reliable or timely in applying the few pennies we get, so I don’t use it very much.
    Generally, we don’t but anything unless it is on sale or has some kind of coupon. My wife is very good at keeping track of those kinds of things.

  6. spicoli says:

    At some point, the value of my time is greater than the value of getting a deal. At that point, I don’t bother trying. I’ll do a lot for a significant rebate on an appliance, but not for a $4.99 box of cereal.

  7. Persephone says:

    I agree with spicoli. If getting the best deal requires me to jump through a lot of hoops, I will only “jump” if there is a lot of money on the line. I know what I am worth per hour so I know what effort is worthwhile to save money.

  8. Stella says:

    4-5% may not be worth it. But I’ll always try to hunt down a coupon or promo code to save 10-20%–or even get free shipping. I use Savings.com because they seem to have the largest “inventory” when it comes to retailers and codes–plus they keep the site maintained so they aren’t any broken or expired deals.

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