It’s the time of year when we’re all chasing deals. However, if you don’t know basic math it can be hard to figure out when a deal is a deal. This week I was in a store and I overheard the following conversation:
“This sweater is thirty percent off,” said the first woman.
“But this one is fifty percent off,” said the second woman holding up a different sweater.
“Oooh. That one’s a better deal. It’s cheaper. Let’s get that one.”
After they trotted off to the register, I went behind them to check on this “deal.” The first sweater was originally $20. At thirty percent off, it was selling for $14. The second sweater was originally $40. At fifty percent off, it was selling for $20. The second sweater was six dollars more than the first sweater. Sweater number one was the better deal if price was the primary consideration.
The store had worked a wonderful snow job on these women. The sale prices were not listed on the sweaters, only the percentage off was listed. Shoppers had to do their own math to determine which items were the better deals. Many stores do this knowing full well that many people will gravitate toward the larger percentage off rather than do the math and figure out exactly how much they are paying. People see large percentages off and assume that those items are the best deal. Often they are not.
Now, if sweater number two was the one these women really loved, then fifty percent off is probably still a good deal. However, if these two sweaters are equal in the women’s minds and they are buying based only on price (as it appeared from the first woman’s comment about it being “cheaper”), then sweater number one was the best deal.
If you really want to save money you have to be able and willing to do the math and figure out when a deal is a deal. Retailers of all kinds like to make you do math. Grocery stores are legendary for putting two almost identical items on sale and then making you figure out the difference. Often one item comes in a slightly smaller package. Not only do you have to figure out which is the best price, you have to figure out which package size is the best deal. Throw a double coupon deal and a loyalty discount into the mix and you have a math test in the making.
Retailers also know that people will tend to buy the product with the lowest price, even if it’s not the best deal. They use this tactic to move unwanted merchandise. They will put out two pairs of pants and mark one pair ten dollars less than the first pair. People will buy those cheaper pants not realizing that the other pair might be better quality and almost eighty percent off retail. However, because they aren’t the cheapest, people pass them by. If price were not your primary consideration, the second pair of pants might be the best deal because of the higher quality.
Being able to figure percentages, prices per pounds or ounces, and coupon savings are essential if you want to save serious money. If you can’t do this kind of math in your head, carry a small calculator in your bag or use the calculator in your cell phone. Retailers will try all kinds of tricks to keep you from recognizing the best deal. They want to move old merchandise or more expensive items. Learn some basic math and beat them at their games.