The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Shopping Trip

I took my sister-in-law, Frances, out to shop for a mattress set. I am amazed at how expensive they have become and a little bit by the hi-tech nature they now have. But that's unimportant. I am usually amused by the sales techniques used by retail salespeople and I was not disappointed in this case.

One of the things tossed into the mix, besides the supposedly deep discount because the mattress was a "close-out" item (sales-speak for "we had a tough time unloading these so we'll pretend we're selling them cheap"), was the offer to remove the shipping fee. You see, the mattress store did not have a warehouse here. No, they use a central warehouse up in Orlando which serves all their stores in Florida.

I don't know about you but I find it odd that the buyer must pay a fee to have a product delivered from Orlando because the seller chooses to warehouse the product in another town. You want me to buy your product? Then it is your responsibility to get it to me.

Well, that got me to thinking about how car dealers always have a "destination charge". It's one of the things I always challenge car dealers on. Hey, the car is here or I can't buy it, right? Every other retailer folds the overhead of bringing the product to the store, why should that be a separate charge just because it's a car. The dealer, I tell them, should "eat" that charge as a cost of doing business. That always gets a laugh. I also ridicule the "dealer prep" charge since they do nothing more than wash the car (and often that's just a cursory wash) and put on a dealer emblem.

I then started thinking about those sticker, decals, and emblems that are put on the car, usually on the trunk lid, naming the dealer and the town. I always tell them to remove them. When they refuse, I tell them that I will charge them $20 a month for advertising if they choose to leave it on. They usually laugh about that, too. Even after I tell them I am quite serious. The chuckle is a little more nervous though. Then I ask them again to remove the emblem. If they refuse, I get up, thank them for their time and start to leave.

The salesman (or woman, let's not be sexist here) will then get a bit panicky. They cannot believe I would just turn down this "great deal" over a little thing like that emblem. My answer is always "Yes, that's exactly what I will do." You see, if it is such a little thing, why not remove it? Why should I be the one to compromise? They will do it. Because it is just a little thing and they really need to sell cars. Especially these days.

We really have the upper hand with car dealers in this economic environment. I bet, if we stood our ground, we could get rid of that "destination charge" and the "dealer prep" charges right off the bat. Just tell them the price you want to pay is somewhere less than the MSRP before those additional charges. And stick to your guns. After all, it's the dealer that wants to sell that car, you really don't have to buy it.

While the economy is not in its best shape, we have an opportunity to change the way things are done. Little things, granted, but important enough to make you feel more in charge (no pun intended) of the shopping experience. Just follow some simple rules:

1. I do not have to make this purchase at this time or at this particular place.
2. I do not have to settle for less than I really want.
3. It's my money.
4. No one can take advantage of me without my permission.

That's all it takes.

Oh, and we did buy the mattress set. No delivery charge, no add ons. It was still more than I think a mattress is worth but Frances liked it.

I hate to shop.


The Logistician said...

For many years, I charged out my professional time by the hour, in increment of 1/10th of an hour. The breakeven hourly rate for the average firm in my geographic area was $125 per hour. In other words, no profit until I brought COLLECTED $126.

By scrimping and running lean, we managed to reduce our breakeven rate to roughly $94 - $96 per hour.

In the late 1990's, we paid a visit to a major corporate client, which is currently experiencing hard times. We were told that they would be willing to pay us $85per hour, and suggested that was generous on their part.

We simply smiled, thanked the client, and walked away.

Douglas said...

Reggie, I never begrudge a man or woman a fair wage. Attorneys are not like retailers; they sell a service, their skills, instead of a product. It is service we can only place a value on after we purchase it and use it.

MilesPerHour said...

Douglas, I think you are absolutely right about how you handled the car salesman. I know that is just one example of how consumers can be taken advantage of without really thinking about it.

Tell you what, I will keep reading your blog free of charge if you don't charge me for writing it. Deal?

Douglas said...

I figure it's good if I don't have to pay you to read it...

Anonymous said...

Douglas, the problem is that most people don't see it like that, and if they do, the cringe at the salespersons' onslaught. Salesmen can be pretty scary at times.


The Logistician said...

This is an interesting line of reasoning, considering the fact that just yesterday I was thinking about how I rarely negotiate anything in life.

If someone presents a price for anything, I generally simply consider it, and quickly exercise my freedom of choice. I do not attach any subjective factors or motivations to the salesman vis-a-vis my interests. I just simply move on.

After all, very few purchases in life are for necessities. Why get aggravated? Do we really need to have it, if I do not consider the item to be worth the price quoted? If I really have to have something, and there are no other options for acquiring it, then I might consider negotiating (aka whining).

Interesting the different ways in which people approach things.

Douglas said...

AV - Use the 4 rules. The salesman needs us more than we need him.

Log - In many other countries, negotiating is expected. Paying the price first offered is shameful. But an interesting question, and one only implied in Rule #1, is "is this purchase necessary?" And all purchases can be questioned beyond the basic needs of life.

Douglas said...

I figure it's good if I don't have to pay you to read it...

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Douglas, the problem is that most people don't see it like that, and if they do, the cringe at the salespersons' onslaught. Salesmen can be pretty scary at times.