The Deception of Outlet Shopping

Yesterday I went to the Round Rock Premium Outlets with no real purpose but to accompany a friend. It got me thinking of how much I tend to dislike outlet/factory stores. I went to college in a town that was also known for it’s outlet mall – San Marcos. Although that one is far better than our small version in Round Rock, I still don’t appreciate the made-for-factory-outlet quality. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the “what a steal!” mentality outlet shoppers exhibit, but when you actually break it down you are very rarely getting a big deal. Either items are marked up to mark down or poor quality and hence cheap prices. No thank you. I do have to give credit to one of my reliable outlet haunts – Jcrew. The Jcrew Factory Outlet tends to have very good replicas made for their factory store at much lower prices with quality just as good as the regular store. I frequent that store all too often actually. Here are some things to remember to make the most of your outlet shopping experience (and money!) and avoid falling into the outlet web of shopping deception.

  • Avoid stores with huge discount signs crowding the windows. There is a reason they are so heavily discounted.
  • Ask if they offer additional discount for students – if you are so lucky to still be in school, you can often gain an additional 10 – 15 % off your total.
  • Plan a course of action before going. Look online to see what stores are there and the optimal place for parking nearest to those stores you wish to visit.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for additional sizes that may not be on the floor. Not everything they have is always “out on the floor” already – sometimes they have reserves in the back!
  • Check the quality before purchasing. Just because it’s cheap does not mean you want it. If the material is thin it probably won’t last and if the seams aren’t well enforced, it will break! It isn’t a bargain if it’s poor quality!
  • Do not, I repeat DO NOT, go to the outlets during a holiday. It will only cause you disappointment, stress and above all UNSURPASSED ANNOYANCE. The best time to shop outlets is when others are at work and children are at school – if you can swing this!
  • Try not to get carried away by the “buy one get one half off” deals. If you really only want one thing, don’t let the bargain get you to spend more than you otherwise would have. It may be half off, but did you really want it anyway?
  • I think you are most satisfied with your shopping experience when you go with nothing in particular in mind. If you are looking for something specific, you may be disappointed when you don’t find it. If there’s a particular item, size, color, brand you want go ahead and buy it at the regular store to avoid a wild goose hunt.
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