Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Days You Get a Bargain...

I was raised to look for bargains.  My mother is a bargain-hunting phenom.  She was one of seven children, raised in the backwoods of Louisiana.  She learned how to sew, not because it was crafty or cool, but because she had to make her own clothes.  They farmed, hunted, and raised livestock for food.  She started working at 14 years old.  There was never a time my mother did not know the value of money and how to be thrifty.  While I was growing up, my dad worked in construction and was frequently between jobs.  My mom worked wonders with the small income they scraped together, and she tried to teach her three daughters her bargain-hunting skills - they are indeed skills.

I doubt my mother owns a single item of clothing that she paid original tag price for.  While others were getting "deals" on used clothes from Goodwill, my mother knew that if you shopped on the clearance racks and the sale racks, you usually end up getting new for cheaper than they sell it used at thrift stores.  We did our back-to-school wardrobe shopping at a Dillards outlet.  (I don't know if they have these around anymore - similar to a Last Chance Neiman Marcus store - it is where all the goods go when they don't sell).  She bought bathing suits in September and winter coats in April.  Toys were bought on sale and hidden away until a birthday or Christmas rolled around.  (Note to anyone attempting this:  Make one stash and put everything there.  I made the mistake of storing my son's birthday presents in at least three different places and I recently found a "stash" - two weeks after his birthday.  Guess it'll wait until Christmas.)

When I became an adult and started working full time, one of the first things I promised myself was that if I saw something full price in the store that I liked - I would buy it!  No more restricting myself to just the sales racks.  I was proud of myself for being able to afford full price!  In fact, a lot of times I wouldn't even look at the sales rack - on purpose.  I wasn't mad at my mom for making us wear clearanced-out clothes (because really, we always had nice clothes), but I felt that I had reached a level of success when a budget didn't matter.

Well, that was short lived.  Anyone with bills will tell you that budget does matter.  I re-learned that it was more fulfilling to get 2 sweaters for my money instead of 1.  I still buy things full-price if it is something I can't live without or something I know is well worth it in quality.  But, at heart, I am a bargain-seeking fiend, just like my mother.  I admit, sometimes I get too obsessed with getting a "good deal."  Sometimes I get burned.  But I am proud that with my help, my boyfriend's one small income supports a family of 6, while some of my friends make double what he makes a year and are only able to support themselves.

Lately, I have gotten into online shopping in a major way.  We're not buying groceries over the internet, but most of my clothes and home decor stuff.  I love being able to do a little research and find the exact same thing 10% cheaper than you were looking at it in the store.  However, besides the usual warning that you should be extremely careful about buying things online, I'd like to add "Sometimes you will be disappointed."

Today I was burned twice.  Ouch.

First:  I frequent a blog called Hip2Save.com.  I can't read it every day because a lot of times the writer, Collin, posts deals that are just too good to pass up.    A couple of weeks ago she posted that Graveyardmall.com was selling a collection of 9 sunglasses for $9.99, plus you would get a 10th pair free for mentioning a Hip2Save reader code.  Now, I have a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses that have been my go-to sunglasses for at least 4 years.  They are amazing.  I don't take good care of them - they are constantly just thrown in my purse without protection - I'm always mislaying them so it is a wonder they haven't been destroyed by being sat on or stepped on.  The best part about them was that they were free, thanks to my scavenger boyfriend.  Anyway, I didn't need sunglasses, but I talked myself into the deal because I could keep a pair in the car (for when I can't find mine) and give some to my stepdaughter who has a sunglasses collection.

Well, I got the sunglasses.  Not only were 2 of them used and scratched up - they only sent 7 (not 10) and one was a pair of men's sunglasses.  I swiftly sent an e-mail (put it in writing!) to their customer service department detailing my disappointment. 

(Update:  No response to the e-mail.  So I called their customer service number and (after a few tries to get through to a real person), spoke to a very nice lady who refunded me most of what I had spent - without me asking.  I was actually asking how to send the sunglasses back and she laughed like that was crazy talk.  (So - you don't want your own merchandise back?)  Will I shop with them again - probably not.  Since I knew the sunglasses were overstock from other stores, I figured some of them would be less than perfect from being on the floor.  But for a company to send 7 items instead of 10?  No, thank you.)

Second:  Another package!  Remember those drawer handles I was gushing about only 2 days ago?  Remember me bragging what a great deal I scored?  Well, I opened the envelope they came in and my face immediately fell.  Although they were (at least) all there, there hadn't been any protection between the drawer pulls and most of them were scratched up.  If they got scratched during shipping.  Some of them had a weird residue/paint thing on them (like they maybe weren't 100% new) and one was bent (?).  One was also a slightly different color than the rest - more of an antique bronze than black.

Now, since I bought this off of Ebay, I could have easily given the seller a bad rating and called it a day.  I'm not going to return them - I'll probably just paint them a different color and make them work.  But, the seller does accept returns, so I didn't feel right giving him negative feedback since I wasn't willing to return them.  Instead, I jotted down another "disappointed customer" letter and pressed send. 

(Update #2:  The person behind Farrs Home Store quickly responded.  He told me that he hadn't had a complaint like mine before and he always ships handles that way.  The backplates do have two very sharp points sticking out of the back of them - so maybe that is what caused the damage and regular handles shipped all in one envelope would arrive not scrached up.  Without asking (again - at least I was disappointed by companies with stellar customer service), he refunded me the entire purchase amount, plus shipping, and told me to keep the handles.  I would probably do business with them again.  They had a very unusual selection compared to other stores I looked at, and I was very impressed with the customer service - so much so that I left a positive review in the end.)

Has this deterred me?  Not in the slightest.  Some days you get a great bargain.  Some days you get what you pay for.  Of the bunches of items I've bought online in the past few months, these were the only two disappointments.  They just happened to arrive on the same day - a double blow.  I would definitely be more upset if I had blown a lot of money - but that is another bargain-hunter secret:  it's hard to get upset about something that was close to free.

(And my above updates should go to show that sometimes a nicely worded e-mail or polite phone call will make up for getting a disappointing product.)

Sorry about the verbose blog entry.  I'll be back tomorrow with lots of pictures.

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