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the price tag myth

December 2, 2009

The first time I haggled for something, I was in early elementary school. At a Lawrenceville flea market, under the guidance of my strong-willed mother, I negotiated the price on a miniature case of Coke bottles, which I wanted to incorporate into my Barbie playworld. Did I want Barbie to be a Coke bottler? Possibly. I’m not sure if I was successful because I was cutthroat, or because I was an adorable 6ish-year-old girl — probably the combination of the two — but it was then that I realized that price tags are meaningless.

The art of price negotiation has not since been lost on me — it’s the perfect balance of kindness, flirtation and purchase hesitation. A couple weeks ago, I performed this technique at The Clothing Warehouse in Little Five Points (they also have an East Point location that I will discuss at length in another post), where I finally gave in to the urge to purchase cowboy boots.

I’ve been contemplating this purchase for at least three years, dating back to when I’d oogle the boot selection at Agora in Athens. The winning boots at The Clothing Warehouse were $57.95, but with a little negotiating, I got them for $47.95 — $10 less than the sticker price, and 17 percent off.

In my experience, it never hurts to haggle, especially in places like TCW. It’s a small-chain vintage shop, with handwritten price tags and an absence of barcodes and scanners. Even in big-box or department stores, cashiers often have coupons at their registers that they’re willing to apply to your purchase if you’ll just ask nicely; this trick is another learned from my mom, who’s been a Macy’s credit card holder for most of my life and almost always wins at the “do you have a coupon back there for me?” game. A good employee will be eager to help if they can, in hopes of making you a repeat customer.

Like anything else, you’re not going to bat a thousand; sometimes, you’ll strike out. I did so recently at Target, where I found a pair of pajama shorts with a price tag reading “$0.00.” They were part of a matching set, but the shirt was nowhere to be found. The cashier was unsympathetic to this dilemma, and I didn’t get my free shorts, but I did get a laugh out of trying. Apparently the customer, and the price tag, is not always right.

Spending almost $50 on used boots was tough for me, but I haven’t regretted them for a second. The insides of the boots are stamped with the word “TEXAS,” big (like everything else there) and worn-out looking, letting me know these things are authentic. No band-aids or blisters with these guys, because someone else broke them in for me. Incorporating them into my wardrobe is a fun challenge, and I’ll keep you posted on my best efforts. Perhaps one day I’ll don them with my Levi’s (from Macy’s) and western shirt (from Agora) and ride off into the sunset in my Volvo like an urban cowgirl.


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