Tips for Shopping Around

We’re all being told to do it. We’re being encouraged left, right and centre to shop around, and look at, or find out in advance, the prices we’re charged.

Are we being told anything that we don’t know already? Maybe. But then why are we still complaining about being ripped off when we have a choice of what to pay? Why are businesses getting away still with charging rip off prices?

Here are suggestions about how we can shop even smarter in order to save our hard earned money, and beat the rip off prices.

Ask Around –
If you’re thinking about buying something, particularly a large purchase, (e.g. a television, insurance, or a holiday etc.), check first with friends and colleagues and find out where they may have made similar purchase. They may be able to refer you to a retailer with a proven record of providing reasonable prices, as well as acceptable quality and service.

Research Your Purchase – There’s not much you can’t find out on the internet at the moment. So use it to find out about your prospective purchase. There are also many specialty magazines available that provide a similar service. These sources will tell you all about the marketplace for whatever it is you want to buy (e.g. hi-fi equipment, computers, cars or financial services), and will give you an idea about relative prices, options and functionality, and prices.

Shop Smart – Now, armed with the above information, you can start shopping smarter. Go to a store, let the sales person know exactly what you’re looking for, and ask to see/hear what they can do for you. Have some questions prepared if necessary – different features available, prices, comparisons etc. Take notes – the sales assistants name, details of what you’ve been told and anything else necessary to add to the information you already have.

Shopping Alternatives – Apart from researching the product you wish to purchase, you should also research the alternative places you can make your purchase. Don’t limit your search to your local area as there are many more possibilities. These include the internet, catalogues, via telephone, and in other towns and cities. If you know what you’re looking for, you can ring around to check prices and check issues such as collection, or possible delivery charges.

Don’t Get Hooked – Don’t let “sales”, “special offers” or “promotions” cloud your judgment when making purchases. Be careful that you’re not pressurised into making a purchase before a deadline or closing date in order to take advantage of such offers. Ensure that you understand the terms and conditions of such offers, and make yourself happy that there is value on offer. Obviously, if purchasing something on special offer based on your research, do so much the better.

Don’t Be Shy – Particularly for larger purchases, the prices being asked for need not necessarily be the price you eventually pay. Don’t be shy to ask if there is anything the sales person (especially more senior sales people) can do for you on the price. If you’ve done your research and know the market, you can ask from a position of confidence.

Don’t Buy on Impulse – Buy now, regret later? Remember to resist any sale pressure tactics. Don’t let anyone talk you into purchasing something you’re not sure about, you haven’t researched, or something more expensive that you’ve budgeted for. Be polite, take note of their offer, and tell them you need to think about it. If you’re still happy you’re getting a good deal in the morning, go right ahead.

Set Your Budget – As part of your research, you’ll get an idea of the market place, what’s available, and what you’re likely to buy. With this in mind, set your budget of what you’re willing to spend, and then stick to it. Do this before going to the shops – you may be tempted by little extras etc. that you may not really need.

Spending Money – You should probably also decide how you’re going to pay for your purchase – cash, credit card, or credit agreement of some sort. If you’re going to use some type of credit, you should probably research where you’re going to get the best deal there as well.

After Sales Service – One of our users has suggested purchasing anything that you should check and confirm what after sales service is available – what comes free under guarantee, and what must be paid for. Many stores today offer their own coverage. If you’re interested, confirm all relevant details (what’s included, what’s not, and the costs) and decide if it’s really for you. This also goes for insurance packages you may be offered with your purchases.

Ask for a Discount – If you have shopped around for a particular good or service, and you’ve decided you want to purchase or change existing provider, make sure you go back to your original provider, let them know what you’re thinking of doing (i.e. taking your business away from them), and ask them if there’s anything they can offer you in order to stay with them. Any supplier who values your business should at least make an attempt to entice you to stay – most have the flexibility to offer packages to people who are thinking of taking their business elsewhere. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”.

Same Company, Different Outlets – As we learned in our Advance Pitstop investigation, it is possible for different outlets or branches of the same company to charge different prices for exactly the same items. So, if you’ve decided on a particular company, and they have other branches within easy reach of your location, give them a ring, just in case. As we found, you could save yourself another 10% or more.

Call First. Don’t just walk in off the street – If you’ve shopped around, and have found a supplier who provides the service you want, and the price you want, ring them again, confirm their price, get the persons name, give them your own name, and tell them you’ll be in to see them at some particular time. In this way, you’ll be more likely to get the price you’re quoted.

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