10 Shopping Tricks That Stores Hate

Stores are always trying to get you to do what they want. But what if you refuse? What if you do what benefits you and not the store? Aside from outright fraud, what are the things that you can do to come out ahead? We’ve put together 10 tips that will help you save money, but probably won’t help the store. That’s why they hate them. And you.

Buying Loss Leaders and Leaving: Loss leaders are products that a company sells below or at cost to lure customers into the store.

Why They Hate It: They do not want you to waltz in, buy up all the loss leaders and leave. Often there are limits to how many of each you can buy, if you see something in the ad that says “limit 3 per customer” you may have found yourself a loss leader. Buy it and get the hell out.

Using Credit and Paying it Off on Time: Sometimes stores will offer a “6 months, no interest, no payments” offer on big ticket items. Pay it off on time, and you’ve used their money for free.

Why They Hate It: These offers are not just to help you buy stuff, it’s to trick you into paying more for the item than if you had paid cash. Some people take the cash they would have used to buy the item and put it in a high yield savings account. Then they buy the item with credit and wait until 5.9 months later to pay it off. They’ve just used someone else’s money for 6 months for free. Ha, ha, ha. These offers are dangerous, however, because if you miss a payment or don’t pay the full balance off on time, you’ll get socked with interest since your date of purchase. The rates are often outrageous, so this tip is only for seriously organized Type-A people.

Saying NO to the Extended Warranty:
Stores play on the fact that electronics are a big investment, scaring you into buying an Extended Warranty. Don’t do it.

Why They Hate It: The Extended Warranty is basically just a trick to get you to pay way more for the item than you need to. It’s very, very, very profitable for the retailer. If you don’t believe us, believe Consumer Reports. If you’re worried about not having an extended warranty, purchase your electronics with a credit card that offers extended warranty protection. Lots of them do. Just paying for your crap with a credit card can double your warranty, so tell that sales clerk to get bent.

Activating Your Own Phone With A Cell Phone Company: You can buy a used phone, or an unlocked phone, for full price and avoid signing a contract.

Why They Hate It: Cell phone companies want you to sign a contract. They need you to sign a contract. They burn with desire for you to be under contract with them. Cell phone stores sell 2 year contracts. That’s what they sell. Not phones. So get a phone, then call the cell phone company and activate it. No contract needed. They hate that so much.

Shopping in the Store But Buying Online: Stores are just places where you can look at things you will later purchase for cheaper online. Look at your new laptop. Try it out. Ask questions. Buy online.

Why They Hate It: They’ve paid for a store, the electric bill for the store, the employees to answer your questions, and those nice little plastic bags that they want to put your purchase in. Whoops.

Buying 1 When its 2 for $5: “2 for” deals are bull. You can buy one. You can buy 3. “2 for 5″ or “5 for 10″ means, “Please for the love of Jesus buy this and get it out of the store.” You can pay the unit price. (Laws may vary nationwide)

Why They Hate It: They want you to buy more stuff than you need!

Opening A Store Credit Card To Get A Discount, Then Cutting It Up: This is one from our dear Mommy. Mommy buys a bunch of stuff at once, opens the store credit card for the 20% discount, pays it off and cuts up the card. She did this every year when buying our school clothes. We’re sure they hate her with the force of a 200 mega-ton bomb, but she still saved 20%.

Why They Hate It: Credit card companies make money from interest and fees. No activity on the card, no interest and fees.

Using Websites to Track 30 Day Price Guarantees: Stores have “30 day price guarantees” to make you think they have such low prices that they’re not going to get any lower. They may, but they also know you’re not going to keep shopping for some crap you already bought. Solution: There are websites that will watch your purchase for you and email if it drops in price during the guarantee period.

Why They Hate It: Because they have to give you money. No store ever likes to give you money.

Buying Seasonal Items at Clearance Prices (For Next Year): Seasonal items are a big deal for retailers and once the holiday is gone they need to make room for the next one. Their haste makes waste and you can take advantage of it. Buy now for next year. Another good idea is to buy “seasonal” candy after the season is over. So what if your M&Ms are brown and orange or red and green. Still tastes like awesome.

Why They Hate It: Stores want you to buy their seasonal crap at full price, when its most profitable, not during clearance when they sell it at cost or below.

Buy “Accessories” on Ebay Rather Than Paying Huge Markups: Retailers will often discount a big ticket item only to charge ridiculous prices for “accessories” that they will harass you to the point of madness to try to get you to buy. Expensive connectors, cables, controllers, leather lotion for your stupid coat you just bought, blank media, storage, etc. Buy this crap on eBay or at least research what it really costs at a retailer that is not trying to screw you. Case in point: Cables. Best Buy sells the Monster Ultra Series 8′ HDMI Video Cable for $119.99. On Ebay the most expensive “Buy it Now” price for this cable is $74.95 with $9.95 shipping. For the exact same thing. And that’s for a crazy brand name cable. There are 8′ HDMI cables on eBay for $8.

Why They Hate It: Accessories are very profitable. If you got a good deal on a TV, you probably believe them when they say you “need” to spend hundreds of dollars on cables. —MEGHANN MARCO

Comments

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  1. smd31 says:

    “Opening A Store Credit Card To Get A Discount, Then Cutting It Up”

    I’ve heard that doing the above hurts your credit score/report because you would have an “open line of credit” but you’re not using it…

    True or not?

  2. thatabbygirl says:

    I know Wal-Mart hates it when I bring my cat shopping with me by stuffing her into a plastic bag.

    (Just kidding – I heart the kitty photos!)

  3. Antediluvian says:

    re: 2 for $5, 3 for $6, etc:
    In Massachusetts, and probably other states, the store must sell each item at the same price as posted (that is, $2.50 each, or $2.00 each in my examples) UNLESS they have clearly posted or marked a different INDIVIDUAL item price.

    So a store CAN charge “$3.00 each, 2 for $5.00″ or “$2.50 each, 3 for $6.00″ IF they state it as part of the price, everywhere the price is shown.

    Christmas Tree Shops does this all the time, and it’s on their price tags.

  4. any such name says:

    “Shopping in the Store But Buying Online”

    One place I find this to be extremely the opposite is a favorite target as of late – the GAP. If a skirt is $29.99 online (on sale), chances are good I can find it in the store for $19.99, if not less.

  5. Vinny says:

    Activating Your Own Phone With A Cell Phone Company: You can buy a used phone, or an unlocked phone, for full price and avoid signing a contract.

    Why They Hate It: Cell phone companies want you to sign a contract. They need you to sign a contract. They burn with desire for you to be under contract with them. Cell phone stores sell 2 year contracts. That’s what they sell. Not phones. So get a phone, then call the cell phone company and activate it. No contract needed. They hate that so much.

    No way guys. I don’t know anyone in this business who’ll do it, nor do I know any carrier that’ll activate you without a contract even if you brought them a brand new phone that’s branded with their name that you didn’t buy from their store.

    Mom and pop shops don’t care about you bringing in your own phone; in fact they’d prefer it because they don’t have to account for the cost of the phone. Most times you can bring a phone into a store, sign a deal and walk out without paying a dime.

    But to tell people that they can get a used phone and activate it on a carrier by calling them directly is not correct. Can you get it done? Anything’s possible, but I can tell you that T-Mobile will NOT activate you without a contract, end of discussion. Cingular didn’t used to, and as far as I know Sprint won’t at all.

    Verizon might but I don’t know for sure.

    If you’re not talking about pay as you go in some form, that info seems dubious.

  6. kerry says:

    smd31 -
    I’ve heard the same, so when I opened an Apple credit account to get the 90 days no payment/no interest deal (which I paid off in monthly installments over the course of those 90 days and never accumulated interest), I decided not to close the account or cut up the card when I was done. Rather, since it had a credit limit double that of my other credit card, I hold onto it in case of some massive emergency. Part of the reasoning behind this was that every person I talked to said that closing the account so quickly would adversely affect my credit rating. I think keeping a card with a $0 balance, though, has a neutral affect.

    • Anonymous says:

      @kerry: You also should know that carrying a credit card with a big limit, even with a zero balance, negatively affects your “Beacon Score” which is VERY important when buying a house. One of the tips to get your credit ready for that kind of big purchase is to call the companies to LOWER the limit. The reasoning? Your Beacon score is a score of how much debt you can possibly go into if you maxed out all of your available credit…the more you have available, the bigger risk you are, no matter your balance.

  7. chandler in hollywood says:

    smd31,
    I believe the opposite is true. Having plenty of open accounts with plenty of available credit while only using a small portion of available credit gives you a bigger credit ratio. This is the reason people advise to NOT close old accounts. It lowers your available credit score.

  8. TeamSAM says:

    It’s only tangentially related, but just about any kind of cable is available on the internet from reputable dealers for much, much less than those crazy stores. 15 feet of HDMI cable is $8.00 at monoprice.com.

  9. ValkRaider says:

    “Shopping in the Store But Buying Online: Stores are just places where you can look at things you will later purchase for cheaper online. Look at your new laptop. Try it out. Ask questions. Buy online.”

    This is a great way to destroy your local economy and cause stores to close up doors and move out.

    Stores in your local community pay taxes. Their employees pay taxes. Those taxes pay for things like roads, schools, fire departments, parks, etc etc.

    Stores hire employees – employees who live and work and play in your community. They spend money, and vote, and have a stake in your community.

    The online companies have no vested stake in your community (unless you live next to one, of course).

    Additionally, by buying online you consumed energy to get to and from the store, and then you are consuming more energy to have the item shipped to your home. Not too good from an energy consumption viewpoint.

    Unless the price is MASSIVELY less expensive, it is generally better in the long run to buy from a local store. And if you can, buy from a locally owned store (not always possible). The more money you spend in your local community, the more money stays in your local economy.

    “Opening A Store Credit Card To Get A Discount, Then Cutting It Up: “

    This will damage your credit rating – excess credit inquiries, open lines of credit, and many credit companies look for behavior like this to see who to accept as credit holders and who to deny (they can see patterns just as well as we can).

  10. PsychicPsycho3 says:

    Vinny, I’m not sure that’s legal. Can they actually force you to sign a contract for service? It was a long time ago, but I did this with the original AT&T wireless. RIP free incoming text messages ::tear::

  11. Jeff says:

    @smd31

    Very true, I believe.

    I’ve even heard that those “store brand” credit cards hurt your credit score more than a regular ol’ credit card. That’s one deal that I think is for suckers. Saving 10% is not worth possibly affecting my credit score. Further, the would-be 10% savings can usually be attained by finding a coupon and shopping online.

  12. csnoke says:

    It would be better to have 5 credit cards with small balances than to have 1 credit card maxed out.

    Having open credit that you’re not using is good for your credit score.

  13. justelise says:

    I know I am going to get yelled at for this but I just wanted to say that there is a benefit for buying a Cell phone through your wireless carrier. On Cingular they do Warranty Exchange and if your device craps out within the normal warranty period (and they’ve been known to do exchanges up to 60 days out of warranty) you can call Cingular and they’ll zip you out a replacement in less than 48 hours. Yes, it will be refurbished (most of the time — on really new devices you might get a brand new one), but so is the replacement your phone manufacturer would send you if it decided that the issue with your phone could not be repaired and required replacement (which takes additional time). If the Warranty Exchange replacement craps out, Cingular is pretty good about replacing those to. Please note that I usually deal with Business Care, not regular Care so I might’ve gotten better than average service though I doubt it. When the Treo 650 was having all sorts of problems a lot of customers were saved a lot of pain by getting their device swapped out with Warranty Exchange as Palm was not being helpful at all.

    Customer Owned and Maintained (COAM) devices give you more freedom to bounce from carrier to carrier and not have a contract, but when it fails you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer which can mean a long turnaround time for a replacement.

  14. tz says:

    My father had the loss leader thing down to a science (and I followed when I needed to buy groceries and such). There are three (or more) different chains with stores within a few miles. One would have Strawberries at half of what the other stores did, the second milk, and the third bread – all in the flyers we would get in the mail. It took probably an extra 30 minutes to hit all the stores, but you’d need to go there to get fresh stuff anyway.

    I often do the seasonals – just get a few extra boxes (or those red-and-green storage tubs this month, or the orange-and-black around thanksgiving). I’ve got more links than dealhack which I monitor with my shopping list. In some way it is a bad habit since I probably buy more junk, but I probably save enough so that it doesn’t matter. But with zerodaydeals and my checking with overstock, sportsman’s guide, and others, I’ve rarely paid more than half-price.

    Oh, then there’s happy hour when appetizers are half-off. So I can get as much meat as two chicken breasts for under $5 if I just wait until after 9pm. Or what must be 1/2 pound of cheeseburgers for $4 between 4 and 7pm at another place.

    Now if they only had Ollie’s (a Pennsylvania closeout place) in Michigan…

  15. ElPresidente408 says:

    From what I’ve understood, opening a credit card will be temporarily bad for your credit rating. In the long run however, your debt-to-credit ratio will become smaller thus improving your credit score.

  16. RandomHookup says:

    Sure, it could hurt the brick & mortar stores to shop online, but lots of folks do the opposite…check out the prices and deals online and then hop over to the local store to save shipping and get immediate gratification.

    Moreso, retailers hate people who have really done their homework…e.g., use a store coupon on a loss leader or price match or use a competitor’s coupon, maybe even all at the same time. They really don’t like highly informed consumers.

  17. Vinny says:

    Vinny, I’m not sure that’s legal. Can they actually force you to sign a contract for service? It was a long time ago, but I did this with the original AT&T wireless. RIP free incoming text messages ::tear::

    I believe they can, and the loophole is that they also offer a product for non-contract people (ie: pay as you go, etc.) As far as I know, the only way to have a contract plan without a contract is to keep your phone after the contract expires and don’t renew it, but even then you may lose nights and weekends etc. because the term of a promotion is usually only the term of the contract.

  18. edgesmash says:

    With regards to credit cards and credit scores: I recently applied for a mortgage and had a long talk with the lender about credit ratings. He said that having several high limit cards with low balances (or any combination of cards and limits that gives you a large available balance) is bad for your credit rating. The reason is that if you have five cards with $10,000 limits each and under $1,000 balance on each, you could instantly get yourself more than $45,000 of debt.

    Often, the store credit cards have low limits (

  19. yahonza says:

    I don’t thin that stores “hate it” when you buy their seasonal clearance items.

    In fact, I am pretty sure they like it. After all they are selling it. If they hated you buying it, they wouldn’t sell it.

    Its a pretty straightforward advantage to both parties. The store doesn’t want to (or can’t) store the items for almost another year,which costs them money. On the other hand, they might be able to get something for the items if they mark them down. By selling it to you at a discount, you get it for cheaper, they don’t have to pay to store it.

    You, on the other hand, do have to pay something to store the items (even if it is just giving up excess space). Essentially, the store is paying you (by giving you a discount)to store the stuff for them until next year.

    And for more perishable things, like candy, its even more obvious that the store doesn’t hate it.

  20. 44 in a Row says:

    As far as T-Mobile, actually, I have it in writing from their customer service people that there are plans available without purchasing a phone through them. Some require a 1-year contract, while others are month-to-month, but I went to them with the specific situation of having a phone I wanted to activate on their network, and they emailed me back a whole list of options. So either they’ve changed their policies in the last 6 months, or something else is going on.

  21. spanky says:

    The cell phone thing does need some elaboration. This will really only work, I think, if you have a GSM provider, and you have had a contract already. I don’t think anyone is going to activate you for new service without a contract plan (except specifically non-contract plans, like prepaid and stuff), included phone or no.

    However, if you have T-Mobile or Cingular/AT&T already, and you want to keep your existing contract terms without renewing your contract, you can get a GSM phone that is either locked to that provider already, or unlocked, to upgrade or replace your phone without recommitting yourself.

    CDMA providers have to manually add new phones, and apparently, they just plain won’t do it with non-branded phones. Because they suck.

  22. I was at best buy for the first time over the xmas holidays and I saw USB cables for $35!!! I told my brother “I have close to a hundred unused in the office. I will send them to anyone for the price of shipping.”

    randomhookup is right – many people do not do CCs online. Even intelligent consumers are scared of fraud (which means they may not be that intelligent).

  23. brooklynbs says:

    I’ve been doing the “Opening A Store Credit Card To Get A Discount, Then Cutting It Up” trick for years, and, yes, my mom taught me it. Typically, I keep the account open for a year and then close it. As far as I know, the effect on my credit has been neutral.

    The “Buy ‘Accessories’ on Ebay Rather Than Paying Huge Markups” is a good idea also. One of the best purchases I made on eBay was an extra handset for my cordless phone.

    I had a Motorola cordless phone that you could add additional handsets to. I moved into a new and bigger apartment and wanted to have another phone. Everywhere I looked for the extra handsets – on- and offline – was selling it for around $50. I found it eBay, new and in-the-box, for $15.00 + $4.95 shipping.

  24. Vinny says:

    @44 in a row:

    T-Mobile will activate any phone as long as it’s GSM 1900. That’s never been a question. The question is whether or not they’ll activate your phone without a contract, and unless you’re going prepay (To Go), the answer is no, they will not.

    I’d be interested to see that list, actually.

    I would love it if you can send it to feedback at insignificantthoughts.com if you have time.

  25. karimagon says:

    Those extended warranties are the devil. I used to work at Office Max where the management would push us to push the customers into buying those things. That was one of the most irritating things about that job, because while I don’t mind helping a customer find something they need, I cannot in good conscience encourage them to waste their money. And seriously, who needs a $2.99 extended warranty on a $9.99 pocket calculator?

  26. r81984 says:

    Walgreens does not always give you the $2.50 for a 2 for $5 deal. For most of their weekly ad items one can just buy one item for the cheaper price (in this example $2.50), but they have certain items that are price specifically to only give you the cheaper deal if you buy multiple items. By this example the first item will ring up as $3.00 and the second at $2.00.

  27. spanky says:

    T-Mobile will activate any phone as long as it’s GSM 1900. That’s never been a question. The question is whether or not they’ll activate your phone without a contract, and unless you’re going prepay (To Go), the answer is no, they will not.

    Just to pick a nit: T-Mobile doesn’t have to activate your phone. Unless they’re doing something really weird, they don’t even have to know you have a new phone. As long as your phone is compliant with their network (GSM 1900, and 850 for backup if you have spotty coverage), you should be able to pop your SIM card into your new phone, and it’ll work.

  28. for the love of god, never buy accessories – cables and such – at best buy. $50 for a dvi-d cable?!?

  29. bambino says:

    @ edgesmash:
    I’m not completely sure who to believe, but I know for a fact that if you don’t have enough available credit, it will read ‘proportion of balance to credit limit is too high’. I’ve heard the good middle ground is to use about 30% of your credit to achieve a higher score.

  30. bambino says:

    When will we get an edit button? I meant to say that (your credit report) will read ‘…

  31. Falconfire says:

    While you can add a phone to a network and buy one used on eBay or something, I dont know of any companies that allow you a pay as you go plan for them. Almost all of them have one set of phones for pay as you go that are locked into their system as such, and another for contract calls. Unless they changed this recently, almost any phone you buy “unlocked” is still locked to their network as a contract phone and will require one to be activated.

    You CAN move to a new phone from a old one though and not change your plan. This is especially good for those people who kill phones a lot and dont want to buy a new one at full price.

    But no matter how you look at it, cell phones have contracts on them, there is no such thing as the contractless cell phone.

  32. davidtrento says:

    Good Post. I liked it. I didn’t read it all. I’m a busy man. However, I liked what I read, especially the bit about 2 for 1′s – absolutely correct.

    Here is my all time favourite thing to do that shops absolutely hate.

    Buy something. Remove all the packaging. Be VERY smug and patronizing about carbon footprints as you place it in a canvas bag. Take it home.

    This is the greatest feeling and is particularly good at a supermarket when they’ve pre packed all your vegetables. I unpack them all. the worrying thing is that the checkout operators gasp and sigh in awe and wonder as if they’ve never considered placing a vegetable into a bag without first sheathing it in plastic.

  33. flamaest says:

    Can someone please specify where these price watching websites are? I have only found one so far, but I don’t always buy from amazon..

    http://www.frozenwarrior.com/~pricewatch/

    Thanks,
    Fabian.

  34. Pssssst... says:

    Activating Your Own Phone With A Cell Phone Company

    …Vinny etc.

    …regardless of whether you can or cannot do this, everyone still has an opportunity here. No doubt anyone thinking about this already has a phone/contract. Most of the time you can only get a new phone when your 2 years is up by signing up for another 2 years – OUCH!

    What I do at this point is buy a new phone cash, keep the same great monthly rate I already have and don’t have to commit to another 2 year contract.

    ultimately you have a new phone, pay month to month, and get the same great rate you hopefully got when you first started with your service provider.

  35. Brent says:

    Hey vinny… sorry but you are wrong about that. You don’t need a contract to get service. I for one don’t have a contract with cingular and my bill is the same every month if I don’t go over minutes. It’s still a plan, but I am not obligated for any length of time.

    How they do it, is they only give you a max of mins you can overspend, and if you spend that, you have to pay the extra before they will let you continue that month.

    As long as you are paying for enough minutes, this is no problem.

    I have another friend who does this with T-mobile. He refuses to get a contract. I just happened to be done with a 2year and went back in to change plans. And oh boy how they tried to get me to switch to a plan with a new phone to get me back under contract.

    Also, if your contract runs out, you don’t lose whatever perks you had. They are good till you change plans or leave the service. (Atleast with t-mobile)

  36. jonbruc says:

    You’re dead on about the accessory hook. I used to work in a bike shop where we had to be really compeditive on price of big ticket items. But it was the little stuff that people bought all the time that we marked up 100% or more. We sold that stuff all day long…

  37. Vinny says:

    So basically, Brent, you have Go Phone, and it’s not the same thing as a regular plan, which is just what I said.

    The only way your “friend” could do that would be to have a contract and not renew it.

    @Spanky: We were talking about phones in general, but you are correct, although 850 means nothing on T-Mobile as they’re only 1900 in the US.

  38. acidrain69 says:

    sfcable.com. Use it. Love it. I use them for our IT department.

  39. 44 in a Row says:

    The only nit I’d pick about frequencies is that you’re still best off purchasing a phone with 850 if you’re going to be using it in the US. Although T-Mobile’s own towers are only 1900, T-Mobile’s coverage is comparatively limited, and from what I understand relies heavily on tower-sharing arrangements with other carriers. And even though most GSM carriers do support the 1900 band in addition to 850, I’ve read that many carriers use the 850 band for sending control signals, in which case you can be SOL if your phone doesn’t support it.

    (I just bought a new phone retail, and spent way too much time trying to figure out what would work best with my current service, which is an old AT&T plan with pretty fantastic rates).

  40. spanky says:

    What 44 in a Row said.

    In areas where T-Mobile’s coverage is spotty, sometimes you’ll end up needing to talk to (Cingular’s?) 850 network. It’s a necessity for some people (the Albuquerque area is apparently full of dead spots, for example), and it’s a pretty good idea to have that backup available if you travel much at all.

    (Also: I just bought a new unlocked phone for an off-contract ATTW account, too.)

  41. bonnie says:

    Regarding the effect of too much available credit on your credit score, I was also advised by my credit union that it was not a good thing. My available credit was approaching my yearly income, and I was told that could look like a high risk situation to lenders. Because it gave me the ability to walk out the door in the morning and be buried in debt by the end of the day.

    When I asked what I should do, they suggested keeping one card with a high credit line and lowering the other to $3000, which he felt was a pretty standard credit line for people with accounts in good standing. Any lower and it might look like there was some sort of problem.

    So, that’s something to think about when opening store accounts. There’s the debt/credit ratio to consider, but there’s also the income/credit ratio to consider as well.

  42. jtsnick says:

    store credit card to get the 20% off then killing the account destroys your credit. just an fyi. credit reporting agency’s use the length of credit accounts open to determine credit risks. they also check how many accounts you have open as well.. so getting it, paying it off, and keeping it for a while is a bad idea too if you plan on repeating this little scam. while initially you may get 20% off your hundred dollar purchase, that house or car you might be eying in few years isn’t going to be so nice when you get a 10% interest rate instead of a 6 because of your jacked credit. don’t do this one.

    having open credit that you’re not using isn’t good for your score at all. having a couple of accounts open with a good balance to debit ratio is good for your score. having a ton of accounts open is a good way for you to (potentially) rack up a ton of debit overnight, and the credit companies will ding you hard for that.

  43. birdy says:

    @davidtrento: I do that all the time too! When I was doing my Christmas shopping last year, I brought a big canvas tote to put all my purchases in so I wouldn’t have to waste plastic bags. Man were the stores steamed! One cashier at Old Navy even said point blank that they wanted customers to carry their bags so as to advertise for them.

    And as for the credit cards… we were told when applying for a mortgage to close all credit cards we could… even if we had no debt, the banks look at it as “debt you could have” and it makes it harder to get a mortgage.

  44. obejoyful says:

    Here’s my story on loss leaders. A grocery store in my area ran a sale on Quaker Oatmeal at $1.00 per box. I had a coupon, meanwhile, for $10 off the purchase of any ten Quaker products. The store flyer said nothing about limits, so I jumped at the opportunity. Without purchasing any other products on that trip, I walked out of the store with ten free oatmeals, and all the cashier could do was shake his head!

  45. archer117 says:

    I think people are overly obsessed with their credit score, especially as it may be affected by credit card accounts. I have dozens of open accounts, and have closed many others. I have frequently made late payments on my credit cards, but my credit score is still a healthy 750. The reason: I have paid off several car loans, mortgages and home equity loans. In the long run, it’s the big numbers that count.

  46. DrewDaddy says:

    My fav is to buythe extended warrenty to negotiatie a better price on the item, then return the extended warrenty on the 29th day. You want to see the manager get mad… try this one. I love it, works great on big ticket items like HDTV, Stereo equip.

    Also, Vinny, I just got off the phone with Cingular and Verizon. Both said I could subscribe to a plan with a phone I already own so long as it was on their network. No pre-pay / go-phone or anything kooky. Just a normal per month plan, including nights and weekends. I’m not going to bother with Sprint & T-Mo as I’m sure they accomodate as well. Your information seems bad, or purposfully misleading?

  47. decluttermother says:

    I agree with jtsnick. Unfortunately, acquiring many department store credit cards just for the discount is not a good idea. My credit score went down a good 50-75 points for having 6 department store credit cards I mainly acquired to establish a credit history and for the discounts.

    The smart thing to do would be to have a maximum of one or two dept. cards, like JC Penny etc..

  48. morris.levy says:

    I never pay the “extended warrantee”. Best Buy almost got me when I bought my Wii. Screw them.

  49. noicing says:

    Retail stores are NOT showrooms for internet sites. When you come in and scam them for answers, to touch and feel an item before you buy online, you are essentially stealing. Be the bigger person and buy your item sight unseen (or from a little picture) from a online store, and suck it up when you make a mistake. You idiots! Retail stores have higher overhead than warehouse internet stores. That’s why their items cost more. You idiots who don’t understand business, just want to scam the retail store for your own personal gain. It’s stealing and YOU know it. I can’t believe the author of this article condones this stealing practice. Oh yea, you’re steling employee time, heat, air conditioning, lighting, dirtying the carpets with your filthy feet, and more. If you don’t want to pay more for service and to be able to touch and feel and item, and to ask questions from someone who actually knows what an item is/does then don’t even go into the retail store. Idoits!

  50. aleks says:

    Regarding credit: Ideally, you want to be using 20% to 50% of all available credit (in terms of credit cards and credit lines, at least). You don’t want to be maxed out, but you don’t want to have $50,000 worth of credit when the most you spend is $2,000 a month.

    Regarding contracts: The old AT&T Wireless let you get a plan without a contract, but they wouldn’t give you the phone. Does no one else? I think more companies than you think will give you the option, but their advertised plans include a significant discount for the 2-year contract, so you’ll have to pay more.

  51. Rustywinger says:

    Re: Using Credit and Paying it Off on Time

    No need to be a Type A. Just use your online banking to set up monthly payments. Divide the amount owed by however long the no-interest term is (less a month for luck) and let your bank take care of that.

    I got new windows from my house with a 1-year no-interest from Home Depot, got the card on the spot.

    Sweet deal.

  52. chissus says:

    Be sure to close the account you opened for 20% off (or whatever) as soon as you have paid it off and it shouldn’t affect your credit

  53. BarBQuid says:

    I use a little known service http://www.kulist.com for price watching and comparison shopping.

  54. byteherder says:

    I want to correct the above post. Opening a credit card and then closing it does not destory your credit. If a credit card is closed by a customer request ie canceling it, it is taken as a neutral indicator on your credit report.

    What hurts you is late payments, over due accounts, collections, defaults, bankruptcies, too much unused credit and too high a debit to credit limit ratio.

  55. laycemarie says:

    Back to the idea about shopping in stores and buying online, I’d like to thank ValkRaider for pointing out what that does for the local economy. As a commissioned sales person at a locally owned camera/electronics store, I really don’t appreciate how many customers come in to waste my time and take advantage of my expertise just to walk out and by it online (or from the big box store down the street).
    And to point out some disadvantages for the consumers, we have had more than one customer buy online and get completely screwed (ending up with gray market stuff, damaged equipment, etc.)-not to mention the advantages of buying from a business who will support your purchase later. For example, we support our customers for as long as they have their equipment for free, but we charge $100/hour to help customers with equipment purchased elsewhere. As about the only place in town (or the state, for that matter) that knows anything about camera equipment, we get lots of confused customers in need of help. We also offer free product-specific classes for our customers.
    And after having worked at a big box store, I also know that some of the extended warranties offered at such places are far from a rip off. Do some research and find out how much your purchase will cost to fix if it breaks, and what the warranty covers. I’ve seen them save people thousands (but not always).

  56. Seloc says:

    Just so everyone knows:
    Please don’t always say “no” to extended warranties.
    Mind you this is coming from a former Geeksquad (the computer help people inside of Best Buy) employee. When I worked there, without fail, at least once a day if not more someone would come in with a friend computer. Fried power supple, fried motherboard, fried everything. I would ask if they had the unit plugged into a surge protector and they would always answer no.
    I would then ask if they had a service plan with us. If they said “Yes” I would promptly get the paperwork in order to get the unit replaced. However, if they had no service plan, I would explain what had more than likely happened, since thunder storms are common where I live and that next time they should hook everything up to a surge protector.
    Better luck next time!
    And just to clarify on the whole profit-margins thing: We had our own repair centers specifically for dealing with products with service plans and would also send out units to the manufacture. I personally bought a service plan on my new laptop and pray to god I never have to use it.
    So don’t accuse the salesperson who’s trying to sell you that service plan the devil because they’ve seen the damage not having on, coupled with incompetence or a bad machine (think EMachine, which tends to break after about a month).
    Please. Salespeople aren’t the devil and neither are service plans.

    Sincerely,

    Seloc.

  57. buckaroobanzai says:

    monoprice.com has insanely cheap prices for all kinds of cables for computers and audio equipment. better than ebay and other e-tailers.

  58. bitter_salesguy says:

    Don’t tell the sales guy to “get bent” when they offer you the extended warranty. Politely decline. It’s their job, their boss pounds it into their heads as the most important part of their job, and implies that they’ll get fired if they don’t sell enough of them.

    I worked as a sales guy, explained the warranty, and let the customer decide. I never understood people who would argue as if they had to “convince me” that the warranty was a rip off and that I was a jerk for suggesting it. Or that the 17 year old kid selling you a camera was the one thing standing between you and a “deal.” This kind of stuff is ridiculous.

    Also, sales guys can get you deals that they won’t mention if you’re a jerk. I did it all the time. I knew what the margin was and if it was flexible and if it was, I knew that I could work my manager on it and I would get freebees or discounts for people. But the minute some jerk starts swearing about not being able to get a web match to a price they listed on their own geocities webpage before coming in is the minute I stopped working for them and started working for the company.

  59. theinsanefurry says:

    I’m in ur bagz, doing ur shoppin

  60. creditadvice says:

    *sigh.*
    Take anything anyone here says with a grain of salt regarding your credit. I am a loan officer; have been for 8 years. Every bank / credit union / mortgage co. has it’s own requirements / thoughts. But, here it is, plain and simple:
    1. Get 3 credit cards — NO STORE CARDS.
    2. Have limits of 5k – 15k.
    3. Use sparingly – i.e. less than 20% of available credit line.
    4. Do not open new accounts.

    Store cards lower your credit score (on average). Consistently opening cards and closing them will lower your credit score – SIGNIFICANTLY.

    Making a huge purchase on your card (say up to your available limit) and paying it off in full the next month will lower your score.

    Point is, your credit score is a snapshot in time. You could have a fantastic score (800+), get a new mortgage at a great rate, get two new cars on credit, all within a 6 mo period, and you can be sure your score will drop at least 50 points. Why? You got new credit, and the scoring model wonders why you did — and if you will pay all your new debt on time. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Remember, people who file bankruptcy had some good credit — at one point in time.
    Questions? email at creditadvice at yahoo.com

  61. sarah77 says:

    I love this site! I’m from London, England – but all of the above applies to the UK too. And one of the best ways to save moeny for us Brits is to fly to America and stock up on all our electronic items, clothing, cosmetics and of course eat out in the US – they’re always nearly a third cheaper than in the UK.

  62. pearlandopal says:

    Yes, davidtrento, because being nasty to grocery store cashiers always lets higher management know that something needs to change about their business. Except not.

  63. rasti says:

    Always ask for a rebate.
    In a tourist trip to NY,
    i´ve got a $100 rebate on
    the buy of a $1700 portable computer, only by asking the salesperson.
    This was in a big computer
    store at the 5th Ave.
    Ask for a rebate,you have nothing to loose !

  64. mst3kzz says:

    If anyone is particularly concerned about hurting their local economy by shopping online rather than B&M, simply print out the price online and take it to the store. Almost all stores will match their web prices. Also, bring a coupon with you.

  65. plrsgator says:

    A lot of good ideas, but there are catches…
    Cell phones- is the phone compatable (GSM/CDMA)? Besides they always give me a free phone..
    Credit cards- opening more than 1 per year WILL lower your FICO score…

    Still, my favorite is the 10% off guanantee that Lowes/Home Depot/Sears/etc offer.

  66. edgesmash says:

    @bambino: Since your credit score is basically a prediction of how likely you are to repay a loan, they’ll dock you for anything that historically has caused borrowers to screw up. You’re right and I’m right.

    However, a short story to make a point: For a long time I had no credit history because I didn’t have any loans, credit cards, or anything, and as a result couldn’t get a credit card to build a credit history. Finally, Capital One took pity on me and gave me a $201 limit card. After six months with that card, my credit score jumped from basically zero to the low 700′s (pretty much perfect) with only $401 (Captial One doubled my limit, how generous) available credit (and zero balance carried over each month).

    Bonnie’s point about credit/income ratio is probably very valid with respect to too much credit. So the moral of the story is don’t get too much credit, but not too little either.

  67. matthew says:

    Buy “Accessories” on Ebay Rather Than Paying Huge Markups

    Price of Wii component cable in GameStop: €35 (and they didn’t have any in stock).

    Price of Wii component cable on eBay, including shipping from Hong Kong: €9.57.

    And the same goes for the classic controller. I bought my Wii and games in the shop (no huge discounts anywhere online), but everything else I get from eBay, via Hong Kong.

  68. silverlining says:

    Why They Hate It: Credit card companies make money from interest and fees. No activity on the card, no interest and fees.

    Hrm. I might not understand the business transactions of banks and credit card issuers (like Visa, MC, etc.). I thought that

    a) the bank that issues the card would make money when they charge fees/interest, and

    b) the credit card company makes money because the cc issuer charges the retailer a percentage of the total transaction when the card is swiped.

    Is this incorrect? Enlighten me, oh consumer savvy ones :)

  69. fstick says:

    vinny seems to not know very much about what he is talking about.

    I do this all the time on Verizon. And my buddies do this all the time on Cingular. And I can go on and on about others.

    No Contract ≠ No Plan (from an initial contract)

    As a matter of fact its awesome with Cingular because of the SIM card. While snowboarding you use a phone that can take a beating, while working use a TREO. Unfortunately I have Verizon.

  70. malaparte says:

    Opening A Store Credit Card To Get A Discount, Then Cutting It Up
    There seems to be a lot of confusion and disinformation regarding this topic. I’d like to shed some definitive light on the matter based on what I’ve learned during my tenure at Fair Isaac, the company that developed the FICO score (the credit score used in ~90% of lending decisions).

    1) Opening a revolving charge account – regardless of whether the card is issued by a store or bank – is considered a credit inquiry. Credit inquiries generally lower your FICO score. The FICO algorithm takes both the number of inquiries and the length of time since your last inquiry into consideration. Hence, the score lowering effect of a credit inquiry will attenuate over time (say, 12 months). Take-away: opening lines of credit that you don’t need is generally not a good idea.

    2) Closing revolving charge accounts – the length of your credit history is a key ingredient in the calculation of your FICO score. It serves you no purpose to close an account, especially if you’ve just taken the hit to your FICO score from opening it. Take-away: if you do open a revolving charge account, keep it open so that it can help you increase the amount of credit you have and build your credit history.

    3) Credit utilization and dormant accounts – the lower your credit utilization, the better your FICO score. Period. If you have only one card with a $5,000 limit and you routinely have a monthly balance of $1,000, your credit utilization is 20%. If you have five cards, each with a $20,000 limit, and you routinely have a monthly balance of $1,000, your credit utilization is 1%. There is no penalty factor in the FICO score for having a lot (whatever that means…) of revolving charge accounts open, or having some accounts that are unused dormant (as long as some of your accounts show activity). If you do have credit cards that you don’t use on a regular basis, make sure that the account details and the cards themselves are secure; check your statements regularly to check for unauthorized activity (e.g., identity fraud).

    4) Educate yourself and be a savvy consumer! Don’t just assume that credit information you receive from mortgage brokers, credit union employees, etc., is 100% correct. The credit scoring space is complex and convoluted, and it’s unlikely that such folks have a factual understanding of the scoring models employed. The advice listed above is likely deduced from anecdotes, and therefore dubious. Learn for yourself what affects FICO scores, check your credit reports regularly, and know what your FICO score is. If you want to learn more about how FICO scores are determined visit http://www.myfico.com/CreditEducation/WhatsInYourScore.asp

  71. ]RowaN[ says:

    A long time ago, I heard that “3 for 2″ deals were illegal in Germany. Because it often forces some people into spend more than they can afford. True or not, I dont know.

  72. nonsequitur says:

    Regarding shopping online while wasting the resources of your local privately-owned retail store and screwing your local economy in the process: Thanks to the the few of you who recognized and brought this point to light. As a full-time retail employee & supervisor in a privately owned store, I’ve learned to recognize customers who come in just to shop for what they are going to buy online or in a box store. Once I notice a pattern of lots of questions, taking up lots of employee time, then suddenly they say they went and acquired the item elsewhere, we start dumbing down our expertise on the items or issues they are asking about until one day we have absolutely no knowledge or experience when these sorts of folks ask questions. Maybe a little unethical, but it frees us up to serve those who actually support our business. Time spent with appreciative, paying customers is much better for business and is likely to encourage more business from those customers’ social contacts, who are statistically more likely to be ethical shoppers. For those of you who are sick of bad service and complain about the homogeneous crap that big box stores carry, the formula is simple. More money going to private community businesses = more money which helps to preserve your town. If you like and enjoy having nothing but big box stores in your community, as well as the urban sprawl that accompanies it, by all means keep patronizing places like Wal-mart, K-mart, and Petco/Petsmart.

  73. Mr. Gunn says:

    Thanks to malaparte aka chuck norris for pointing out that at least half the people who weighed in on the credit issue had no clue, yet felt like the rumor they heard from their brother’s uncle was somehow worth posting.

    Thanks also to all you retailers accusing online shoppers of theft if they set foot in your store but don’t buy anything. Let me explain a little something to you. You can’t beat online stores in price or selection. When the customer comes in to look at something they’re thinking of buying online, it’s because the online store has failed to provide the customer the info they need to make their decision. It’s your chance to take advantage of this failing by providing something they can’t. I’ll leave what that is as an exercise for the reader.

    I know it’s sad when someone comes in, asks a bunch of questions, and then leaves. It’s sad when Drew Brees gets sacked, too, but it’s no moral failure of the other team’s defensive line, amirite?

  74. faust1200 says:

    Anytime a creditor pulls a credit report on you it negatively affects your credit score slightly. Bear in mind this has to be a CREDITOR (one who will be issuing u credit duh) and not some other business who may pull your report for whatever reason.

  75. Dankiddo says:

    Local stores are in business to make money. They need to show a profit at the end of the day. News: so am I! As a consumer, I have to show a profit at the end of the month. I’m looking to save money just like the local store is looking to make a profit. It’s not stealing! They have an free show room, FREE!!! If they don’t like it, they should start charging money for coming in and asking questions.

    I would be dumb to pay $300 for something that I could get on-line for $189 including shipping.

    It’s a market economy, idiots! If brick and mortar stores want to compete, they should take a look at the way they treat customers. i.e offer instant discounts, NOT mail-in rebabes. They could improve service or lower prices, period. Work for my business… I’m not a freaking charity.

  76. lawtonchiles says:

    This credit card discussion is good. For a first-time credit buyer, I try to stay away from the cards because I am scared of the interest. I have also had some bad experiences with Guitar Center.

    But…any advice would be awesome. I need to get the lowest interest card possile to get a new Macbook Pro. advice welcome:) oh, i love the site. Awesome advice. SPRINT is the devil.

  77. kromelizard says:

    Here is my all time favourite thing to do that shops absolutely hate.

    Buy something. Remove all the packaging. Be VERY smug and patronizing about carbon footprints as you place it in a canvas bag. Take it home.

    This is the greatest feeling and is particularly good at a supermarket when they’ve pre packed all your vegetables. I unpack them all. the worrying thing is that the checkout operators gasp and sigh in awe and wonder as if they’ve never considered placing a vegetable into a bag without first sheathing it in plastic.


    Perhaps they’re sighing in irritation because you have just LEFT YOUR GARBAGE IN THE STORE.

  78. northernflights says:

    For whatever it’s worth, I recently applied for and received a no-documentation mortgage from Countrywide. The property cost $125K and I made a down payment of $12,500. At the time of the application, I had income of $48K per year, five credit cards with limits totaling about $60K, and about $16K in the bank. The card with the single highest limit was $24K. All of these credit card accounts have been open for a very long time; the limits started low and have increased gradually from year to year. The biggest increases seem to happen after I pay off a large balance all at once.

    At the time of my mortgage application, none of these cards had balances carried from month to month, and one of them had a balance of about $700 paid in full each month (the rest were at zero and had been for more than six months). I had no car loan or any other debt, and all of my accounts are in good standing and have been for at least six years.

    Anyway, my median credit score was 805 and my low credit score (Equifax) was 798 — both excellent scores. None of the reason codes on my credit report mentioned ANYTHING about having too much unused credit.

    So, I really have a hard time believing the line about lots of unused credit being a bad thing. Maybe it is if you have a history of missing payments, or if you’re already in debt, but it certainly didn’t hurt me in the above situation.

  79. kraskoff says:

    Another helpful idea:
    When buying phone accessories, instead of going into your phone carrier, go online and either search for your item on eBay or the actual manufacture of the item. Most of the times you will spend half the cost if not more.

    By the way…thank you for the other helpful hints. Very useful information.

  80. dalasv says:

    @Mr. Gunn

    Good point. Local businesses don’t get a pass just because they are local. I recently wanted to buy a vacuum cleaner. I knew of a locally owned business, so I went to give them a try. The salesman was extremely nice, helpful, informative, and recommended a vacuum to me that was at the low end of the price range that I told him I was looking for, simply because he knew it to be the best machine in that range.

    So, consumers, try to support your local economy. Local businesses, show us you are worth it!

  81. ming11 says:

    Having many credit cards can be a problem. When I tried to re-finance a mortgage, my credit was less than good because of many unused credit cards on my record. I had to contact each firm and have them send delete notices to the credit bureaus.

  82. jakejarmel says:

    Just wanted to point out another website where you can track price drops (via RSS): [bountii.com]

  83. Anonymous says:

    Great blog and valuable information about saving cash the smart way. I’m the cash back at eBay gal and I love your advice about eBay in particular (buying the accessories for your electronics at ebay). Shopping eBay is a great way to save.

    Generally, eBay offers prices as low as 35 percent off retail. I shop eBay and I get a percentage of cash back when I shop and when others shop. You should too. When you look for a cash back program, make sure you look for a program that offers residual income. For example, a program that allows you to make money referring your friends so that every time your friends shop, you get cash back on a portion of their purchases. It’s a great way to save and make money for years to come.

    While you are giving great tips about shopping and how to shop, I want to give you a tip about what NOT to buy. And that’s this juicy nugget about what not to buy…

    Do NOT to buy gift cards! Many people don’t know that when you buy a gift card, it’s like giving an unsecured loan to the retailer. Gift cards expire, can reduce in value, can have maintenance fees — and can be worthless too in the event of bankruptcy.

    If you have any gift cards, spend them now. They may be worthless January 1, 2009. Also, be sure to check with your state about how it treats gift cards — every state is different.

    Again, thanks for a super blog! Have a super prosperous day,
    M.C. Nygard