Any of you had parents who used to cut coupons? I did. Back in the early 90’s my mom would sit once a week and clip coupons while watching I Love Lucy marathons on Sundays. It was like her alone time. Her relaxing time. Kinda like her crocheting and knitting time she would have to herself while we were at school. See, they had newspapers back then.. with coupon inserts. Moms all over could compare prices of steak that week to Vons vs. Ralph’s. She even had this little black organizer with all the inserts where she could categorize them: Meats, Freezer Food, Condiments.. you get it. And then the following week before cutting up the new round she would throw out what she couldn’t use any more due to “expiration dates”. I would remember my dad quoting, “If it goes on sale once, it’ll always go on sale.”
Those words kind of haunted me in to my adult years. I started working at 16 because I loved that I could make my own money. I was excited to go shopping and not have to ask my mom to buy me something like a cute top or a new pair of jeans for school because I could pay for it myself. I was thrown in to the world of: SALES. At 18 I experienced my first Black Friday with some friends. We (stupidly) waited outside at 4am at an outlet center for a Coach store to open. I laugh when I think about this. I was just tagging along with some friends, I wasn’t longing for a Coach purse at 18. There is something however, about being in a crowd of people who are ready to attack for something. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s a thing, it’s material, but you get this competitive wire in you that just turns ON and you go with it. This could have to do with the fact that it was cold and I woke up at 2am to be all the way out here for this. I witnessed grown women fighting. I witnessed 80% clearance racks completely destroyed and people shouting. I walked out with one bag and I was so proud of myself. It was an all-violet leather mini-messenger bag that had a sling across it. It didn’t scream COACH all over it, it was subtle and at the top by the zipper. My father would always tell us not to buy clothes or bags that had large logos splashed across. He’d say, “They’re not paying you to advertise for them! Unless a company is paying you, why would you wear something with a logo that huge?” Haha! I don’t know why… so much of the things he used to say just stuck with me. Parents are you reading this? Make sure you’re blurting out good advice every now and then. 😉
I actually liked his bits of advice when it came to this shopping stuff. I went home and proudly showed him what I purchased. “How much did you spend?”, he asked me with disdain. (My father wouldn’t be caught dead waiting before the sun rises for this kind of stuff.) I proudly said, “Dad! Don’t ask me how much I spent! Ask me how much I saved!” Ladies.. you can use this the rest of your life! 😀 I showed him my purchases, talked about all the sales, and then he sat there quietly. I just told him about the hundreds of dollars I saved and all this stuff I got and he was just unimpressed. “You know Talia,” he started, “once something goes on sale, it’s always going to go on sale.” Yeah but not 80% off Dad! He looked at me, “I’m just filling you in. In life you will witness many sales and I promise you, as someone who used to be in advertising, once a company puts something on sale, they will continue to do so. There are only a handful of brands out there that NEVER go on sale. Never. You’ll learn this soon enough.”
Flash forward to now. I cannot tell you how much I cringe at opening my inbox every morning. For every email that actually has meaning for my business there are 100 emails that are complete junk. I’ve gotten better at not falling for the “limited time only” crap like I used to get suckered in to. There are so many people I know who jump on deals as if they are never going to appear again. Since I can stand back and tell the difference, it sometimes turns in to frustration. Here are just a couple examples:
- I started the spin bike back in April this year, I was at a gathering where some girls were filling me in on the cutest work out apparel. The most affordable of the bunch that was still super cute was this brand called: Fabletics. From the moment you’re on the site it wants you to sign up for this VIP exclusive. You can barely skip around the page without another pop up wanting your email. You figure, these are cute and the first outfit is $25! Maybe I’ll just sign up so I can browse. So you sign up and then realize that even though that first outfit is $25 – which is a savings of 50%! – they continue to remind you of this) then you see that they need your credit card. Well, apparently they will be charging you $49 every month even if you aren’t ordering anything. So, of course, like a non-idiot who doesn’t need that many work out clothes I said peace out and left the site. That was back in April. The following day I got an email saying I only had 24 HOURS to sign up or I would lose the $25 deal. I thought, really? In this day and age people, let me just tell you, with internet, you can easily google up reviews, and wow was I thrilled that I didn’t sign up. I tried to unsubscribe my email, but the next day I got another email giving me ANOTHER 24 HOURS to purchase from them. I was like.. really Fabletics?! Friends.. I currently have about 90 more emails from them in my junk mail box with the same offer.
- Another offender? Bed Bath and Beyond. Really, does anyone shop here without a 20% coupon? The hardest part about shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond is buying just the ONE thing at a time because you know if you wait a week you will get another 20% off coupon so you can come back in and buy the other thing you wanted…if it’s still there.. dun dun dunnnn! -_- If you’ve never heard of the 20% off coupon for BB&B then where the heck have you been living this past decade? It’s the most obnoxious chunk of blue paper – a complete waste that goes out to your home so often some times you get 2 or 3. And they email it to you too! I’ve literally been at that store, bought one thing, walked outside and 10 minutes later bought another thing, then when the cashier gave me that look, I figured I would wait a little longer and finally 2 hours later I go back in and buy the third thing I needed.. all 20% off with 3 different transactions. I was both proud and annoyed at myself that day.
- How about BevMo? While I love that place with all my heart, does anyone actually shop there when it’s NOT the 5 cent sale? How can you live with yourself paying full price for a bottle of wine there and only getting one bottle? They have that sale at least 4x a year and so I stock up when I am able to, but the rest of the year I drive by that place slowly and peek in just to see how many people are actually purchasing at full price. I say, “Lord, help them. Show them the way.”
- For all of you crafty folks out there, let’s chat about Michael’s and JoAnn’s Fabrics. The worst! NEVER are they NOT having blow out sales and deals. From the ap coupons to the in-store pairings to the cut out coupons… does ANY ONE have a receipt where they paid full price at that place?! I swear I go to these places and think, “every one here is gonna save 50%” alllll the tiiiiime. All the time. Like, always.
- Ladies… ULTA. C’mon this place is the worst with their $3 off coupon. They already charge $5 more for most products than most makeup stores and sections so thanks but no thanks for throwing in that $3 off! And you USED to be able to look at the cashier and say, “oh man, I forgot my coupon at home” and they would scan it nicely for you but nope! Now they wanna see and scan the actual thing. Oh and it doesn’t work on any of the good products there.. like that Benefit stuff or the high end brands. It’s like.. thanks for nothing Ulta.
- Half-off Sushi places. Really? You’re always half-off? What’s the sell then? Where’s the bait (literally)? Like you gave up on marketing and actually PRINTED A MENU AND THEN
CROSSED OFF PRICES IN THE SAME PRINTAND THEN IN A DIFFERENT COLOR YOU PUT THE NEW HALF OFF PRICE. ??? Whooooo are you fooling? I mean, I will order at my leisure, because I know when I come back in 6 Tuesdays it’s gonna look just like this. What are you trying to say!? This roll is really worth $12 but because it’s your special day we will charge you $6. No, just no. Get outta here with that. Half off sake and beer all the time too? Well now I have no choice but to always come here because every sushi joint I will compare to you, thanks a lot.
I’m sure you get my point. Once something goes on sale, people will wait until the next sale. The brand has just committed suicide a little.. just a little. The average consumer will think, “why pay full price when I can just wait for a coupon or the next sale?” I mean, this world we live in. Sales left and right… and with PRESSURE to BUY NOW! I am not saying this marketing tactic doesn’t work.. there truly is a mass group of people who fall for this stuff, I am just happy to no longer be one of them.
On a personal note since I can now relate, some time in 2010 I regretfully signed up for a Groupon deal for my business. I wanted to be busy and gain more clients. I met with a Groupon sales rep and signed
my life away an agreement saying I would not only lower my session fee by over 60%, but I would give HALF of whatever sold to Groupon. At the time my session fee was already a measley $150. (Hey I was kinda new to this whole thing..) I agreed to offer an hour photo session for $60. Did you do the math?! I had to give Groupon HALF of that. I ended up with $30. I limited the sales to only 40 sessions, thinking maybe I would get 10 sold. Well 40 sold out within 3 hours. Some might think, “hey! $30 for an hour is not bad.” Umm.. not when you let the client choose whatever location they wanted in San Diego and then had to pay a sitter $10 an hour to watch my 6 month old. There were many sessions where because of drive time I would have to pay the sitter $30. Talk about depressing. But here I was thinking “well, out of the 40 that sold, that’s a lot of new clients!” WRONG. Do you know that not one of them ever came back to me for my services after that? Not because they didn’t like me, no, in fact I got a lot of great reviews and even friend requests online (lol!) but because the following year, when the time for photos came around and I quoted them my regular pricing (thinking they wanted me to shoot because they liked my work) – I realized they didn’t want to pay any more than the $60 they paid the year before. Thankfully, as it turns out, these aren’t the kind of clients I wanted for my business to begin with, because they didn’t value photography, they valued savings. There’s nothing wrong with that! I repeat, there is nothing wrong with liking to save money, but will I ever do that again? NEVER. It took me close to TWO YEARS to recover from that mistake. My father warned me not to drop my prices for people, not even friends because they will never appreciate that, and if they expect it then they weren’t after you for your photography skills, they were after saving a buck. I should have listened, but the things I learned and the people skills I gained made me turn the entire experience in to one big fat lesson. If I wanted to offer a product that I wanted people to value, I had to value it first. Clearly when a family shows up to a photo shoot wearing a mix of Charger Jerseys and large ADIDAS prints on their shirts, jeans, and flip flops, that’s one way of saying, “I could give a rat’s ass about this cheap photo shoot I purchased from Groupon.” Really.. it would happen several times, not that I have anything against the Chargers, but c’mon, there was clearly no attempt of “I actually tried today”. These were not the clients I wanted, nor would these images in my portfolio help me garner the clients I wanted. So it seemed to be a lose-lose all around. In hindsight, I should have just offered free sessions to all my friends if I was portfolio building, then at least I could request that they dress appropriately. I had to stand firm and not bother with the low-ballers (as much as possible! It’s so hard to avoid in this industry)! I can’t wait to share all of the juiciest stories with you when I retire from weddings, but that isn’t any time soon, so moving on..
Groupon, The Daily Save, Living Social, all of that. It’s turned shoppers in to this mess of just getting mediocre services for cheap. Am I including myself in that bunch? Well, at the time, yes. I can admit, looking back, I didn’t value my work. That’s why I sold it for a song. When shopping this holiday season especially, be mindful of the “deals” and “savings” out there. I promise you, the same thing if not better will be on the same exact shelf the following year. So don’t go burning holes in your pockets for no reason. Don’t get the anxiety and stress of “I have to buy it tomorrow since it’s 50% off!” or “If I don’t use this coupon by Friday it will expire!” – that kind of pressure leads to guilted shopping, guilted purchases. It’s tough though right? Ever go in to a place for Happy Hour and order a bunch of appetizers? Then the next visit it’s not happy hour but you just can’t bring yourself to spending $12.99 on the same calamari that you spent $6.50 on last week?! Talk about things that mess with your mind. I refuse. I mean, I won’t. I can’t bring myself to paying full price for something that I’ve saved on before. It’s just not logical, especially if the company or restaurant or store is infamous for sales left and right.
Curious about things that NEVER go on sale? Well, here are some that are pretty obvious:
- An education – You never see colleges with “enroll by end of July and save 30% on your tuition and books!” Even public school isn’t free… you know your kid’s attendance is like $50 a day that the state pays for, right?
- Tickets – Concert tickets and shows rarely go on sale. At least any show worth going to. Unless you win the tickets from a radio show or contest, you’re paying full price for those seats.
- Home Improvement Materials – Hardware stores rarely have “blow out” sales. If it’s a year round essential, chances are you are paying full price. I mean, they realize that if your sink springs a leak you have limited time there to buy what you need to fix it. They know you’re not gonna wait around for a sale…
- Gasoline – There are hundreds of thousands of us who depends on vehicles to get us where we need to be every day. How often do you see a sale sign up at the gas station?
- Professional Services/Healthcare/Cosmetic Surgery – these things are only doubling if anything. Lawyers, dermatologists, veterinarians and other specialists charge according to their level of expertise, and they almost never offer a discount to the public. I mean, unless your lawyer wants to take on your case pro bono meaning they think this case is so juicy it could be turned in to a best-selling novel or Lifetime Movie then good for you! It’s one in a million though.
Ways to avoid getting suckered in? Stop signing up for stuff! Limit your online time if you know you are drawn to all of this. Practice recognizing a REAL, ONE-TIME ONLY sale vs. a sale that happens practically all year round. An example of a ONE TIME ONLY sale would be when a store is closing down. I feel like a few times a year there is a huge furniture store going out of business. If a store is going out of business and they have things you need or want, go for it! Download coupon aps on your phone so you can see updates more frequently, so you know the pattern and when to expect the next coupon or sale. I like that ap GeoQpons, it’s really easy to use and the scan bar works just about every time. The biggest lesson of them all: Don’t buy something simply because it’s on sale or the deal was too good to be true. If you only realized you wanted it when you saw it was on sale…did you really want it to begin with?
Happy shopping and happy holidays <3
*Photos below are from our weekend. Enjoyed some margaritas and enchiladas at one of my favorites: Acapulco! I don’t know what it is about that place, I think because growing up we used to go there a lot, their fresh basket of chips reminds me of childhood or something, I love it there. And I always order the exact same thing: crab enchiladas, no beans, double rice.
Content and images copyright TheSisterFiles©2015 and cannot be used without expressed permission.
Photos by: Jeff and Talia Cruz