Even the most Internet-savvy shoppers need to venture to retail stores once in a while. Whether for a last-minute gift, an item you just can’t bear to wait for in the mail, or a device you need to see in person, brick-and-mortar outlets continue to offer a handful of indisputable advantages over Internet buying.
Although modern consumer lore suggests that you’ll always pay more to buy in person, a handful of simple tricks can help you get the same prices you would online – and even open up new opportunities for bargains that you just don’t have when you click “buy” on a Web site. Headed to a mall or shopping center this holiday season? We sat down with bargain hunting experts from Bargainist and Ultimate Coupons to round up the information you need to know before you even step foot out the door.
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Look for online coupons before leaving home.
Before you put on your shoes, zip up your jacket, or find your keys, rewind for a second and plant yourself back in front of the computer for just five minutes. You’re not trying to memorize prices, feature lists or return policies: Just check to see whether the retailers you’re hitting have online coupons, which you can print and bring to the store for quick savings. “A lot of times you’ll find a coupon that’s like $5 or $10 off your purchase,” says Alison Storm of Bargainst.com. “You’re still going to buy what you’re going to buy, but this way you’re saving extra money.” Besides Bargainist and Ultimate Coupons, you can also check CheapTweet for a never-ending Twitter feed of deals, Ben’s Bargain’s, and RetailMeNot.
Make your smartphone earn its keep.
You’re already spending $65 a month to keep that iPhone or BlackBerry buzzing, so you might as well put it to good use saving money. “If you have a smartphone, like a BlackBerry, take it with you shopping,” says Robin Fiedler of Ultimate Coupons. “You can check your Twitter right while you’re there, as well as search online for the best price.”
Bargain-hunting apps also can help smooth out the process. RedLaser, for instance, allows you to snap a UPC label with your phone’s camera, then instantly see what other local stores are selling the item for.
Don’t be afraid to wheel and deal.
The local big box store isn’t a flea market, but if you’re making a large purchase, never assume the price tag is written in stone. Even salespeople who don’t work on commission often have room to knock down the price to seal the deal. And according to the New York Times, large retailers have become even more pliant in the current down economy.
You don’t have to be a cigar-chomping lowballer to pull it off, either. For the conflict averse, both Storm and Fiedler recommend the same line: “Is this the best price you can give me?”
“The worst they can say is no, but you may be surprised,” says Storm. “I’ve often been surprised. That question can save you a lot of money, especially on big purchases.” Fiedler says savings of $50 to $100 are not uncommon on big-ticket items.