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Tips For Shopping Sales: From a Retail Worker

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Here is the thing about the people cashing you out at the register in almost any retail store: We have very little stake in the company’s profit margins. We like to bargain shop as much as you do, and if we can help you get a discount, we will. I personally always get a sense of satisfaction when I help a customer pay significantly less than what they should for something.

We are willing to help you get things as cheap as possible. That said, don’t take advantage of our time. Here are some of the things you might do that will make us no longer want to help you.

  1. Ask us if we have coupons then proceed to demand that we check after we say no. Coupons are barely a thing many retail stores use anymore. If something is discounted, it will either be that way in the store or it will likely be through a reward program. If you don’t want to give your phone number and email to get rewards, you will probably miss a lot of coupons. Never in my time of working retail have we had a secret stash of coupon codes that we could apply just because someone asked.  
  2. Ask for a discount after we have finished the transaction! If you have coupons or realized something should have been cheaper, maybe because it was placed on the wrong rack and it was close to a discount sign, that is great, but don’t make us re-do your transaction, especially if the store is busy. Before you come up to the register, take a minute to think about what coupons or discounts you want to ask about and we will be glad to help. This also goes for if you have coupons that can only be for off a certain amount or limited to one per transaction. We have no problem with the customer wanting to make separate transactions to get you the best deal but please think about this before we complete the transaction.
  3. Read the fine print on your rewards and coupons. A lot of rewards and coupons will have, in very small print, information about when they expire and whether they can be combined with other sales. While I personally find the small print to be unethical, it is there, so please read it or at least ask someone working in that store. Customers love to make it our problem when they realize their 50% off coupon doesn’t combine with the 60% off clearance sale when there is typically absolutely nothing we can do about it. On that note, sometimes sales like this do combine, and that is where you can really save some money so make sure to read.
  4. One of the most significant saving tips I have learned working in retail is that most stores will honor online prices. Different inventories get priced differently. Sometimes online items will go to clearance before the in-store item or there will be online sales that are not in stores. Make sure to check and if it is cheaper online, be ready to show us the online price when you get to the register. That said, I have had customers demand to receive an online price without being willing to show it to us or who make us look up the items they are purchasing while they stand there on their phones. While everyone I have worked with is too nice to say this, don’t do it. It is rude and a waste of our time. If you want a cheaper price you need to do the research yourself.
  5. Be aware of the fact that we have very little control over what discounts we can give you. Most stores have employees sign in before they check you out, meaning if they give you an unauthorized discount they will get in trouble. Don’t ask that nervous 16-year-old behind the counter to honor an expired coupon, or give you a discount you know you shouldn’t be getting.

Ok, all of that said, here are my best tips to shop as cheap as possible:

  1. Sign up for rewards. Some people are reluctant to give out their phone numbers and email to sign up for rewards. My best advice is to create a Gmail account to use only for signing up for rewards. You will get a lot of emails, but many of those emails will be telling you about sales and some will even be member exclusive. As for the phone number, I understand the reluctancy, but at least at the two stores I have worked at, it gives you an option to receive text messages about sales and if you say no to those your phone number will only be used to look up your account in the store which is a lot easier than looking up your email. Also earning rewards is a great way to save $5 or $10 here and there because they really do add up quickly.
  2. Shop clearance sales. When the clearance section is on sale it is a gold mine. Both stores I worked at frequently had 40 to 60% off clearance sales and people would find mounds of great clothes for extremely low prices. Feel free to ask an employee when they do their markdowns. A lot of stores have a specific day where things go to clearance and that is the best day to shop. Also, feel free to ask when an item might be going on sale. We don’t always know, but sometimes if there is going to be 40% off the next day or something like that we will know ahead of time and be able to tell you.
  3. Almost never buy things full-priced. The only time I would say to buy something full-priced would be if you really love it and there are only a few left. If you only see one of your size out, ask if they have more in the back or if they will be getting a new shipment soon. If the answer to both is no, then that item is probably really popular and running out quickly. If you have absolutely fallen in love with it, buy it at full price, but if you think your wardrobe could be sustained without it, come back and check in a few days to see if it has gone on sale.
  4. Check the online prices. I know I mentioned it before but always do it. I have seen people save so much money by asking us to honor the online price.
  5. Open a credit card…only if you shop there consistently. Credit cards can save you a ton of money. You typically get a significant discount on the day you open it and you earn rewards quicker and get access to cardholder-only sales. That said, it is not great for your credit score to open and close a lot of cards. While it may be tempting, do not open a card only to get a discount for opening it. Ask what other stores it can be used for. If you wanted to open a Gap card, it can be used at Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic, and the discount you get when you open it can be applied for the next two weeks at any of those stores. If you shop at these stores frequently, it is worth it to open a card. At a store like Justice that you would likely have only shopped at for a few years, I would not recommend opening a card.

As you shop to freshen up your summer wardrobe, keep these tips in mind. Clothes can be expensive and given how easily they can be ruined or grown out of, they can be a risky investment. Shopping with these tips along with being kind to the people working will help you to be able to make buying all your new summer looks that much more affordable.

The Her Campus National Editors write about products we love and think you’ll love too. Her Campus has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase. All products are in stock and all prices are accurate as of publication.

Ciao! My name is Elizabeth and I am a sophomore journalism major at St. Bonaventure. I love to write and I am so excited to have my work included on this fantastic platform for college women!
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