I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no joy in Christmas shopping—especially when you’re trying to score a deal! I had a heck of a morning trying to get a TV on sale. My sister had called me last week to say that Circuit City had a 15-inch Polaroid TV on sale for $219. She wanted to get one for our parents, but she lives out of state, so she asked if I could get one and wrap it up for my parents for Christmas. However, she wanted my husband to check it out online first to make sure the quality was good. Unfortunately, he took a few days in doing that, and the TV went up to $259! I felt bad that my sister would now have to pay $40 more, so I agreed to ask if Circuit City would honor the previous sales price. Thus, I found myself sauntering up to a nerdy guy this morning at Circuit City, pointing toward the TV, and asking if he would give me last week’s price.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” he said.
“But if you were willing to sell the TV last week for $219, why can’t you give me the same price this week?” I asked.
“Well, those prices are to encourage you to buy them the week they are on sale,” he explained. Well, duh.
“But I didn’t realize that the sale would end in a few days, and I’m doing this as a favor for my sister,” I added. “It’s my fault she missed the sale, so could I still get it for $219?”
“Sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Okay, then,” I said, “do you honor competitors’ prices?”
“Of course, we do,” he smiled.
I whipped out a Wal-Mart ad for a 15-inch Polaroid TV. “There,” I showed him, “they’re selling the same TV for $223. Can I have it for that price?”
He glanced at the paper I held. “That’s not the same TV,” he said.
“Sure, it is. It’s a Polaroid 15-inch TV, and the model number on both is 1511.”
“Yes, but the letters are different,” Mr. Smart-Aleck said.
“The letters in the model number.”
“I thought that just had something to do with the store it was being sold at,” I said naively.
“No, it means it’s not the same TV,” he smirked.
“Okay, here’s a Target ad for that TV for $229,” I said, whipping another paper out of my purse.
“Boy, you come prepared,” he noted. I ignored his comment. He glanced at the ad.
“That’s not the same TV either,” he said.
“Okay,” I sighed, “so do you have anything comparable to these TVs in the low-$200 range?”
“Just this Element,” he said. “It’s also made by Polaroid, but the quality’s not as good.” I could tell at a glance that he was right on that one.
“So, do you know if the Polaroid will go on sale again?” I asked.
“It might,” he said.
“Do you know when?”
“No, I don’t find out the prices until I come in on Sunday morning!” Yeah, right.
I shoved my lists into my purse and decided to drive up to Wal-Mart to get their $223 Polaroid TV. I located the TV on their shelf, but it had a price tag of $243. Obviously, they hadn’t put their sale price on it yet, I surmised. I waited ten minutes for the one salesperson they seemed to have in that department and then showed him my ad.
“Can I get this TV for $223?” I asked.
“No, that’s only if you order it online,” he said. “You need to order it online and have it sent to the store. Then I can give you the sales price.”
“But if you already have the TV in the store,” I said, “why do I need to order it online? Can’t you just sell that TV for $223 now?”
“I’m not allowed to do that,” he said. “I was told that they’re trying to encourage online sales to decrease their overhead, so you have to order it online first.”
“Decrease their overhead?”
“Yes, they can hire fewer employees if more people order online.”
“But if I send it to the store and an employee has to go get it and ring it up for me, isn’t that the same thing as buying it at the store?”
The salesman looked confused. “I don’t know. That’s just what they told me.”
“Okay, then,” I said, “why don’t I save them some overhead, order it online and have it shipped to my house?”
“But then they’ll charge you for shipping,” he said. “They’ll only give free shipping if it’s sent to the store, not to your house.” He shrugged.
I restrained myself from kicking him in the shin and stomped out of the electronics department, empty-handed once again.
Christmas shopping, I decided, is not for wimps. Do you think my sister would consider getting our parents a gift certificate this year?