On Deals and Discounts



By Liz James (Customer Service)

Don’t get me wrong; I love a good deal or discount as much as anyone.  I got a really awesome mattress thanks to a Groupon, and I waited until I could get a discount to buy my office chair with Amazon Prime.  Saving money is generally a good thing, and I do love it when I can get a top notch product for a bit less than what I’d budgeted for.

The flip side though, is that while I benefited from a deal, it cost someone.  Sure, maybe the company I bought the mattress from only made a slightly smaller profit than usual.  But whether they broke even, or only got a small profit from me, well, it may have cost someone a bit extra from their paycheck because their commission wasn’t as high. Companies that offer free shipping still have to pay for UPS or USPS or other shipping companies to carry the boxes in their truck, and pay for the delivery workers.  Businesses that have sales on items still had to buy or make those items, and they’re losing out on profit in hopes to recoup some of the costs.  Possibly because they weren’t selling, or they have to make room for more stock, or a multitude of reasons.  Whatever the case, it cost them.

Now, that’s not to say that business and companies aren’t recouping the costs in other ways.  They may have raised their prices on their items to compensate for whatever deal they’re offering, or may be relying on more business due to the special they’re having.  I mean, if I tell everyone that I just got a great deal on a snazzy outfit at Jane’s Clothing Emporium, well, my friends may mosey on over and spend their money there as well.  Jane’s Clothing Emporium may have lost a little money on that outfit they sold me, but they just gained a customer who might make a repeat visit, and more clientele.  So the cost to them was worth it in the end.  Any business or economics student could tell you this is basic cost benefit analysis and in general, a deal means people are more willing to spend “the money they saved” after buying the discounted item.  If you need proof, just look at Black Friday shoppers.

But should everything be at a discount?  I admit, I’m a bit spoiled with my Amazon Prime membership.  I like having free Two-Day shipping on most items.  Whenever I shop elsewhere online, I tend to go for the Sale section, or perhaps the shipping deal that’s offered.  I wonder, though, if I shouldn’t always be looking, though.  Not that I don’t want to save money, but maybe I should be more concerned about an object’s worth rather than its price point.  Sure, I could “save money” by taking advantage of that 3 for 2 deal on gummi worms, but do I really need 3 packages of gummi worms, though?  Okay, bad example, because any rational being would say “yes.”  Then how about a deal that says if you buy one package of broccoli, you’ll get the second free?  Sure, if my intent was to buy two packages of broccoli, then taking that deal would be great because I wouldn’t have to pay for that second package.  But if I don’t like broccoli (which I don’t, ick), then I wouldn’t really be saving money, because I’ll have spent money on something I never wanted and wouldn’t eat.  I lost out because I perceived something as worth more because “it was on sale” when really, to me, broccoli is worthless.

So price does not always correlate with worth.  There are some very expensive things out there that are only expensive because someone famous likes them or has designed them.  Remember those stupid “glasses” with lines going across?  The ones that actually bar your sight?  How those got popular, I have no idea.  Also, let’s recall the whole fashion industry, where you have purses with brand names all over them that are obsolete as a fashion within a season, or shoes that admittedly look great but aren’t good for your health and/or break easily.  People can spend a lot of money on things that they end up replacing after a short amount of time, or end up being a waste of money entirely.  Just ask people who bought those “cat tree” things, and had to groan when their cat decided to sleep in the box it came with, or play with a random bit of string.

I’m also of the opinion that constant discounts and deals devalue some worthwhile products.  When a store always has a “sale” going on, customers calculate the items’ worth by the sale prices.  When items are finally priced at their actual worth, though, customers won’t buy them because they perceive its worth at the previous sales price.  I’ve also encountered people that won’t buy things unless they get a deal or a discount.  Which isn’t in itself bad, but when they turn away from a quality product simply because of that, and go with an inferior product because they can get it for cheaper, then they’re really costing themselves more.  It kind of reminds me of a line from the Disney film, The Incredibles.  Syndrome, the villain, is using his skills and mind to create awesome gadgets which would negate the need for superheroes with super abilities.  His reasoning is that “when everyone is super, no one will be.”  Or what about Magneto’s plot in the X-Men movie to make the whole world into mutants, because if everyone is a mutant, then what use are anti-mutant laws?  Either way, trying to bring everyone to the same level means that those who are above par, who have skills that stand out, are devalued.

When it comes to quality, though, paying full price isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, it’s probably one of the best things you can do.  For instance, I bought a pair of sandals, full-price for $125 once.  Some may say that I was just being a crazy female for spending a lot of money on sandals when I could spend $20 in Walmart and still get a decent pair.  Except these were a pair of Chacos.  This is a pair I handpicked all the colors and stitching on, totally unique to me.  They’re great for my feet, comfortable, and did I mention that I’ve had these for over three years now?  In that time, I’ve never had to go out and buy another pair of sandals because they hurt my feet or were wearing out fast, like I had to with a lot of flip flops I bought in the past.  Chaco’s warranty is also really great, and can repair non-warranty issues for a decent cost.  I spent $125 on this pair of sandals three years ago, an admittedly expensive up front cost.  However, when I look at how much this has cost over three years, it turns up to be about $42 per year.  For the math folks out there, I rounded up. And I should say that even though I love my Chacos, I don’t quite think they’re the answer to life, the universe and everything.  Paying in full up front can be a sacrifice at times.  At the time I bought those Chacos, I could have really used the extra money on other necessities if I had gone out and gotten a cheap pair of sandals instead.  But that sacrifice means a lot more now that I haven’t had to replace them every few months like I would’ve had to had I bought a cheap pair.

Paying full price can be a sacrifice at times, and like any sacrifice, it means so much more when there isn’t a discount or a deal attached.  There’s a story in the Bible, in 2 Samuel, chapter 24, where King David (of David and Goliath fame) really messed up.  He needed to make things right with God, so he went to go buy some land to build an altar and make a sacrifice.  The owner of the land offered to give everything David needed for this sacrifice, including the land, the sacrificial animals and the fuel for the fire, for free.  But David replied that he would not offer a sacrifice to God which cost him nothing.  So he bought the land and everything he needed at full cost to make the sacrifice that appeased God.  If you don’t read the Bible, surely you’ve heard O’Henry’s story, The Gift of the Magi, in which a poor couple made sacrifices for each other’s Christmas gift.  The wife cut off and sold her long, glorious hair to buy a costly and beautiful chain for her husband’s prize watch.  Meanwhile, the husband sold his prized watch to buy an expensive set of hair accessories to adorn his wife’s long, glorious hair.  The expanse of their sacrifice is what makes the story.  I don’t think it would’ve been well received if the wife only cut off a few inches because she found the chain at a discount, or if the husband sold the watch hands and other small parts because he found a deal on some less expensive and less beautiful combs.

Like I’ve said, I’m not against saving money or snagging a great deal.  I want to spend my money wisely.  But I also want to make sure part of that includes sometimes paying what an object is truly worth, even if it’s expensive at first, because it’ll pay off in the long run.  David’s sacrifice appeased God’s wrath, and the sacrifice of the couple in O’Henry’s story, if they were real, would’ve been worth it because it probably made their marriage last  a very long time.  They each understood that sometimes, you have to initially pay a high cost, even if it hurts, so that later you can reap the rewards.  Sometimes the full cost is worth every penny and then some.