What's the big deal?

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Cashing in on discount sales can give you quite the rush, provided you survive the stampede.

Over the last few days, I’ve been catching up with the news online because, for some strange reason, the good man who delivers my newspapers in the morning has replaced them with advertisement catalogues that carry scraps of news in between. Save big money! these ads say in big bold capital letters. Buy all the things! It’s on Sale!

As much as I love sales, I have always had the most terrible luck with them. I remember that one of the very first sales that I looked forward to was by the international department store, Marks & Spencer. I am a big fan of their clothes, and naturally, I was quite excited by their sale, which promised goods at (up to) 70% off. When I went there, the items with the big savings ended up being their cosy sweaters, woolly scarves, and well-lined winter jackets — clothes that don’t really make the most sense in a city like Chennai, unless you’re on a mission to generate your body weight in sweat. The things on sale that I did like were predictably “part of our new collection, ma’am”, and hence were full priced. Since I had braved the heat, the crowds and the commute, I ended up purchasing something from the new collection. When you go to a sale, and buy something that wasn’t on discount, there is this heavy feeling of failure that accompanies you from the billing counter to all the way back home, and trust me, I know failure — I was a CA student.

You’d think that I’d have learned my lesson, but it took me a while. I visited sale after sale, but the clothes or shoes or accessories that I had my eyes on before the sale started would have sold out, and even if I spotted something in the store that I liked which was also on sale, it would almost never be in my size. I took it upon myself to find this “amazing deal on sale”, but I had no luck. I would set out to sales with great determination, as if I was Hercules out to slay terrifying mythical beasts! And that’s what this “amazing deal on sale” has been for me — mythical.


I’ve given up on sales in store now though, thanks to a particularly traumatic incident that had happened about a year and a half ago. I had had my eyes on a beautiful, but slightly expensive pair of shoes at Zara. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I knew I had to have it. My shopping companion though, wisely told me to wait for the sale, because Zara is known for doling out generous discounts. I tried explaining my luck with sales to her, but to no avail, and I eventually fell victim to my greatest nemeses — logic and common sense. I left a part of my heart with those shoes that evening, and when I returned during the sale, barely two weeks later, they were gone. My heart still has a stiletto shaped hole, and I haven’t visited a sale since.

When online retailers started rolling out their special sales and billion days however, I must admit I was tempted, and why not? There would be no claustrophobic crowds, no piles of clothes everywhere, and no endless queues for billing — it would be the perfect kind of sale, not to mention the possibility of my finally slaying the beast and scoring the deal.

Spoiler alert — my terrible luck with sales in stores continued to haunt me online as well. Everything that I had set my eyes on sold out before I could so much as add it to my cart, and the other things I liked, weren't on sale. I remember one cruel incident when an iPod that I had been lusting after showed up under the “items on sale” list, only for me to discover that the discount on it was Rs. 1. Another time, I thought I had snagged the last piece in stock, and rushed to check out my shopping cart, only for a grim 404 page to present itself.

This year though, I would like to think that I am much wiser. I have done my groundwork well in advance and even mentally prepared myself for the event at hand. I’m happy to report that I have indeed made a lot of savings — by staying away from shopping websites altogether.

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