Thanks again to Guest Editor and Rabble Rouser Edison Rathbane, affectionately known as Diz.
If you want to send a message to the big box stores, you need to tell them in terms that they will understand. Hit them where it will foil their profit plans, and tell them that you know their game. This also covers you financially. It’s a blast once you get over what some would at first blush seem embarrassing. I have been using this technique to much advantage for about a year. Want to get a message through to BigBoxezRUs? Here’s how. Put a fixed amount of cash in your pocket, and go shopping. The internally calculated rate of inflation is set by the national office and local store managers. The price increases at the big box store are set to see how far the average shopper is going to stretch their spending to get what they want on any shopping trip. (I won't go into the concept of "Elasticity of Price" right now, but can) If a shopper does their thing one week and spends say $200, the next week it may cost them $210 for the same set items. Wages are not going up weekly to match these increases. Yep, I DO realize that is 5% inflation in a week, but we have all seen it the last couple of years.
Shop as you did last week, and don’t worry about the costs. Don’t even change the time and day of the week that you normally shop. When you go to the register, place the items on the register table or belt based upon your prioritized order of need. That is, put the stuff you really need on the belt first. About three quarters of the way though check-out, ask the sales clerk for a running total of your purchases. When you hit or go over the amount of cash you have in your pocket, stop the clerk and say “I’m sorry, that’s all I can afford this week.” “The rest will need to be restocked.” It’s honest. The clerk will be a little frustrated, but it won’t hold you up at the register. You can go right back in and get the missing items later if you wish, but the store will have to pay employees to have the items restocked. This is actually generally done by lower management who cost the store more per hour than the general stocking clerks. The store will start monitoring this fairly quickly if more than a couple of people do it.
Advanced Method 1
This is for the less faint hearted. Follow the steps mentioned above with one change. Don’t ask the clerk for the running total, and wait until the final total is reached. You are generally going to find that you don’t have enough in your pocket to pay for all this stuff. No problem. Just tell the clerk that you didn’t bring enough money, and have them take things off the bill. They will reverse ring the items until the preferred expenditure balance is reached. Meltdown. The sales associate will probably not be trained to reverse charge the items on your receipt. If you shop at a busy time, you will probably be “Checked-Out” by an assistant department manager or department manager, who has been called-in to cover register duty. They will often need to call-in one of the more senior register people who know how to back-ring. This will slow down the line, and will not please the folks in back of you. The costs associated with restocking these items still apply.
The Value of this Process
In a recessionary period, stores are gambling that you will stretch your budget to meet your wants. This is good for them, and bad for you. You should be sticking to your budget. They should be trying to keep their costs competitive. You are just looking out for your budget by using these methods. You are also sending BigBox management a strong message, and giving them very powerful economic tools. They will be learning the things that folks are not willing to purchase in an inflationary period. See… you are helping to fight inflation… pat yourself on the back...YOU are an Economic Warrior… go treat yourself to an item from the “BigBurgersRUs” dollar menu on the way home.
More fun and games next week,
Of course, I have a comment on all this: We Americans are dumb. We allow ourselves to be led by advertising media to think we "need" things that really we only "want." Not to say it's not OK to want things and to get those things we want, but I believe this is a dangerous track that perpetuates the rift between rich and poor, chain and local. Tha's all- unless later on I find time to put the rant I gave the poor FFM last evening on the privileged chumps who get pissed because they have the time and money to go rafting down the Arkansas River and when they do, they find their "wild" view marred by graffiti-covered UP freight cars that are sitting all over the place because the economy is a mess and people aren't shipping as much right now. Rahr!