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The Suit Buying Secret They Don’t Want You to Know

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Suit & TieThis is a guest post from Michael of Financial Ramblings.

Editor’s Note: I was chatting with Michael the other day when he told me his story about buying a suit at a major men’s retailer. He told me how he walked in expecting it to be your typical retail experience, that is you pay what’s listed, but discovered that it was closer to buying a car. There’s a lot of wheeling and dealing involved and I was surprised so I asked him to share his story – being able to negotiate the price of a suit is something the stores probably don’t want you to know!

A couple of weeks ago I had to dress for success. Actually, I had to dress because of success. I was receiving a work-related award and I was expected to wear business attire.

Unfortunately, the closest I could come to this was a sport coat that I last wore to my high school football banquet. Yes, I know that sounds pathetic — and maybe it is. But I’ve engineered my life in such a way that I’ve been able to achieve personal and professional success without ever having to wear a monkey suit.

The other problem was that time was short. I had been on the road and under the gun for a variety of deadlines and hadn’t had time to shop. So instead of taking my time and finding a great deal, I had about an hour one afternoon to make myself presentable.

Given the time constraints, I only had a few options. I could go to one of two nearby stores that specialize in what can only be described as “old man clothes.” Or I could hit a similarly convenient JoS. A. Bank Clothiers (JAB for short). Or I could drive another 10-15 miles to Macy’s.

Pressed for time — and unwilling to dress like a grandpa — I headed to JAB. I’d never set foot in one of their stores, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What I was greeted with was a kindly clerk, obnoxiously high price tags, and an eagerness to negotiate. In other words, it was surprisingly similar to buying a car.

When I first caught sight of one of the price tags, my eyes must have bulged because the clerk piped up with “Oh, don’t worry about the prices, we can work with you on that.” Wait. What? I need to negotiate the price of my suit? Oh well, I was in a hurry so I turned my attention back to finding what I needed.

Once I had identified a workable combination, I returned to the pricing issue. “You mentioned earlier that you’d work with me on the price. What did you mean by that?” She sat down at the computer, whipped out a calculator, and started crunching numbers. $18 dress socks were suddenly $6, and so on down the line.

I waited patiently for her to finish. Meanwhile, I tallied up the sticker prices in my head. By the time she was done, the total price was about 40% below list. Unfortunately, at this point I needed to dash out the door. So, instead of getting into a prolonged negotiation, I simply uttered the seven magic words:

“Is that the best you can do?”

Her reply? “Hmmm. Let me check with my manager.” Wow, this really was just like buying a car. While she went to talk to her manager, I headed back to the changing room to collect my belongings.

When I re-emerged, the price had fallen another 10%. At roughly 50% off, we had more or less arrived at the 2-for-1 pricing* that they often advertise — but without having to buy the second suit. That was good enough for me, and the clothes fit quite well, so I told her to ring it up.

*Note: Yes, they even run buy-one-get-three-free sales at times, though there were no such sales when I was there. And given the frequency with which I wear suits, one was more than enough.

The obvious lesson here is that you shouldn’t leave purchases like this to the very last minute. By the time I went shopping, I had pretty much backed myself into a corner and had little in the way of options. I had to make it work — and that’s rarely a recipe for consumer success.

The other lesson is that it never hurts to ask for a better price. While you don’t want to be unreasonable, you never know what people will do to win your business because once you walk out the door, you’re a lost sale to them.

Michael is a fellow blogger who covers a wide range of money-related topics on his site, Financial Ramblings. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

(Credit: karsten.planz)

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “The Suit Buying Secret They Don’t Want You to Know”

  1. I never would have imagined you could do this. And I love the ‘7 magic words’. I knew them and used them, just never thought of them that way.

  2. shirley says:

    I’d like to know what he exactly ultimately paid for the suit? You left us hanging, Michael.

  3. admiral58 says:

    good article and info to know

  4. Fred Mertz says:

    First of all, Joe Bank suits are of horrendous quality. You would be better off buying a suit at Target. Seriously.

    And second of all, this story only applies to Joe Bank, because their whole model is ridiculously inflated suit prices that they let you haggle down (or put on special sale) to make you feel like you got a bargain.

    You did not. You basically fell for the oldest trick in the book. I guarantee you overpaid for the suit if you paid a number that the salesperson came back to you with.

    Any place that lets you haggle the price of a suit is a place you should not be buying a suit.

    • jim says:

      Sorry, I can’t agree with you. As someone who knows a few things about men’s clothes, JAB suits are not a bad buy. Forget about what the price tags said, how the items were reduced, or any tricks used. Take note of the price paid. Dollar for dollar, you probably get a better suit at JAB than most other retailers that sell the same quality suits, such as Macy’s and other upscale department stores. No, JAB suits are not the same as Oxxford or Brioni, but then they don’t try or pretend to be. However, JAB’s upscale line is handsewn in Italy. If you want a better suit, go to Brooks Brothers.

      This article gives the wrong impression because buying a suit is NOT like buying a car. I know of no other men’s retailer that will give immediate discounts like JAB.

      Target for men’s suits? You should stick to buying snack foods and household items there.

  5. Awezz says:

    At a point in my younger days, I worked at Brooks Brothers. They did not allow for bargaining or negotiation.

  6. JAB has the world’s most inflated prices.

    My husband’s last suit came from…..Walmart. Seriously. He’s a high-ranked software engineer, so it really, REALLY doesn’t matter in interviews. HR is probably impressed that he combs his hair (which he occasionally doesn’t do for a regular work day if I don’t catch him before he heads out the door).

    I’d like my husband to have a nice suit, but I dunno where he’d wear it. I usually go to the opera with my oldest son, not him!

  7. NJblue82 says:

    The same magic 7 words are also imperative if you book your own room at a hotel.

  8. Shafi says:

    Two months ago, we were invited to a wedding. I have gained some weight and the suits I had didn’t fit. I went to Savers and bought a suit for $19.99. It fit perfectly. Not even my wife and kids know where I bought it.

  9. Bucksprout says:

    If you ever find yourself in China you can get a custom suit for about $300 US dollars! DEAL! When it comes to a suit price is something to keep in mind but a good suit will last a long time and is worth the investment. If you don’t have the cash to pay for a nice suit buy nice dress pants, a collar shirt and a nice tie. Business attire especially for men is no longer cookie cutter monkey suits so you have a lot to work with.

  10. OptiFuse Jim says:

    I worked my way through college selling men’s suits so I had the chance to learn a bit about what is a quality suit and what isn’t…

    A really good suit is made of fine quality material with good fabric cutting and stiching…

    Unfortunately…most low-end department stores have low-end mass-produced suits…

    The best deal by far is to visit your local Salvation Army or Am-Vets…there you will find 100’s of practically brand new suits that guys probably wore once or even never…try on the jackets to make sure that the fit in the shoulders and chest (a suit size is determined by measuring the size of the suit’s top button to button-hole)

    The real key to a good suit is the fit…so spend all of your money in quality tailoring…

    Figure this type of budget:

    $10-25 for the suit
    $10-20 to alter the length of the sleeves
    $10-20 to alter the collar (you don’t want it to bunch at the neck)
    $15-$25 to alter the waist and seat of the pants
    $5-10 to alter the length of the pants

    Total: $50-100 for a near custom-made suit of the highest quality material and cut…

  11. Cash Simpson says:

    Yea, this I believe only works at JAB. I worked in Mens Tailored Clothing for Macys and Robinsons-May (RIP) for about 7 years and there wasnt so much negotiating as there is you can work certain discounts with certain other discounts to get a great deal. If you know how to hit the clearance racks at the right time and have the right sale and right coupons you can get a Calvin Klein suit for around $100.

  12. krantcents says:

    I did this at a major men’s clothing chain about 35 years ago. I needed a lot of tailoring which required extra fees. They threw that in , some shirts and ties and knocked some off of the cost of the suits too. If you ask, you will be surprised what they will do.

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