- Bargaineering - http://www.bargaineering.com/articles -

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

This 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 [3].

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 [4].

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 [5].

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 [6]:

“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 [7]. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

(Credit: karsten.planz [8])