Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Saving money' can be a really costly endeavour

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Editorial page

Never mind cures for all those deadly diseases out there... or a solution to global warming... or a way of putting humans on Mars. Truly, one of the great mysteries of the world is this: What do people do with all that stuff they buy at warehouse outlet stores?

I have yet to figure out why I would need a barrel of mayonnaise, a 20-pound bag of almonds, a case of toothbrushes or half an elephant turned into a delicious tractor trailer full of luncheon meat.

I mean, I could understand if there was an orphanage on every corner full of hungry children -- or if there was a convention of Tiger Woods's mistresses in town -- but there isn't. Who's going to eat all this stuff?

I'm not sure what that allure of these places is. Sure, there are some great deals -- even some fantastic deals -- but not everything is the best price. Their branding, however, makes you think that everything is a deal and that buying in bulk will always save you money. While this may be true in most cases, watching the sales flyers that come out every week can save you a lot of money, too.

I wish I had their branding. They insist that you pay a membership fee before even walking through the doors. And we do it! I do it, too! Then, we have to show proof that we're members and not some poor sucker of a non-member who wants to -- gasp! -- spend money in their establishment.

On our way out, for the privilege of having shopped there, an attendant then goes through our bags to make sure we aren't stealing anything. (All kidding aside, I really find this incredibly offensive. It's the only place I shop that assumes I'm a criminal before I even leave the store. At least the other places only assume I'm a criminal after I set off an alarm.)

So, not only do they make you pay before even walking through the door, they don't trust you on the way out, either -- all for the sake of saving money. Oh, and they don't just accept any payment, you know. It's either their own credit card or cash. Period. Thinking of saving money in addition to collecting points on your credit card? Forget it!

Now, don't get me wrong. It's definitely possible to save money in these places. Some of the deals are outstanding. In my own experience, I can certainly attest to the fact that over-the-counter painkillers, vitamins, cheese and many fresh grocery items are indeed an excellent deal. The only problem is trying to figure out to do with all the stuff once I get home.

If you're like me, you walk into these places with a list. You've been here before and know the dangers. Oh look! A package of a dozen gold necklaces! A crate of 1,000 rolls of toilet tissue! And enough salami to keep you in sandwiches until your daughter's wedding day -- a daughter who just started kindergarten, that is!

So I enter the store, walk around for at least an hour on cold concrete floors, fill my cart and head to the cashier, all with the goal of saving money. Despite my list, I invariably want to buy stuff I don't need, like the time I walked out with a box of 240 tampons. Haven't even used one of the ones I bought last time! And barring a really good surgeon (or a magician with a sick sense of humour), I won't be using any soon.

Even with my list, I see things that are such great deals that it would be insane not to buy them. So, as you've probably guessed, I leave the store with about triple what I expected to buy. By the time I get into the parking lot (having been checked at the door to ensure I wasn't stealing a crate of 100 computer keyboards), there are muffled cries coming from my wallet, which I discover is my debit card.

I open up my wallet and my debit card is wailing and screaming. "You told me you wouldn't do this again! I told you I was tired! Why did you do this to me?" Mascara-stained tears fall easily down its plastic surface. "Stop lying to me and telling me we're going to go save money somewhere when all you're really doing is spending 10 times more than you would have originally... and then you throw out half of it because you can't use it or it goes rotten in the refrigerator."

I like switching brands sometimes, don't you? I can't remember the last time I used the same brand of laundry detergent for more than a few months in a row. With all these "new and improved" products coming out, I want to try the next best thing. I don't want to be stuck married to a brand of laundry detergent only because it was on sale. I want to experiment. Is that so wrong?

That's the problem with these places. Sure, you can save money, but what if you're stuck with a mediocre product when something better is out there? What about all those poor advertising agencies trying to sell you something else? Hey, they need to eat, too, don't they? How can they make a living trying to convince you to buy Mama Cormier's oyster-flavoured ice cream when you already have a garage full of Papa LeBlanc's oyster-flavoured ice cream that you bought on sale at a warehouse?

All I know is that saving money has never been so expensive.

Next time I show up at one of these warehouse stores, I'm taking along a small amount of cash only and not spending a penny more than my budget.

Quite frankly, I can't afford to save all that money!

No comments: