Monday, April 6, 2009

TheShopping Detective: The Ice Man Cometh

When I am not out on the road and blogging about my travels, I will try to write chapters I call THE SHOPPING DETECTIVE, LOOK WHAT I FOUND!

In most cases these will be about new merchandise and trends that I discover; sometimes there were be shopping tips...which is where we start today. Next up I will be reporting on The Boracho Chicken Machine (yes, I am serious about this!)

In the last few days, as I have returned to my home in San Antonio, I have devoted a lot of time to acquire a refrigerator since my last one was put to pasture when I rented out the house to a tenant who couldn't be parted with his own fridge.

Candidate number one came from Craigslist and was delivered to my kitchen for $250 with the guarantee that it has been working and if it doesn't work now, a refund would be mine. That was a bust so I am still waiting for the pickup and refund. But the owner was pleasant and willing and I expect a happy result here.

Then I went to Home Depot to begin serious research. Essentially, a new 22 cubic foot fridge (in biscuit) could be mine for $1100 and up; delivery would be made according to my zip code and the rotation of the delivery trucks. If I bought two GE appliances, I could get a $500 gift card to Home Depot. I was certain I did not need two more refrigerators. I wondered if I gave them the $250 used model if I could get a $250 gift card instead.

I went online, I clipped from the newspaper and searched out a brand new Sear's Outlet that my step-mother told me about. On the phone they told me they had 300 fridges and many were in biscuit. They were located in a strip mall I knew very well because there's a TJMaxx next door and a Wal-Mart behind. The space until recently was a Circuit City store.

We did the whole smart-shopping business routine: compare, search, touch, inspect, look for egg holders set into the door; butter dishes, etc. All of the merchandise in the store was 30-40% less than a new and similar product. However, they were all returns. Sears claims they have a liberal return policy-- no questions asked and the machine has been tested before it goes out on the floor.

This is a case of putting your values on the line and wondering just how good the light is in a showroom (not very is the answer)...or if a biscuit can be a lemon.

The side by side I chose (a Kenmore, Sear's private label brand) was delivered about two hours later by a private contractor. When he put it in place, he taught me a number of valuable lessons.

The new frigo (this is the French word for refrigerator and one I use because it's easy) was much more dented, damaged and scratched than the one I had inspected and I feared a bait and switch. The Gentle Giant (delivery man) told me he hears this all the time; he said that the routine in a store while appearing to be very efficient is meant to leave the perception that you have inspected when in fact, you've seen very little.

He said you should never buy anything from a warehouse situation without putting your own secret, private mark on it-- a mark that only you know about. He suggests that you always have a Sharpie or marker in your handbag and put a dot on the rear ...or do something so that you will know if you are taking possession of the exact same item you have purchased.

In the end, I decided that life was too short to fight City Hall. And a lovely, plastic egg holder had been thrown in to sweeten the deal. I arranged my collection of refrigerator magnets to artfully cover all the cosmetic damage and am glad to have saved $400 and had instant satisfaction.

But then we come to the question of the very basis of satisfaction. I was happy with the savings, happy with the quick delivery and willing to compromise in this imperfect world. Compromise is very much part of this equation.

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