Looking Beyond Gimmicks in Sales

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Okay, here’s where I’m probably going to stray from the herd a bit, as I see many fellow Money-Saving-Mommy-Bloggers posting to the contrary here…  But I strongly feel that what’s being done in most instances is purely a marketing ploy to (duh!) get you in to their store, and to (double duh!) buy their products!  The current marketing trend is to advertise for “free”, very cheap deals, or even “money-makers” when paired with coupons.

Guess what, though?  I’ve fallen for it plenty of times.
You’ll see it in the sales circulars on Sundays, mostly for drug stores.  And each one calls it something a little different: Walgreen’s “Register Rewards”, CVS’s “Extra Care Bucks”, Rite Aid’s “Up Rewards”, and even Target with their “free gift card” offers.  I refer to them generically as “store bucks”, going forth. 
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these are bad, awful things that should be banned from existence.  However, it’s the way in which they are USED to lure you in to their store, and then to buy more stuff.  You, as the consumer, have to be careful and SAVVY when utilizing such deals!
For instance, let’s say one of the drug stores advertises a sale on toothpaste for $3.99 a tube.  (Gasp!  I would NEVER pay that much for such a product!)  The gimmick is that they’ll give you $3.99 in their store bucks if you buy the toothpaste, thus, making it “free”.  Ha ha!  There’s the kicker: it’s NOT free.  You still have to fork over $3.99 plus tax for the purchase up front.  Remember: the store bucks are for later purchases!  

To me, something is free if you pay nothing for it up front, or get your purchase price back in cash, NOT store cash! 
But let’s take this $3.99 toothpaste, and make it worth your while.  Add a $1 coupon to this deal.  Now you’re spending $2.99 and getting $3.99 in store cash.  (Many MoneySavingBlogs will call this a “money-maker” deal, since you’re getting back more than your spending.)  That makes it a little better.  Also, rarely will a coupon alter the amount you get in store cash.
Now, let’s say you have another item, coupons in hand, to purchase at that store.  -er, let’s say ….diapers.  These diapers are on sale for $8.99.  After purchasing the toothpaste, you then purchase the diapers in a separate transaction, and your savings will start to add up.  That’s $8.99 minus the $3.99 in store cash, and let’s throw in a $2 coupon.  You’ve just bought a pack of diapers for $3!  Not bad.
My point with the store cash is that you have to ask yourself if there are other items you would purchase at this store.  Keep in mind, too, that most store cash has an expiration date.  So, my advice is to plan very carefully if you wish to utilize a sale involving store cash, and try to use the store cash within the same visit, if possible.  Let the cashier know that you’ll be making multiple transactions, and carefully plan the order in which you make your transactions to maximize your store cash.
Pssst!  Guess what?  Enough people are either unaware of the store cash, don’t care about it, or forget about it and let it expire — that’s partly how the stores make their money off of these gimmicks!  This is why I stress the importance of trying to use the store cash within the same visit, or keeping the expiration date ingrained in your mind!
In sum, store cash is not a totally evil idea.  It’s great if you can use it to your advantage, keeping the following guidelines in mind: 
  • plan your purchases carefully, 
  • make multiple, separate transactions to maximize that store cash,
  • always throw in coupons, when applicable (did I really have to say that, though?),
  • try to utilize the store cash within the same store visit, or at least be mindful of its expiration date,
  • And finally, ALWAYS ask yourself if this is a product you would purchase otherwise, without the lure of the sale.
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