2007年01月20日

A question of price

This year, I've only bought two items on sale so far.

And not on the 2nd, when all the stores start their beginning-of-the-year bonanzas. In fact, I wouldn't have bought anything at all this month, had it not been for the fact that I needed to take one of my skirts in to be repaired. The label where I'd bought the skirt just happend to have started their sale on the day I went, and I was able to pick up some very nice items.

I've basically sworn off sales for two reasons.

The first is that I don't like crowds; I get enough of them every morning during my commute.
Last year, I stopped by Mitsukoshi in Ginza with my family on our way back from visiting some shrines in Tokyo. It was bedlam. Long lines for the dressing rooms, and clothes piled haphazardly on top of the shelves---it was enough to make me think: "Never again." I may have gotten too used to shopping during the day on weekdays, when I am often the only customer.

The second reason is that while I was weeding out my closet the other day, I realized that all the clothes I don't wear often enough were ones that I'd bought on sale. In other words, I've made some very bad decisions when shopping at sales in the past.

When an item is on sale, and you see words like "50% off", the bargain may seem like something that is too good to pass up. This can lead you to buy it even if you don't really need it. Add to that the fact that even if it's slightly too tight, or too long, or too flashy--i.e. less than perfect--you might still rationalize the purchase with the words: "But at 50% off, you can't really complain."

Case in point: I bought a dress on sale the summer before last, because it fit well, and because, well, it was 70% off. It was actually a little too long for me, but at 70% off, I didn't really care. Unfortunately, on every occasion since that has called for a dress, I've tried it on and decided that it was too long. So after over a year, I have yet to wear it at a real party. I'm seriously considering giving it to one of my sisters, who is 10 cm taller, about the same size, and probably can't afford nice dresses at the moment.

The items in my closet that do see heavy duty are mostly those for which I've paid full price. Because when something IS on the pricey side, it forces you to really think about things like whether you really need it, and how badly you want it. So even if it seems like an expensive purchase in the beginning, I'll get my money's worth and then some in the end.
I'm reminded of a Frenchwoman who once famously proclaimed that she wasn't rich enough to afford cheap things.

So, even when the salesperson told me that the skirts and dresses on one wall had been marked down just that morning, I told myself that I wouldn't buy anything unless I fell in love with it. And I bought a skirt there only because it fit so perfectly that I would gladly have paid full price for it. A true bargain indeed.
(I visited several other labels on my way out, but only bought one more item, since all the other clothes failed the "Would-I-have-bought-it-at-full-price?" test)


I think the same principle can be applied to services like English lessons.

One might decide to take English lessons at a certain school, not because they needed to study English, or because they really liked the school, but simply because the lessons were so cheap that it seemed like a shame to pass on such an opportunity.
I doubt that such people are ever satisfied. Even if they are unhappy, they will probably tell themselves that they got what they paid for, and not really try that hard. And indeed, the schools that get the most complaints seem to be those that charge the lowest prices.

On the other hand, higher prices usually force people to stop and ask themselves: "Do I really need to study English?" "Is this school really right for me?" And if they answer yes to both questions, chances are that they will be motivated to try and get their money's worth out of the lessons.

I'm not saying that low prices are bad, and high prices are good.
Even at schools that tout their low prices as a big selling-point, there are plenty of people who derive great satisfaction out of the lessons because they feel that the school is right for them.

What I'm trying to point out here is that while price may be a deciding factor, I don't think it should ever be the deciding factor. And words like "discount" have the unfortunate effect of making one forget that crucial fact.

A fact that I hope to keep in mind whenever I see the word "sale" this year.
posted by EnglishMaster at 21:40| Comment(0) | TrackBack(0) | 日記 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする
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