When we were selling our house in Edmonton, we went through the retail mating ritual of offer -> counter offer -> counter counter offer -> bottom line response -> desperate ‘one more try’ counter offer -> ‘fuck off’ response. We blogged then about how much we hated bargaining, and how we wondered if Waggans bargained.
Well, we are here to tell you that yes, bargaining is alive and well in Wagga’s retail sector but it is a little bit different than you might expect. In most sales transactions, in Canada at least, there is a retail price. The buyer might offer something less (say, when buying a car), the vendor might counter with something a bit higher, buyer comes closer to that price…eventually, the two parties reach an agreeable price. Or, of course, there is the more sane “this is what the price tag says, PAY IT” model. If you go to Sears, that’s how it works. Here in Wagga, a different story. The posted price is NOT the real price; you will pay less, dammit! No questions, now. You’ll pay what we tell you and it will be less than what we first said you would pay. And oh yes, it’s all in – no taxes on top and you may or may not need to pay delivery. They really take this whole “no worries” thing to the extreme!
Case in point: we needed to buy a few household items for our new rental (a fridge, a washer and dryer, a vacuum, a television, a bed, some bar stools, and an iPod doc for Lisa’s office). Dan was given the task of scouting out stores, comparing brands and prices, assessing delivery charges, etc., and choosing what he thought would be best choices. Not willing to then make the final decision on his own (note from Lisa: smart man!), we would go in together to look at the item and make the final purchase. In most cases, we bought what Dan found.
The Wagga version of bargaining is this: go into store, discuss item with sales person, look at posted price (that is usually already a ‘sale’ price…the Canadian fair advertising bureau would have a field day here!), and say you are interested. Sales person will then say something like “Righty-O mate, I’ll see what I can do.” He/she then walks away, comes back a minute or so later, and offers an even lower price. You don’t even have to bargain! They do all the work for you. Often, you get to the checkout and the price is lowered again. Or, if you decide to add another item to the shopping cart, there are more deals to be had.
Take shopping for a BBQ as one example. Dan did his homework and brought Lisa into the shop for the final decision process. Since it’s winter here in Australia (far too cold for BBQing, since it’s only 15+ degrees!), there aren’t many in stock; however, there are quite a few “stocktake” (think Boxing Day in July) sales and last year’s models on offer. This is great for us! So, we choose one of the “last in the store” discounted models, only to have the salesperson then give us a deal on accessories and a free tank of propane. The next day (when the patio temp was 20+ degrees) we returned to buy a small patio set, which serves dual purpose as a makeshift kitchen table right now. The same salesperson immediately went to find the owner, who “threw in” a small side table, on top of the deep discount for buying last year’s patio set. We’re happy to help, but not sure how this is good for business. Loyalty? Yes! Mass profits? No!
But back to the washer/dryer shopping excursion… That was a fun trip! We had received lots of advice from M&H about what stores (and websites) to roam for the best prices on “white goods” (what the Aussies call appliances). So, Dan was well armed with all of the latest stats, prices, etc. He is now, officially, an expert on all things related to home appliances (note from Dan: H&J, if you’re reading this from Alabama, buy a condenser dryer; they don’t need to be vented to the outside, they are easier on your clothes and great for hot/humid climates). We desperately needed a fridge to be delivered on move-in day, so that was priority one; a washer/dryer would be good, too, if they could arrange for everything to be delivered. Other items (vacuum, TV, IPod doc) could wait for a bit. On his first excursion, Dan experienced one of the most interesting things about this process; the salesperson answered questions very knowledgeably (coming from Alberta, this is a big deal!) and provided a written (and signed!) quote. This made comparison shopping really easy. When we both visited the store later, to make our purchases (quote in hand), the salesperson was busy with another client. But, no worries – another salesperson, not responsible for that section of the store, stayed with us and also answered questions about the products. What? Do they train these people or something?.
On our way to the checkout (yes, they walk you there; another person takes your money, while your friendly salesperson waits with you and chats about skiing in Canada), we decided to peruse the vacuums. Friendly salesguy talked us OUT of buying the more expensive model we were considering, in favour of a more powerful, less expensive item; when you have 3 cats, vacuums are important – but friendly salesguy asked us about our needs and found the right one for us. Then, he started dropping prices. He knew that he could go at least $75 down; then he left to get a better price. While typing away on the computer he realized that the price was even lower, so we got that price, instead. Now, you may be thinking… ‘wait, all they’ve done is jack up the prices to PRETEND to give you a discount!’ Silly Canadians (and other cynical readers)… that’s just not so! We really did our homework (note from Lisa: yes, I checked all of Dan’s work before heading to the stores; duh!), only to find that they wanted to give us even lower prices. This is all very good… but very strange, nonetheless. Now we wonder, how low would the prices go if we actually participated in the bargaining?
I’d say your experience is a testimony to just how dead retail sales in Australia are at the moment – retailers are desperate to sell ANYTHING at the moment, especially big ticket items like whitegoods. Aussies just aren’t spending at the moment. I suspect the problem is even worse in country towns like Wagga – hence the fawning attentions of staff and offers to throw in their first born child with your barbie!
Luckily noone offered a child with an appliance. That would have sent us running to another store.