How many times have you spotted a great deal online only to be disappointed or surprised by what you got? It's pretty common to open a package only to discover that the beautiful deep red color you thought you ordered is actually tomato orange, or the construction is flimsier than advertised, or the size is much larger or smaller than anticipated. Ugh!
I've been in the market for a treadmill for several months. I've read reviews on dozens of models in my price range, figured out that the top six treadmill brands are actually only made by two companies, and finally zeroed in on an affordable model with good reviews that met all of my criteria. The only thing left to do was to take the plunge and buy it. But even on the low end, a new treadmill is not so cheap and that's a lot of money to throw at something that's almost guaranteed to disappoint you.
Unless you showroom it first.
Showrooming is a relatively newish online shopping phenomenon in which shoppers go to a brick and mortar store to check out an item they want to buy, then go home and buy it online instead - presumably at a discount. Retailers hate it, and salespeople who work on commission really hate it, but when you're buying an item with a high degree of risk - like my treadmill - it can save you a world of heartache and a boatload of money all at the same time.
Here's my story. The Nordictrack T5.5 treadmill allegedly retails at $899.99, but treadmills are pretty much always on sale at Sears and I've never seen this particular model listed at anything more than $579. On the day after Christmas, the price was slashed to $479, and that was worth pouncing on. But I wasn't going to buy it without checking it out in person first, so I hit my local Sears for a test drive.
The price tag hanging from the handle bars was $579, a full $100 more than I'd seen online just a few hours earlier. When I asked the salesperson about the difference, she was quick to point out that $479 was a doorbuster price that had expired earlier in the day. I was disappointed, but walked away knowing that this was indeed the right treadmill for me.
Back at home, I looked it up online one more time. It was still listed at $479 on the Sears website.
I bought it immediately. In-store pickup was free, I applied a Sears promo code for $35 off $300, and paid with my Sears Mastercard for an additional 5% off. Final result? Buying online and opting for free in-store pickup saved me $156 over what I would have paid in the store, and I am confident about my purchase since I was able to try it out before buying.
Showrooming isn't just for big purchases. There have been countless times that I've spotted something I like in a store and immediately realize that I can get it cheaper online. There was one instance in which I hit up Macy's to try on a pair of Steve Madden shoes and then turned right around and ordered them online from Zappos. Macy's didn't carry the color I wanted - and I knew that before walking in the door to try them on.
Want to kick your showrooming up a notch? Take your mobile device with you. Stand next to the item you want to buy while comparing the online and in-store prices. Place your online order, apply a coupon code to get it cheaper than what the price tag shows, select in-store pickup to avoid shipping or delivery charges. Walk across the street for a cup of coffee and relax while waiting for the text or email notifying you that the object of your desire is ready for pick up.
Have you ever used showrooming to save money and get exactly what you wanted? Tell us your story in the comments!
Photo credit: bread and roses via Flickr. Some rights reserved
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