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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Sales fever

Every bargain hunter has a favorite time of the year: when their wallets get to loosen up a bit and they can scour both high and low for potential “steals.” Depending on the items they may be seeking, such occasions may occur at the end of the year near Christmas, around Thanksgiving (Black Friday) or at the end of each season.

It really varies by the company and the respective items, e.g. summer clothes will go on sale when it starts to get cold, but computers won’t have a reason to go on sale if the temperatures take a dip.

Regardless of when the sales take place, there is almost always a guaranteed frenzied flurry that will accompany said sale. You’ve no doubt heard of poor souls being trampled alive by a stampede of stirred-up shoppers seduced by sales.

I’ve now had people tell me that they’re too afraid to go out and camp for Black Friday, which is a somewhat understandable notion. I’ve done it in the past, but not quite for the sake of nabbing a sweet deal on an Xbox. It’s more of a bonding/“may as well try this once” sort of an experience if you camp out with a few close pals and brave the harsh local night conditions and stave off the onset of sleep.

Though I camped out for fun once, I cannot begin to fathom why some would bother camping out annually to pinch a couple pennies. It seems that people will go to great lengths just to get what they perceive as a deal.

What often ends up being the case is that an item is bought that the person buys on a whim, simply because it was marked 70 percent off! Like you’re really going to use that machine that molds your ice into spheres? I guess you can use it once to jazz up some Old Fashioned’s for your next “Mad Men”- themed party! And if you plan on throwing a whole bunch of “Mad Men”- themed parties, then you can probably put that machine to good use.

Every item has a specific demand curve. It’s difficult to quantify an item’s specific demand curve, but it can be mapped out over the course of its shelf life. Just so everyone can imagine, a demand curve, in its most pared down form, is simply a downward sloping line. The y axis being the price of the good and the x axis being the quantity demanded of the good.

Thus, at high prices, the demand for the specific good is low. Maybe a handful of people would be willing to pay that price, but others will only want said item at a lower price. Thus, as the price goes down, the quantity demanded increases, and we subsequently get the downward sloping curve.

It explains a little bit as to why people only tend to buy an item when it’s marked lower; but is the item even necessary in the first place?

My mom buys tons of junk. She buys cereals, bags of candy, snacks, chips, sodas, etc. at a really low price using her coupons. But nobody ever eats them! I end up gaining a couple of pounds every time I go home because she encourages me to eat the things we have lying around.

I’m her personal vacuum. She buys enough food to feed a family of seven, but we only have three people in our household. When I’m out here in Davis, the house shrinks to just my mom and dad.

I’ve bought my fair share of undesired things for the sake of saving and I’ve come to regret them. The other day I bought off–brand pickles because they were on sale. I didn’t stick with the classic Vlasic because my eyes were marred by the reduced price tag. The brine was lacking in that saline bite that I know and crave and now they’re sitting in the back of my fridge, entirely neglected. I make this mistake all the time with my grocery purchases.

We shouldn’t base our purchases solely on price tag. Sure, if it’s something that you want that’s on sale, then you’ve just scored yourself a sweet deal. But don’t convince yourself that you want the item simply because it’s perceived as cheap. There are even stores that say item X is on sale, but if you go to a different store, the very same item will have that sale price displayed as a regular, everyday price. It’s a marketing gimmick.

Waiting until the last minute to try to nab an item on sale is also sometimes a bad idea. It may sell out depending on whether everyone else will want one as well. It’s all about having a definitive understanding of what it is that you want in your life and what it is that you need.

ANDREW POH doesn’t know why he wrote this column now since there aren’t any sales during the end of February. If you know of any sales, however, let him know at apoh@ucdavis.edu.


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