Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bargain hunting

Are you are fool if you pay full price?

I say: not necessarily. I'd pay not just full price, but almost any price if I could secure a seat for myself (or someone dear to me) on the last flight out of a town when the tornado, tsunami or lava-flow is approaching fast. Wouldn't you? I mean, you wouldn't try to haggle with the pilot - or would you?

I think there are some things that warrant paying full price. For instance, I'd want my engagement ring or wedding ring to be bought for me at the proper price, and not with 50% off. It's supposed to be a token of love, a sign of the highest esteem. So to me, a cut-price ring would imply that I'm not worth paying full price for. It's cheapening. It demeans the significance of the ring. Better no ring, than one that was important mostly because it was a marvellous bargain.

Circumstances matter, of course. If money were tight, and this 'bargain ring' were in fact the best affordable, then even though it were a bargain it would be an honourable (and possibly even a sacrificial) purchase. And to me that would mean an awful lot.

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, of course, but you mustn't think that I expect them. Indeed, if I ever pair-bonded with someone, no special token would have to be bought. I'd consider making something with my own hands instead, not worth anything much, but of extraordinary sentimental value. I should mention here that my current jewellery collection is small and unimpressive. It doesn't contain gold or diamonds. Only silver stuff. And one nice string of cultured pearls that I bought with my own money - at full price. They cost a few hundred pounds only, but were expensive by my standards, and I value them highly because I paid the full price. I would feel differently about artificial pearls, even if they looked identical. I would also feel differently about pearls that 'fell off the back of a lorry'.

I'm giving you a very personal point of view. I doubt if many other people will agree with me. For most, it seems, getting a bargain in all circumstances is a basic principle. Why waste cash? And I wouldn't disagree if it's a simple matter of replacing a humdrum home appliance.

But I still think there's more to it than just the price. Style, quality, suitability, buying convenience, after-purchase pleasure - all these also have a bearing on whether something is worth it. If a purchase doesn't make sense, perhaps because the specifications are not right, I won't go ahead. I'd like to think other people feel the same way. I certainly know of some like-minded people like me, past and present. But maybe we are in the minority.

There are clearly people who are obsessed with looking for bargains, and buy them, even when not driven by need. They must surely regard bargain-hunting as a sport, and the goods as trophies to prove they are champion shoppers. 'We never use this machine, it's in the way really, and we didn't need it, but it looks great and we got it at half price!' Wow. A pastime then for those with too much money? Or too much addicted to owning things, or to the thrill of hunting them down, or for whom surrendering to impulse is a delicious emotion? Take your pick.

People do make such a big thing about having an eye for a bargain, making it the sign of a proper and worthy person. Now I object to this. I am not daft or mentally deficient if I have personal reasons for passing up a cut-price offer, or for avoiding the Sales in town. It's just a choice. I hate crowds and hassle, for one thing. Nor is being a champion consumer a badge of excellence. Expert bargain-buyers certainly display positive skills and qualities - alertness, energy, nous, canniness, persistence, assertiveness, willingness (and ability) to haggle, tirelessness, and so on. But that doesn't make them better people, nor even nicer people.


  1. Haggling, no! Crowded sales,no! Careful and canny shopping for what I need and want when the price is right, yes please.

  2. Lucy -

    I'm torn... I wouldn't want to be seen as deserving only a "Bargain" ring or other token of love. But, on the other hand, I wouldn't want someone spending money (at full retail price) on something excessively overpriced to show me that I'm loved.

    So, where does this leave me? I take the position that it is a person's actions that tell you that you are loved, and not what is spent on you. Look at the little details - is the door opened for you? Are the little headaches removed from your path in life? Is that person there for you when you need that person most? Goods like diamonds are easily bought. But true love and caring is hard to find, and it shows itself only in subtle ways....


  3. It was a very hypothetical notion, Marian, my wanting a properly expensive ring! In fact, I've no intention whatever of remarrying and the issue will not arise. I agree that actions speak louder than shop receipts.



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