Monday, April 11, 2011

How Did Discount Get So Difficult?

As an American, I always look for a deal. The problem is that I live in Italy where any discount is difficult to get, especially instantly.

To start, the official sale seasons are only twice a year: January into February and August into September. You have to wait a long time from when you first see those cute summer frocks in April and actually get them on sale! Then if you wait, sometimes you discover that the merchandise changes during the sale season. I have even been told by a saleswoman, in July for example, that a shop is expecting the arrival of their "sales" merchandise. What? Its arrival? Shouldn't it just be what I see on the shelves now, just at a lower price point? When I went back to see the "sales" merchandise, I realized that the "sales" products were either made with lower quality materials, such as thinner cotton for bed sheets, or included old merchandise, clothes from previous seasons and years.

Or then there is the repeat-shopper discount. If you buy, let's say, over Euro 50 in merchandise now, you get a coupon for a discount of Euro 10 on a second purchase of at least Euro 50 at a future date. This way they ensure that you come into the store twice and buy a minimum value of Euro 100 in the end. Buy what if I don't want to spend that much in their store or have the time to go back in 2 weeks to get the savings? I may be in mountains or sick at home, for that matter! Tough luck. No discount. Seldomly do you get the 20% right away if it isn't the official sales season. And this kind of sales trick is common at superstores like Interspar.

A third aspect of sales is when they really aren't sales. Some shops mark up their merchandise on the price tag so that when they apply the 30%, a typical initial sales season starting discount, the price looks like a deal when it isn't at all. Our local paper, Il Mattino, sometimes features journalists who hunt the town's window display prices before and after the first day of the sales season to see how honest everybody is being. An example, a pair of shoes retail for Euro 100. During the sales season, they mark the original price as Euro 130 with 30% discount, making the sale price Euro 100 (the same as before!).

All in all, we are all supposed to pay hefty retail prices for our merchandise or do a lot of work to get a discount. It makes life frustrating for someone who pays a mortgage, car payment and her taxes. I need some real sales, Italy! Give me a break!


  1. The desire for a good sale must be embedded somewhere in our American DNA. As much as I think I'm at home in Europe, it kills me to buy something when I know I could be finding a better deal back in the States. Must get over that one of these days...

  2. And this post comes from a girl, me, who has been in Europe off-and-on for 20 years. I need the bargains now more than ever, especially since pay is not great in the bel paese.

  3. Maybe it is a problem of larger city living as here as locals we can often get all sorts of discounts.

  4. LindyLou, A small town would probably be better, although throughout Italy chain stores are becoming the norm, and they lead to these strange sales schemes. In the family-run business, they know you are a regular, so they give you a discount every once in a while. I only get that treatment at the hair salon.