Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BROWN: A game of saving and losing

By LINDA BROWN, Hold Me Up a Little Longer, Lord | 9/18/2013

Have you played the hot new game yet?

Well, actually it’s more than just a game — it’s almost an addiction for some, and for others it’s a sport.

Have you played the hot new game yet?

Well, actually it’s more than just a game — it’s almost an addiction for some, and for others it’s a sport.

It’s called “Stick It To Our Retailers,” and all America is loving it.

People of any age can play, but the game mainly is reserved for adults because you either need to argue really well or issue the death stare for an uncomfortably long time.

And, the nice thing about “Stick It To Our Retailers.” is its portability; you can literally play it anywhere — the local clothing store, jewelry shop, grocery store, car dealership — in fact, I’ll bet you could make your old granny real proud if you played the game with the funeral director when you’re making her final arrangements.

The object of the game, of course, is to secure what you want/need for less than the retailer’s listed price.

There are no rules. Feel free to use any words you want in any tone at any time; you need not wait until it is your turn to talk. Your request for a lower price need not be reasonable or justifiable. You deserve an adjusted sale price because the economy is still stinky, you’re on a fixed income, you overpaid last time you bought or any other reason you can think of.

A local woman even provides a weekly price comparison list for everything from soup to nuts. All you do to get a copy is provide her with your email address.

In an online Yahoo! Finance article earlier this month, Emily Graves, of rural Ottawa, better known to many as “the Comp List Lady,” was featured after being named “America’s smartest shopper” by All You magazine.

The article — using the results from a survey Graves conducted last year — said local people using her price comp list saved $9.6 million a year collectively. Wow.

I wonder what all that savings was spent on? Making the house payment, vehicle repair, a family vacation liberally sprinkled with Disney characters and sunscreen? I guess it could have been any of those things, but only the car repair would put any revenue back into the local economy.

Now, this $9.6 million “savings” becomes important when you remember no sales tax was paid locally on any of that money. That’s a missing $840,000 in sales tax revenue for Ottawa and Franklin County. I’m not personally familiar with the city or county budgets, but I’d say a missing $840,000 would eventually be cause for concern.

Oh, yes, I’m hearing you already.

“I need to save as much as I can.”

“I’m on a fixed income.”

“The retailers have been sticking it to us for a very long time. Now it’s our turn!”

I never said I was opposed to saving money. In fact, the Big Guy is a great couponer. We get the savings, usually doubled at our favorite place to shop, and the store gets reimbursed by the manufacturer as a reward for accepting the coupons.

I understand the panic behind “I’m on a fixed income,” but, honestly, who among us isn’t on a fixed income anymore? The old days of pay raises or getting a second job to make ends meet are pretty much gone.

And as far as the retailers sticking it to us for years ... that’s unfair and untrue. Nobody made you buy anything, ever. You always had the option of going to a different store, a different brand, something. No one held you hostage and made you overpay.

My point?

It might be prudent to not play “Stick It To Our Retailers” with such enthusiasm. When too many mad scientists start changing the chemistry of the local economy, goods and services we’ve grown to like and rely on start to erode and eventually fade away.

That might be something as personal as your favorite place to get coffee in the morning or something more public like road repair or fire protection.

There are consequences for everything in this world — even saving a buck.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

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