A Thousand Words on Shopping at the Outlets

Once a year I voluntarily head to the outlets with Kelly and we spend some time shopping together. This year we went as soon as the outlets opened, at 9 am, and already the temperature was close to 80 and humid. We took my in-law’s Prius. The Prius is a marvel of energy efficiency—if, that is, you can figure out how to start the thing. We had trouble and had to make a humiliating call for help from the garage. Not a particularly auspicious start to our morning of shopping together.

We arrived at the outlet mall, and found a parking spot in the shade. As we walked toward the outlets, I wondered if we’d manage to get the car started again.

At 9 am on a weekday, the place was pretty empty. Kelly had a plan, and I simply followed her lead. Our first stop was The North Face. I was excited because I have a North Face jacket, and I recognized the brand. We walked in and were assaulted by the air conditioning. Someone asked if they could help us. They couldn’t because apparently, the North Face did not have what Kelly was looking for.

Our next stop was Eddie Bauer. Kelly thought they might have the watch that I want. Why Eddie Bauer would carry an L. L. Bean watch is something that Kelly was not able to explain. We walked into an empty Eddie Bauer and a clerk said, “What brings you in today?”

Let me pause here for a moment to explain that on those rare instance that I do shop, I want to do my shopping in peace. I lost count the number of stores in which we were asked what we were looking for upon entering. I had no idea how to answer the question. Fortunately, Kelly did.

“Do you carry watches?” she asked.

“No,” the clerk said.

And we were out in a flash. We headed over to Gymboree, where our first purchases of the morning were made. There are elaborate sales at all of these stores, and I guess we saved some money. Kelly thought it was a good deal. It was hard for me to say. The signs are confusing. For instance, at Gymboree, the sign said ENTIRE STORE, $12.99 OR LESS.

$12.99 or less

When you look at the fine print, you see that it really isn’t the entire store. “Some exclusions apply.” What’s excluded? Is there a list?

The Nike outlet was more crowded, but we didn’t buy anything there. Instead, we headed over to the Bass outlet. I told Kelly I’d meet her inside. I wanted to take a picture of the sign outside the Bass outlet that indicated BLOWOUT SAVINGS

Blowout Savings

Because—naturally—exclusions apply.

I walked into the store to find Kelly. Before the air conditioning could hit me, a clerk rushed up to me, “Can I help you find something today?”

“Yes,” I said, “my wife.”

Next we walked into Fossil to see if they had any watches I would like. They didn’t. For some reason, non of Fossil’s watches had all of the Arabic numbers on the clock face. They either had twelve Roman numerals, or 4 Arabic numerals. They also had half a dozen other things on the watch that I had no need for. Fossil watches might be good, but they have pretty terrible UIs.

We went to Banana Republic, which is one of Kelly’s favorite stores. How we got out of that store without buying anything is something that I still don’t understand. I was amused, however, by their non-iron shirts, which, to my eyes, looked as though an iron would do them some good.

Non-Iron Shirt

At the Gap, I bought a pair of jeans. They were $60. But they were 50% off, meaning that they were only $30. I thought that was too expensive, but Kelly had a card that gave us an additional 30% off. That was confusing. Did it mean the jeans were 80% off (or $12); or was it 30% off whatever the 50% discount was (or $21). It turned out the jeans were $21, but I bought them anyway.

Let me take a moment to note that there was not one, not two, but three Sunglass Huts at this mall. Why three I can’t quite explain Two were relatively close to one another, and one was on the other side of the mall. I suppose with a name like Sunglass Hut, the stores have to be small. Perhaps if they rebranded to Sunglass Pavilion, they could afford a single store triple the size of the “hut” model.

In Ann Taylor’s Loft, Kelly scored a few t-shirts and a pair of sunglasses. These stores make seasonal pricing so difficult. There are signs all over indicating sales: 50% off, 30% off, etc. But the items are tagged with the original price, and all of the signs indicate that the “Reduction is taken at the register”. This makes sense. It avoids the need to reprice the items individually, but it complicates figuring out how much you’ll pay for your 2 t-shirts and sunglasses. Next time the Little Man asks why he has to do boring math homework, I’ll tell him it’s so that he can figure out the discount he’ll get when he shops at the outlets.

Our final destination was the Osh Kosh outlet. As we walked into the store, Kelly said to me, “Let me know if you see a 4T sweatshirt.”

I glanced at the dozens of clothing racks about the store, and replied, “That is a task that I have no idea how to perform.”

We made it out by 11:30 am, and Kelly was happy at how well-behaved I was. I didn’t complain once about shopping. Part of the reason is that I spent much of the time taking notes so that I could accurately render my shopping experience here on the blog for you.

I can’t believe it is over. I have to wait an entire year before I hit the outlets again. It’s hard to describe the feeling that gives me, but it is remarkably similar to the feeling I get when I leave the dentist after my semi-annual cleaning.