In late January I was interested in purchasing a suit. A regional department store was having a 50% off sale on men’s clothing so I thought I’d go take a look. I found a suit I liked which retailed for $795 less 50%. Once I had it fitted, I took the suit to the register where it was scanned and I was told the price was $39.

“What?” I was confused.

The store clerk proceed to explain a myriad of 50% off of 40% off of 70% off of 20% of the retail price less an additional 10% and on and on. The employee seemed a little embarrassed but was adamant the price was correct even though it was less than my alterations.

And then I turned and looked around the store. A Saturday afternoon with this kind of discount:


If this scenario occurred two years ago, it would have been like a scene from the movie the “300” with carnage and piles of bodies clamoring for the last suit on the rack.

And that’s what is wrong with the economy right now – it’s not all about price. It’s also about confidence.

I asked the clerk to hold the suit while I went and bought 4 more as well as other accessories for similar discounts. I ended up spending what I intended to in the beginning, but got about 20 times the merchandise.

As I walked out of the store, I felt miserable, convinced more than ever the wheels were coming off our economic wagon and that this type of discounting was not free – we would end up paying for it in other ways.

I have been including this experience into (aka weaving them into the fabric of – sorry) most of my speeches as of late because I think it captures the essence of what’s going on at the moment.

But I still like the suits.


  1. mapgirl March 9, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Why feel guilty that you got a good deal? They might have been losing money, but think of how much more they would have lost if you did not buy in volume.

    Yes, there is something structurally wrong with our economy, but if they met your price point AND you were getting value/utility out of it then what’s the problem? You didn’t create this situation single-handedly. (Or did you? winky)

  2. ARDELL March 9, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Sounds like a case of bad marketing. You didn’t know it was going to be $40 until you were trying to pay for it.

    Maybe no is there because the great deal is a big secret.

  3. L'Emmerdeur March 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan…

    slowly shakes head from side to side

    You tempt us with such information, but forget to mention which store has such deals so some of us can invade. Share the love!

    As a Greek whose momma hails from a village near Sparta, I promise to return from said sale with my shield or on it.

  4. Jonathan J. Miller March 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    L’Emmerdeur – I don’t want to spoil you – need to shield you from temptation. 😉

  5. Edd Gillespie March 9, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    “And that’s what is wrong with the economy right now – it’s not all about price. It’s also about confidence.”

    Respectfully—that is so much B.S. It is about price and it always has been, even when it came down to the price of funny loans. And to heck with consumer confidence being synonymous with frenzied spending. Find another name for it like consumer stupidity enabled by greedy banks with newbie quant metrics would you?

    I don’t know why your store is empty and can’t sell its suits, but you don’t have to feel bad about it nor should you. Give ’em a free appraisal.

  6. L'Emmerdeur March 9, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Jonathan, noooooooo!

    I lost over a hundred pounds in the last year (so my suits are all in the donation bag), I’m leaving my current job and I am about to start begging people for capital for my new venture… NEED CHEAP SUIT PLZ (I promise to keep the secret please please please you just want to make me beg because I accidentally stalk you in Grand Central).

    • Jonathan J. Miller March 9, 2009 at 11:04 pm

      Ok, ok. L&T in Stamford, CT. Ask for Vinnie.

      And remember to buy responsibly.

  7. Edd Gillespie March 10, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I need to be consistent if nothing else. Considering my response to the bank failure blog and your new comment about buying responsibly, I now think you should go back to the store and pay them a fairer price for your purchases. Take a paparazzi with you and send the story to the denizens of the secondary market.
    Maybe you can embarrass them into character improvement.
    Might make a good Obama story too. Another way to save the economy is to pay full price. Would that modify the Wal-mart effect?

  8. Madame X March 10, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Nice! I had a similar experience at Sports Authority recently– jaw dropping at the cash register, then running back to buy more! But the store surprisingly seemed no less busy than at other times…

  9. Jonathan J. Miller March 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Edd – you’re always thinking. 😉 I believe in mark to market so I accept the pricing but I still find it disturbing. That’s my only point.

  10. Edd Gillespie March 10, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    See how you are? Opportunistic albeit disturbed, but not so far to an admission of mea culpa.

    My bet. You will thrive during what ever economic thing we are yet to experience for sure. Well, at least you’ll have cheap (but of satisfactory quality I take it) suits.

    Why don’t you run a bank. I’ll trust you.

  11. Long Island Lost March 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Well, price is part of the problem. But, maybe (and this is truly frightening) people have decided they just don’t want anything. I don’t want much. And, as I age, I want less and less. I have always been extreme. I shudder to imagine a world where everyone was like me. (I would be unemployed).

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