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Power up your sales lingo

It's your first visit to Dotty Dinah's Discounteria, and you've struck major pay dirt. Your two favorite brands of control-top pantyhose -- Gird Your Loins and Yank 'n' Yip -- are here, marked down to $1.99 per pair.

Thing is, the Girds are marked "irregulars," and the Yanks "seconds." At this price, you don't mind a little imperfection; you'd just like to know which is the least seriously flawed and the better deal.

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Or perhaps you're a guy who's stumbled across a display of "special purchase" Hubba-Bubba boxer shorts. Is it special for me or for the store?

If you've felt similarly clueless at times, welcome to the club! Fact is too many terms of the trade are never explained, and consumers often wind up going for broke on items that, to add insult to injury, are likely to be unreturnable.

Since knowledge is power, and an informed consumer is less likely to spend superfluously or to be bamboozled, we offer this glossary of sales lingo.

Irregulars or imperfects: These two terms are interchangeable, and denote goods that don't meet the manufacturer's standards for quality. However, their imperfections in color or construction -- a not quite perfectly matched seam in an undergarment, for example -- are almost always too trivial to be noticed, or to affect wear or performance.

Seconds: Merchandise that is more extensively or apparently flawed than irregulars and imperfects and should be more deeply discounted; at least upwards of 50 percent.

List price: The price established by the manufacturer. Don't be overly impressed with stores that price items below list, since doing so is an exceedingly common practice. Hold your applause until you see hefty double-digit discounts.

Comparable value $ ... : What the retailer considers the merchandise to be worth. This does not mean the item ever did, or ever will, sell at that price. All in all, this is a comparatively unscientific term and shouldn't bedazzle you.

Factory outlet: This type of establishment sells merchandise directly from the maker to you. Prices are generally well below normal retail, because any costly middleman has been eliminated. Styles may not always be hot off the runway, but this is a trivial consideration to the many canny consumers who flood outlets.

Special purchase: Items that were purchased in substantial quantity by the retailer from the manufacturer for a discounted price -- with at least some of the savings passed along to shoppers.

Liquidation sale: Now we're talking extreme savings. A liquidation sale is generally held by a store going out of business in order to completely unload stock. Discounts often start at about 30 percent and go up to 75 percent and more, as the store counts down its final days. Note: Various state and local laws may regulate going-out-of-business sales. For example, there can be a limit as to how long a store may lawfully hold such a sale. If you're thinking of taking advantage of a local business' "Everything must go!" sale, and the store's been "going" for about 10 years, you might want to think again.

Close-out sale: Another potential for major savings. In this case, the retailer gets a deal from the manufacturer on discontinued items, and passes some of the savings on to consumers.

Clearance sale: Generally signals a retailer's need to "move" one season's merchandise to make room for the next. Savings, which can range from moderate to significant, will usually reflect how much unsold merchandise the retailer needs to move out -- and how quickly.

Sample sale: Nope, sorry, you can't get any samples here! However, you can easily score savings of 50 percent or more on fashions that designers used for showroom exhibit. The sales are often held at these showrooms.

Floor models: These aren't mannequins lying down on the job. The grittier reality is that these are items that were used for retail display or demonstrations -- and while they may be none the worse for wear, they are, or should be, marked down. Depending on condition, discounts can range from 10 percent to the-sky's-the-limit. (If you're aware that a purchase you're considering is a retired floor model and you're not offered a reduction -- speak up!)

Twofer: Don't be fooled that a store offering two items for $10 means you can purchase one for $5. Often there is a premium for just getting one -- so ask before you shell out. And don't fall into the trap of buying more than you need to take advantage of a twofer sale. Anything you really don't need is no bargain at all.

The musical mystery "2": This number imprinted on the back of a guitar means there's a slight blemish in the wood that shouldn't affect performance. It also means savings of about 15 to 20 percent.

-- Posted: March 19, 2004




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