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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Frugal Friday--Take advantage of loss leaders

What is a loss leader?  Those are the flashy super sale items like I mentioned in this week's ads at the new Randall's location.  Specifically, the Blue Bell ice cream for $2.99/half gallon. That's a pretty impressive price  considering that it normally sells for almost $6 for the same sized container.  Anyway with a loss-leader the store is willing to take a 'loss' on that 'lead' item in the ad in the hopes that it will increase traffic in their store and that while you are there, you will do the rest of your shopping too.

Usually the better the loss-leader, the less you want to wander the aisles of that store picking up regular priced items because they will be working at making up the loss they took on the ice cream, or whatever, in the other items that wind up in your basket.

There are usually limits on the really great deals because the grocery store doesn't want to completely lose their shirt on the deal.  I have no issue with the company making a profit (this is still America) so hopefully they have a smart analyst sitting in a room somewhere making a forecast about how many containers of ice cream they would sell in a twelve hour period and what they would make up in additional sales.  However, I don't have to be one of those 'extra shoppers'.  I like to line up in the savvy-shopper-who-will-make-a-swing-through-a-convenient-location-for-a-few-items column on their forecast.

So how can you make sure you disciplined about it?  Well you can refer back to last week's tip about paying cash for your groceries.  In fact this could be your first foray into that experiment.  You know you can only buy two containers of ice cream, and they are $3 each, so since groceries aren't taxable, walk into the store with $6 cash in your pocket.  Leave your purse in the trunk (safety first :)), go get your delectable dessert, pay and leave.  Ba-da-bing.  

If you are well trained like C, you will know that you can take a buddy, or your wife, into such a sale and double dip (ha ha).  You can each have $6 in your pocket, you both get to take advantage of the deal, but to make it look less conspicuous you get in different lines.  Pay for your items, exit stage right and know you got a great deal.

Ok, they don't have Bluebell up in StL, but I did hear a story from them about how they took advantage of a whole chicken sale in a similar way.

If your kid is old enough, like 10 or so, you can also send them through a line with their share of the items and cash in their pocket.  I'm pretty sure that's where C learned the trick when buying chickens for the school carnival back in the day.  However, it is quite suspicious when your kid is yelling at you over the candy racks about what to do next.  You'd think that they'd pay attention every Saturday when you drag them through the process.

He's long since redeemed himself in the store.  Like the time all the new UT freshman were crowding up the aisles at HEB Hancock shopping for the first time without their mothers.  Honestly, they were just under foot.  C turned and looked and me and said, "Mom, I will never embarrass you like that.  I will know what to do when I go to college."  I think he was 14 or so.

Oh yes, back to the point...

The best time to go and take advantage of a loss leader is early in the morning before the full-list shoppers get in there.  Supplies are usually at their peak early in the morning.  You'll have the best selection of flavors/sizes before everyone and their brother gets in there.

Usually stores don't offer rain checks on loss-leaders so when they are out, you're out of luck.

While the second mouse might get the cheese, the early bird still gets the ice cream.

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