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Why Macy’s Sales Never End

You may have seen the latest television commercials for 20% off in “Macy’s Men’s Wardrobe Sale” or read about 50% discounts in “The Hot Home Sale” or maybe 10% off in the “Furniture & Mattress Sale.” Or how about Macy’s “Hot List Sale,” the four-day sale specials? They sound difficult to resist, don’t they? While other department stores like Neiman Marcus pulled back from having too many recession era sales and consumers tentatively started to spend again, Macy’s sales go on and on, and on… They are the sales that never end.

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It raises many questions. When is a sale not a sale, and when do sales prices actually become standard prices? And, for bargain-loving customers, when are enough brash sale advertisements … enough?  (Oddly, men’s short-sleeved polo shirts are classified as “everyday value” non-sale items.) Pay Dirt asked Macy’s if department store credit card holders are being lured by these so-called sales or have trouble adjusting to non-sale items. “Not necessarily,” says Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski. “Consumers love sales and they love coupons.”

We’re glad he brought it up. The latter are even trickier than the former. Coupons, which come with an expiry date, are another Macy’s staple. Some need to be used with a Macy’s store credit card – which carries a staggeringly high 24.5% APR – and others without. Of course, if you don’t pay off your card on time, the “sale” discount is wiped out by the punitive interest rate. Macy’s doesn’t release statistics on how many customers don’t pay off their cards on time, but Sluzewski says that roughly 50% of all Macy’s customers use store cards.

As with most credit cards, customers must pay their bills 25 days after the close of each billing period on purchases to avoid paying interest and Macy’s starts charging interest on cash advances on the transaction date. Pay Dirt’s tip: use your coupon to pay for money-off items that you actually need – and not because they’re on sale … again – then pay off the purchase price in cash on the spot. Sluzewski insists that Macy’s sales and coupon policy hasn’t changed since the recession and describes Macy’s as a “promotional store.”

“I’m really surprised they said that,” says Jeff Green, an independent retail analyst based in Phoenix, Arizona. “What’s the difference between a promotional store and an off-price department store like T.J. Maxx?” But even an industry veteran like Green is unsure whether Macy’s never-ending sales make him spend less or more. “They’ve trained me to spend less money, well, maybe more money. Do I end up spending more or less? I guess I end up spending more than I might have because I end up getting quantity at a perceived value.”

Calling all Macy’s store card holders: do you find you’re getting more coupons in the post?

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    • If you get a discount using your Macy’s card there’s only one way to do it right. Use it. Get your discount. Then immediately tell the cashier. “I want to pay off my bill”. I’ve been stung too many times to let that debt ride.

    • The Social Security Trust Fund is not broke. It contains salomt 2.3 TRILLION dollars in IOUs from Congress. They have spent the money from our retirement, left a pile of IOUs, and when it comes time for us to collect, they say too bad, suckers.

    • I would like to point out my love for your kindness in support of men and women who actually need help with this important concept. Your very own dedication to getting the message all over ended up being pretty interesting and have continuously permitted men and women much like me to get to their pursuits. Your own insightful advice denotes this much a person like me and further more to my office workers. Warm regards; from everyone of us.

    • Macy’s has it wrong. You walk out feeling frustrated/left money or a deal on the table.

      Kohl’s has it right. You see the sale clearly marked and then get to the register where they tell you it’s even cheaper than that 50-70% of the time. You walk out happy having spent even less and spread the word. And most important you go back.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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