Utterly and shamelessly crass, yes: Every consumer knows it.

But who can resist its allure?  Especially in the post-holiday season of clearance and close-out sales?

Few can resist, of course.  Even a calloused un-shopper like me occasionally succumbs to the excitement struck by endless rows of racks, counters, and shelves plastered with signs exclaiming  “CLEARANCE!”


Hark! The herald clearance signs proclaim “Spend!”

So how smart was my clearance shopping venture yesterday?  I brought home four pieces of snazzy athletic wear, for which I paid an average of $9.99 each.

(Time out: Whatever is the psycho-magic of $9.99 as a sale price?  An entire penny less than $10—-What savings!)

All four pieces showed their original retail value, ranging from 32.50 to 49.95.   The full retail value of the purchase in an earlier pre-discount season, in other words, was about $150.  I paid less than a third of that amount!

So who’s the smarter at the end of the day?  The retailer captured pennies on the retail dollar by persuading me to hand over forty-something dollars for four pieces of clothing that I don’t need. On the surface, I saved about $90!  But truthfully, neither my happiness nor my want, much less my need, depends on my having those goods.

I am sure the retailer is pleased to have my forty-something dollars in exchange for my taking those items off of the store’s cumbersome, post-season inventory.  But if I “saved” $90, does the retailer feel like he “lost” $90?

I doubt it.  If I saved $90, my bank account balance shows $45 less.  And if the retailer lost $90, his ledger is also $45 better off as he profits from the $45 cash flow garnered by my visit to his clearance sale.

Yep, the year-end clearance sale is free enterprise at its zaniest perfection.  Whether it’s win-win or lose-lose for consumers or retailers hardly matters.  I kind of think its both.