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Mystery Shopping 80% Off Rugs

The purpose of this article is to assist buyers in navigating the process of a "sale" rug.  Determine if negotiation is appropriate, and if all else fails, try the rug on approval and send in images and all information to our Rug Experts on the Forum.  Our purpose in mystery shopping is to assume the position of an average buyer:  Find gaps in seller strategy without needing any information about rugs.  If you want more information about negotiating, check out our article on bargaining.

A beautiful Sunday afternoon today here in NY, so we decided to take a drive down to a local retail showroom advertising a rug sale.  Just as we pulled in the lot, three cars passed by on the main road with gigantic signs fastened to their roofs:  "Rug Sale today, 80% off."  Looked exciting, and we were already there.  

First thing's first.  We give the vendor the benefit of the doubt.  Forget everything we know about rugs.  Well, at least "act the average Joe." We inspect the merchandise and make no eye contact (get into this in a bit).  We browsed rugs, got a feel for the goods and taste.  We listened to information as provided by the seller, then found a rug we "liked" and focused in on it.  Not the best strategy to focus in on one rug, but we wanted to get in and out quick for this one.

After finding a pakistani rug, we just let the seller talk.  I asked a few questions here and there, but really wanted to hear the pitch.

It was a great looking rug.  Had everything a buyer could ask for.  Decent tone-on-tone, decorator appeal, muted and subtle colors, good size, and a price tag of $24,245.  With their generous discount of 80% off this brought the final price to about $4,900.  Still a heavy hit, but what justified the 25 Grand?

Stop!"What is the $25,000 price tag mean? Have other rugs like this sold at the marked price?" I asked.  "That is the value of the rug.  The rugs do not sell at that price" He responded.  "If that is the value of the rug, but rugs have not sold for this price, would you stand behind that number as replacement in an insurance claim?"  I said.  "No." he replied  "We will stand behind the price you pay."

Background: Many sellers will represent a rug with a "retail price."  A retail price should be what a similar rug of that type, condition, quality, origin, etc. would have sold for in the past in a retail setting.  Anything exponentially higher is likely retail price inflation.  However, the interesting note by the seller is he would reinforce the price we paid.  This is called "Replacement Value" which may or may not be higher than a "retail price" depending on the rug and party involved. In this case, the two were one in the same, a further indicator of a mysterious "value" to take the 80% off.  Fun game.

After some friendly discussion based on his explainations, the seller and I agreed the numbers generated for the price tags were not to be used as an indicator for the value of his rugs: Despite the three cars circling our county with signs posted to the roofs entertaining the concept of 80% off.  The big plus in this mutually agreed conclusion:  We whittled out half of the bogus pitch which can be deduced and brought to light by any consumer.  We could now focus on the rug at hand.

"It's a rug from pakistan...  50 to 60 years old.  This one is a good one, and it will not go down in value" the seller stated. 

Nasty. Yet another few barriers.  A no more than ten year old Pak Peshawar with new aging techniques to make it look worn: Considered desirable and appealing to current demand. Unfortunately, as I told myself before walking into the store, I would not say anything about the rug from a rug man's perspective: I had to use leverage as a consumer to whittle him down more.  Use the information he provides.

"Please tell me, what is your return policy" I asked.  "All sales final" he responded.  My response: "If the value of the rug will not go down, would it not be in your best interest to let me try it for a few days?"  After some discussion, he agreed.

As stated before, I made as little eye contact as possible up to this point in time.  He had been talking the rug up a good amount:  Once you make eye contact during the sales pitch, it means he has your interest.  Turn this around when you want to lay it down.  Few words up until now, it's time to talk directly, and reinforce what you want and how you want it.   That's when you talk numbers.

No need in calling his claim, but I wanted to see if his price would talk louder than his words.  Believe me, $4900 for this rug was no bargain.  His position was the rug already had 80% off.  I continued to reinforce what we had already mutually established:  The magical and mysterious price printed on the inventory tag was not to be used as a bearing for what I pay.  And it shouldn't be for anyone.

After some additional negotiation, I took him down in price by $1,100 to $3,800.  I'm fairly well convinced if I had offered cash and pressed harder, another $700 to $900 was in well in sight.  I was somewhat surprised considering this was at a well known, upscale department store with a nationwide recognized name.  This is not your average place to bargain.  However, at $3,000 it would have been an appropriate sale price, and may even have suggested them as sellers had the representative been more forthcoming.

It seems to me one of the more common strategies practiced now when it comes to rug "sales," is for larger, otherwise trusted retail stores, to bring in an "outside" rug department.  "Outsourced" specialization and divisions within department stores is a great concept on paper, but with sub-par merchandise, and misinformation provided by the representative as noted above...  What is the average buyer left to do?

Try rugs on approval if you're not sure.  Bring it in home, see if you like it.  If the information matters to you regarding what the rug may be (and it should), bring it to our oriental rug forum.  One of our main goals is that consumers buy no rug under false pretense if we can help it. 

There are many, many good sellers who properly advertise rugs, don't hype up the merchandise, and with no need whatsoever to negotiate.  However, in instances such as above, this is a give and take process.  The seller is providing information, which should have value, and integrity.  However, the cards they lay out on the table don't add up or seem bogus, they may not be playing a fair game.  Either walk, or work with information you can leverage.  Put stress on the important aspects of a purchase. Within reason, you will get what you want, how yo

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