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6 ways NOT to hold a successful close-out sale

“Wasted time is no bargain! I want those two hours back!”

Who hasn’t felt that way after attending a crowded close-out sale, particularly if the advertised bargains proved to be no great deals at all?

Something is definitely amiss here.

A group of us went to a widely promoted store-closing liquidation sale. We parked three blocks away and stood a line that wrapped around the building, waiting for the doors to open. We dug through piles of merchandise, hunting for sweet savings.

Alas, the shopping was basically a bust!

Sure, we picked up a few items, but we didn’t find any deep discounts. We can easily find better deals by shopping online and in big-box discount stores for similar items.

Store managers, are you listening?

After an informal survey (OK, I chatted up the crowds in the check-out lines), I can offer these six steps to surefire failure for stores offering close-out sales.

1. Go for the big bang with the old bait-and-switch trick.

The store hosting this particular sale practiced this ploy. Pre-sale promotional flyers announced that multiple vendors were offering exceptional merchandise. Upon arrival, we discovered the same old stuff they always stocked.

2. Offer minimal discounts on originally overpriced items.

Smart shoppers know the difference. A quick internet price comparison reveals the truth. Marking prices up – just to mark them down for a sale – does not work with savvy browsers.

3. Try to market poor imitation merchandise as premium products.

Who has an eye for quality? Experienced buyers can tell vinyl from leather, plastic from plywood and veneers from real materials. Customers checking labels and touching products are not easily conned into shelling out for fakes, even on sale.

4. Trim cashier staff before the sale.

A store-closing sale is not the time to cut employee hours. Even if super discounts abound, customers will not stand for standing in line for hours to pick up a few deals.

5. Proclaim in print that all items must go, but mark certain fixtures as not for sale.

Clothing racks, shelving units, file cabinets and furniture are often included in liquidation sales. Retailers who do not intend to market everything but built-in fixtures should not trumpet “Everything must go” in sale ads.

6. Tag the event as a store-closing sale, even if you’re not really closing for a while.

Who let the cat out of the bag on this one? How many marketers host store-closing sales to draw in past and potential customers, only to remain open after all?

Honestly. Do retailers really believe the public is clueless?

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Hey, Pandora! Are ad placements a crap shoot?

Perhaps plodding along on parched pavement makes me punchy. Even so, as I staggered to log a few sweltering running miles yesterday, I had to laugh.

As I jogged, I was enjoying an upbeat variety of sweet, uplifting songs, piped by Pandora through my headphones. I happened to be listening to their Christian Praise and Worship channel.

Then something struck my funny bone.

In came the ads, every few songs. First it was a car commercial, followed by a spot for a regional grocery store chain. But then the irony crept in, as I heard one for paid online slots and another for an area casino.

At this point, I gotta admit it. I am a Christian, and I have been to a casino. 

I went with a friend a few decades ago. I also know a few Christians who play paid slots online. But not many. On the other hand, plenty of Christians say they are ideologically opposed to gambling. Take it or leave it, they just don’t love it. 

Hey, advertisers. Demographics are everything.

Again, I’m not saying no Christians ever play slots or go to casinos. Just thinking this is sort of curious promotional positioning. Advertisers who want the biggest bang for their advertising bucks tend to evaluate audiences carefully. Some hire market research analysts to study possible targets for their campaigns.

Listening to gambling ads on Pandora’s Praise and Worship channel sort of feels like hearing All-You-Can-Eat Buffet ads on the Extreme Workout channel, ski vacation ads on the Summertime channel, or divorce attorney ads on the Love Songs channel. It just sort of stops you in your tracks for a moment.

Then the music resumes, and you’re up and running again.

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I misplaced my mom, but it’s OK.

Actually, she sort of ran away. Nah, she pretty much power-walked at a full clip. And I totally started it – or so she said.

We were making our way through one of those giant big-box mega-discount department stores. We had walked up and down multiple aisles, picking up essentials and scratching them off the shopping list.

And then it happened. My Fitbit activity tracker went off, informing me that I had met that day’s step goal.

“Brrrip. Brrrip.” The thing vibrated on my wrist. And Mom noticed. I saw her glance at the similar device on her own wrist and frown.

There it was. The proverbial gauntlet fell to the ground. And Mom picked it up and ran with it, so to speak.

“Why don’t you take the cart and get in the checkout line, while I take a few spins ‘round the store?” my mom chirped. “My Fitbit didn’t go off yet.”

Did I mention my mom is in her mid-80’s?

I wheeled the shopping cart into one of the cashier lines. Several minutes ticked by, with no sign of Mom. So I did what any reasonable, mature adult daughter would do. I texted my teen at home.

“I think I’ve lost Grandma,” I typed. “She’s clockin’ some more miles in the grocery store to set off her Fitbit.”

I half-expected to hear a store-wide public service announcement:

“Speed-up on aisle four.”

Just then, my cell phone rang. It was my teen.

"Where's Grandma?"

Maybe I should mention that Mom did turn up a few minutes later, still frowning and claiming that her Fitbit must be broken.

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Rib cracked, windshield intact

File this one under the Am-I-the-Only-One-This-Stuff-Happens-To department.

Nope, it wasn’t a moving violation. But it hurt. (Don’t laugh. Ouch. I bet you just did.)

I had just returned from a dusty road trip to a horse expo, driving through woodsy areas and plenty of mud. The windshield displayed more bugs than a science fair presentation on entomology.

Trust me. It was gross.

Coming home to an unseasonably warm spring day, I decided to unpack and then wash my car in the driveway.

I dragged the garden hose out. I soaked and soaped and scrubbed and rinsed. The entire car sparkled – except the insect-spattered windshield.

So I grabbed the picnic cooler (which was still full of weekend refreshments) and slid it over next to the car. I picked up a spray bottle of window cleaner and a couple of rags. I climbed on the cooler and started working on that windshield.

And I slipped.

The hood of the car broke my fall … and cracked a rib. I knew it right away. I’ve broken ribs before, and there is nothing like it.

Gasp! Sputter! Groan!

It only hurts when I lift heavy stuff … or laugh … or breathe too deeply … or try to sit up straight … or roll over in the night … or …

The scorecard now reads:  Windshield 1, Rib 0

Now I’m off to buy a lightweight stepladder - and maybe come up with a better (or cooler?) story to go along with the rib injury.

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Happy Easter! Who wants to try the ‘Daddy-Is-a-Dentist Cake’?

Easter is one of our favorite holidays. In fact, it might be my own personal top pick.

First, the actual meaning of this Resurrection Day celebration is why I live. Second, I love how Easter seems to usher in the actual coming of spring, regardless of when the calendar says the solstice actually takes place.

And finally, Easter baskets filled with tasty treats are always a fun surprise, even if they mark the end of the Halloween / Thanksgiving / Christmas / New Year’s / Valentine’s Day / St. Patrick’s Day food orgy.

But is it possible to take the sweets craze a little too far? (Don’t answer that.)

Put down the Easter Marshmallow Bunny Peeps for a moment, and take a peep at this thing.

Now, ‘fess up. Who’s rushing to the store to buy Easter Marshmallow Chicks Peeps and M&M's Chocolate Candies Bunny Mix and make this candy cake? And who’s trying to grab a late spring appointment with the dentist?

Happy Easter! Who wants to try the ‘Daddy-Is-a-Dentist Cake’?
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