Outlet Malls: Are They a Bargain?

2/22/2002

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If you're looking for huge discounts and great deals, you may want to join the millions of consumers who travel hundreds of miles by car and bus just to shop at factory outlet malls. According to Consumer Reports magazine, last year an estimated 55 million Americans traveled at least 200 miles, round trip to shop at outlet malls. Outlet malls are a collection of company-owned, company-operated "factory stores" that sell their own goods for less than full retailand have become popular places to shop.

To make the most of your outlet shopping trip, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

  • Ask questions about the quality and age of the merchandise.
  • Look for items whose sewn-in label has been cut or marked. Usually, such items have come from the maker's retail boutique and aren't outlet knockoffs.
  • Out-of-season merchandise will be priced lower than in-season goods.
  • Consider purchasing items marked irregular. Many flaws are practically unnoticeable and should have no bearing on durability.
  • Find out if you can return items to the full-price branch of the store. That's especially important if the outlet is far away.
  • Join the frequent shoppers program for bonus savings and get on store mailing lists for advance notice of sales. This is particularly helpful for stores you patronize often.
  • Visit the center's management office or call in advance about non-advertised promotions and to request a coupon book. Bus tour groups usually get coupon books automatically, but managers may be willing to give one to an individual as a goodwill gesture.
  • Ask upfront about the store's refund and exchange policy.

 

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