What's The Big Deal About Outlet Shopping

I enjoy shopping and I definitely love bargains and sales but for some reason, when I step inside a massive outlet store, my urge to the shop suddenly goes away. I think I may have whatever the outlet shopping version of closet paralysis is. It doesn’t happen in malls, department stores, or even at sample sales, but as soon as I get near a row of outlet stores, my desire to look a new clothes is gone faster than a contouring palette placed in front of a pack of Kardashians.

(Related: How Do You Clean Out Your Closet?)

It’s not that I have a snooty attitude towards outlets. I don’t think that it’s tacky or gauche to buy things at a discount. Why would anyone think that? If I can get a sweater for 60% off, I’ll gladly take it. I don’t care whether it’s from a regular store, an outlet, or the pop-up in the middle of the subway. I want to like outlets and I want to be like the people who discuss all of their amazing deals but when I find myself at the “magical” outlets I am usually met with a strong sense of feeling underwhelmed. Does anyone else get the same sort of feeling?

I never find that the deals are really that incredible as everyone hypes them up to be. It’s not like the outlets have Black Friday prices 365 days a year. When you really consider the prices, they aren’t that much better than what you can get in-store, if you keep an eye out for a coupon or a sale. And don’t try to fool me with that extra 20% for today only stuff, that “only today sale” usually applies to every day.

It’s also the merchandise. Have you ever walked into an outlet store for one of your favorite stores and been really excited because you’re going to get so many great things then you realize they only sell t-shirts with the brand’s logo in rhinestones? And you’ve never, ever seen those in the regular stores in the 10 years you’ve shopped there? I would gladly take reduced merchandise from three or four seasons ago but I don’t want the random t-shirts. I have left outlet stores and had to double-check the sign to make sure I walked into the right store because the merchandise looked so different compared to the regular store’s look.

When you add in the way some of the merchandise is piled in mountains on the tables and there are designer pieces that were regularly $3,000 marked down to $1,800 thrown on the floor, it makes me want to go sit down on a bench and take a few deep breaths. If that mountain had some cheap items that looked like a regular stock, pass me a bin and I’ll start digging until I see the table but I know there won’t be anything good.

I don’t experience the same loss of energy at a sample sale. You think I would but I am a very good sample sale shopper. Furthermore, I find the bargains are worth fighting the crazy crowds for and it’s worth sorting through the crap with the broken zippers and mismatched sleeves.

When I say to people I don’t really get outlet shopping, they say that it’s probably because I haven’t been to the right outlets. Then they usually explain about their yearly pilgrimages and how they always get the most amazing bargains. I have been to enough outlet stores to know they are all pretty much the same. I’ve crossed borders and driven to random places for the promise of a bargain. In the end, I’ve ended up in a place that seems suspiciously like the last outlet mall I was at with the same deals and similar sort of stock.

Is there some secret to outlet shopping that I am missing out on? Do I need to a few Red Bulls before I head out? Is there really a magical outlet mall that I haven’t discovered yet? If so, please fill me in before everyone starts going there for their holiday shopping.

(Photo: Flickr/Michael Daddino)

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