Before I begin, I am going to make one thing clear. I use the terms “sofa” and “couch” interchangeably. Purists out there on the interwebs will vehemently deny this blasphemy but I do not care. To me, a couch and a sofa are the same thing.
With that out of the way, let me tell you about an inside family joke. When either of our families comes to visit, no one wants to sit on our couch.
Why does no one want to sit on it? They are afraid they won’t be able to get up! The sofa is past broken in and you sink alarmingly close to the ground. The price was right though, Shae snagged it for free back in 2012 when our apartment neighbors upstairs were moving out. The picture above is from 2012 right after we cleaned it up a bit.
The couch has been through a lot of abuse since then.
It moved from our apartment to our house.
And two children have bounced, spit up, licked, and drooled on it.
Finally, Shae and I came to the conclusion that it was time to bid adieu to our beloved free couch. It was time to go sofa shopping!
The first choice was to check Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, and other online classifieds. We didn’t see much of interest unless your interest is in horribly dated patterns, questionable hygiene (bed bugs anyone?), or pet hair.
So next we went to local thrift stores. Their selection was very limited and consisted mostly of items that would be a step down from our current couch.
Alright, we might have to buy *new*. We have never bought a *new* sofa before. Before we set out, we set our expectations. This would not be a forever heirloom quality piece. It would not be made from solid wood and outlive us. It would most likely be made in China, last 5-10 years, and then quickly fall apart.
After browsing through three stores, two local and one national, we found a piece that we both liked, the Larkinhurst Queen Sofa Sleeper.
I wanted a sleeper sofa so we could accommodate more overnight guests during the Thanksgiving craziness as well as to give other guests the option of sleeping on the first floor. This particular one was comfortable to sit on in the store and we thought it looked nice (I have enough life experience now to know that what is pretty to one person is horrendous to another).
So we found it, time to buy it right? Wrong!
Time to Negotiate
The ever eager salesman had been checking in with us every three to four minutes while we were browsing. He didn’t take long to whisper to us that a super secret one day sale was going on right now. Ughh, we both hate pushy sales, but it comes with the territory. Okay, let’s play ball, but do it on our terms.
First things first, the ‘tag price’ in the store was $1,219.99. Ya, we aren’t going to be paying that. Mr. Helpful has already informed us that there is some divine sale going on that we have to act on right this second or miss out.
I looked the sofa up on the store’s webpage using my phone. It was listed at $1,449.99 but on sale for $942.49. Furthermore, I saw an Amazon.com listing for the sofa that had a price of $772.84 & free shipping. Okay. Time to call over Mr. Helpful and play ball.
Me: “Oh hi Mr. Helpful, I had some questions about this sofa. I would like it in the sleeper version. What’s the best price you can do?”
Mr. Helpful: <whips out calculator and a blank invoice> “Well, our 1 day sale price comes out to $914.99 + $231 for the four year protection plan, $80 delivery, and $80 in sales tax for a total of $1306.
Without skipping a beat, he went right into the 12 month 0% interest financing.
Mr. Helpful: <finishes calculating the 12 month financing> “That comes out to just $96 a month with just $160 down.”
Do you see what the salesman just did? He came in with a lower price, but instantly and without prompting started adding in expensive extras such as protection plans that we did not ask for. That brings the out the door price above the printed tag price but then he goes straight to financing. That $1300 sofa would only cost us $160 to sign right now. Geez, what a great deal. Except we know that Amazon.com is selling it for less. A lot less.
Me: “Do you price match?”
Mr. Helpful: “Sure we do, did you have a flyer or website?”
Me: <pulls up product page on phone> “They have it for $772.84 with free shipping.”
Mr. Helpful: “Hmmm… Oh that is Amazon, we can’t price match Amazon. It might be old and sitting in some warehouse somewhere.”
Alright. That was pretty slick. He replied in such a way as to 1.) backtrack from his previous statement that they would price match and 2.) discredit the Amazon.com listing by implying that it was an inferior product to what he was selling. Nobody wants to buy an *old* dusty sofa that is sitting in some warehouse somewhere.
Me: “Okay, thank you for your time, we are going to check a couple of other stores”
Walking away is always an option. You never HAVE to buy something and salesmen know that.
Mr. Helpful: “Wait, let me check with my boss and see what I can do.”
This has to be one of the oldest sales tricks in the book. Referring to a higher authority. It is not his fault that they cannot price match, but someone else’s fault. An invisible and possibly nonexistent ‘boss/manager’ that can give final say on a matter.
After five minutes or so Mr. Helpful returned.
Mr. Helpful: “Okay my Manager was able to bend over backwards and give you clearance pricing on this sofa. $853.99 ($62 reduction), the four year protection plan for $101 ($130 reduction), and delivery for $55 ($25 reduction).”
Okay, a $247 difference just by threatening to walk out of the store, BUT the total is still $1084, an over $300 difference from Amazon.com’s price.
Me: “Thank you for your time Mr. Helpful. We are going to get some lunch and think about it.”
This was my subtle way of saying, not good enough do better.
He/They chose not to do better, so we left.
That night, we ordered the couch from a random internet store for $729 & free shipping. Like all online stores, there was a place to enter a promo code. 30 seconds of searching the internet and we found a $5 off coupon to bring our total to $724.
The Death of Brick and Mortar Retail
I thought the entire experience was amusing and very telling. Had the B&M store matched Amazon’s price, we would have bought it from them, on the spot in cash. The markup on this cheap Chinese furniture is around 400%. So a sofa like this would cost about $300 for the store to procure. Selling it at Amazon’s price is still a profit. They chose to skip a profitable sale and earn a potential repeat shopper by trying to command a larger gross profit. It should be no surprise that B&M stores are failing left and right. Either adapt or die.