I like to think of myself as a semi-savvy shopper.
And while I don’t do any extreme couponing (because I have neither the time nor the storage space for 700 free tubes of toothpaste), I do participate in my fair share of discount shopping. Some things I don’t mind paying full price for. Some things I am vehemently opposed to paying full price for.
Example: Halloween costumes. Those chintzy polyester outfits that children wear for approximately 2 hours for one day of the year. I hate the exorbitant expense of Halloween costumes, especially since most of them are terrible quality and have a ridiculously high markup because, of course, parents neeeeed them.
I’m happy that Molly doesn’t fully grasp the concept of Halloween yet, and that I was still able to choose her costume for her (next year, I imagine I won’t be so lucky). A coworker actually came up with the idea for this year’s theme. She told me about a cute costume duo she saw for sale on one of those Facebook online yard sale sites: little red riding hood and the big bad wolf. I said, “Yes! Yes! I want them!” but of course they had already sold.
Even though I missed out on that deal, I still forged on with the LRRH/BBW theme in mind. Determined not to pay full price, I turned to my favorite of all discount sites… eBay! I found plenty of reasonably priced LRRH outfits but they were all made from that shiny, cheapo polyester, and many were missing vital components (like…THE RED HOOD). I scrolled and scrolled until I hit the jackpot – a handmade, beautiful costume with the dress, bloomers, hood, and a coordinating little basket, all for $14.99 (+$6.80 shipping). UM, HOW ABOUT YES PLEASE? I literally sent the woman a thank you note for offering such a beautiful item. It was the score of all Halloween costume scores.
Next up – BBW, which was a little trickier. Those fuzzy, cuddly baby costumes don’t come cheap, even on eBay. Most were in the $40-$50 range, and as much as I loved and needed the costume, I couldn’t quite justify that price on something he’d wear for one stinkin’ night. Just as I was about to give up and order one of the expensive options, I noticed something interesting in the “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed” section. The description said “Princess Paradise Bear Costume Size 12/18 Months” BUT the photo was exactly the same as the other wolf costumes I was looking at. The best part? It was $4.88 (+ $6.45 shipping). I was so excited! I figured it was worth the $11 gamble to see if it really was named incorrectly. (And since I was shopping in September, uncharacteristically ahead of deadline, I had time to buy a new costume if it did turn out to be a princess bear).
The week it took to ship the costume was excruciating. I kept wondering… would it be a wolf? Would it be a bear? Would it be the exact thing I was looking for and somehow only cost $11? I knew it sounded too good to be true, but I still held out hope. When the package arrived, I ripped it open and… hallelujah! It was the wolf costume I wanted! (Further research uncovered that Princess Paradise is actually a brand name, but the whole “bear” part still confuses me because it’s clearly a wolf).
So all told, I got a handmade/non-chintzy little red riding hood costume and a cute furry big bad wolf costume for a combined total of $33.12 – less than some people spend on just ONE costume. I was feeling good.
But don’t think it’s all sunshine and roses over here, because my next eBay shopping experience didn’t go nearly so well.
Last year I found this awesomeness right here:
My husband is a Star Wars fan, and I am a let’s-coordinate-a-super-cute-family-photo-Christmas-card fan, so I figured we could combine our loves and get some matching Christmas jammies. WELL. Hanna Andersson makes high quality apparel and it is (justifiably) pricey. To order the organic cotton, Star Wars themed, matching Christmas pajama sets for my family (not including the dogs) would have cost $244. YIKES. Then we also would have needed to pay for a photo session, order cards, and pay to mail all the cards. So no, we didn’t do that.
This year I figured I’d keep up my winning eBay streak and search for those same Star Wars pajamas from last year. I thought that since it was a year ago, maybe I could find them for much cheaper. And I did! The first results that populated were those exact same pajama sets that I saw last year, same photos and everything, only this time ranging in price from $6.99 to $15.99. I happily purchased four pj sets for under $50.
Now, one important fact to mention: I did notice that they were shipping from China. But in my little eBay fantasy daydreams, I imagined that the factories who made the Hanna Andersson sets from last Christmas were simply unloading their excess inventory at a low, direct-to-consumer cost. Or that they had done some extra runs on the sly to sell for themselves. I used to work in the apparel industry but I’m still quite naive as to how it all works. Those two scenarios both sounded plausible. High on my Halloween costume success, I imagined receiving perfect organic cotton Christmas jammies with Hanna Andersson quality and China-low prices.
As I said, this story doesn’t have happy ending. The first two pajama sets arrived 3 weeks after I ordered them and they were terrible. The fabric was very low quality (basically the opposite of organic cotton). They smelled like chemicals. And worst of all, the sizes were completely off. The pants were narrow and tight while the shirts were comically short and wide. It reminded me of this amazingly hilarious post from a couple years ago about the perils of ordering cheap clothing from overseas.
I went back to the listing to check out the return policy and noticed that the vendor claimed to have shipped all four sets, yet I had only received two of the four. So not only did I need to figure out how to return the horrendous short & wide pjs, but I was also stuck disputing the shipping claim and hoping for a refund on the two missing sets. Oh, and while the seller does accept returns, the customer (ME) is stuck paying for the return shipping. To China.
The moral of this story is that you win some and you lose some. Your amazing, too-good-to-be-true eBay deal might be a crazy cheap and awesome mislabeled wolf costume, or it might be a crappy pair of wide & smelly pajamas.
Hope you all had a lovely Halloween, and happy discount shopping to all!