Monday, June 2, 2008

Coming Out About Outlets

This past weekend, I had the fabulous idea of trekking to an outlet mall that my coworkers have been raving about. "Look at my Burberry underwear I paid $7 for!" said Willie from advertising, exposing the tell-tale novacheck plaid waistband of his new pair of Burberry tightie-whities above his pants. He then bragged that he had bought three Burberry scarves for $19 each -- ALL at the outlets. It was like waving a hot dog infront of a morbidly obese ballpark food junkie. All I knew was that I, too, had to cash in on the savings.

So my sister Sophia (who's staying with us for the summer), Love and I all piled in the Accento to make our way up to the infamous "Leesburg Premium Outlets" in Northern Virginia. Lolar bear was intially going to partake in the journey, but with temperatures approaching 85 degrees, having a toasted Lola in the car while she waited for us in the parking lot was not the kind of hot dog I wanted waved infront me.

I was a bit apprehensive to going up, what with gas prices at current levels, and the distance of the outlets from us (a little over 40 miles), along with my past misfortune in finding NOTHING whenever I do venture to outlet stores, I was afraid the trip, and my time, would be wasted. Always the one to succumb to curiosity, though, I said "why not." It was a balmy Sunday, after all, and we had no other plans.

On the way up, we hit two toll roads we hadn't accounted for -- not terrible, they collectively cost $4.25 one way, but roundtrip that is an extra $8.50, on top of the gas it cost. Once we pulled off the freeway 40 miles later, my eyes twinkled at all the dazzling signs of Coach, Off 5th, Banana Republic, all replete with promises of discounts and markdowns.

Two hours later, as I trudged back to the car with Love and Sophia in tow, let me just say I was overwhelmingingly disappointed. We had traipsed to the far nether regions of the sprawling outdoor mall and back, and all I had to show for it was a pair of brown capris I bought at Banana for $23. Love had more luck than I did (as he usually does), and made out like a Banana bandit with polos and sweaters. Let me tell you why I was disappointed.

Sure, it was fun just hanging out and pilfering through pants and polos, but was it worth it? No. I firmly believe, and this latest trip just reaffirmed my theory, that outlet and their "sales" are mainly a myth. Case in point: We went into Lacoste and Diesel, and found jeans and shirts that are much cheaper at Nordstrom's half-yearly sale than they are at "discount" prices at the outlets. And there were many things I saw on Sunday that I know are cheaper online. Remember those $19 scarves Willie boasted about? Try $199. I told him to double-check his bank statement, as it looked like he might have forgotten to see a second "9."

That's not to say that you can never find a good deal at an outlet store, but do you really want to spend all Sunday riffling through some discount rack at the Off 5th outlet, just so you can find a reject 7 for all Mankind shirt in a hideous color from two seasons ago? I can think of 10 other ways I'd rather spend a Sunday. Not only that, but the cost of gas and tolls roundtrip completely negates the "savings" you gain from shopping at the outlets; you may as well just troll your local mall for a clutch deal.

Suffice to say, unless I happen upon an outlet on my weekend shopping excursions, I highly doubt I would ever make a special trip again -- I would just end up toting a pair of cropped pants and disappointment home at the end of the day.

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