Archive for May, 2013

The last time I had a long decent holiday in Europe was a visit to France almost a decade ago.   The euro was coming into play and at parity with the US dollar.   I remember my flight cost about $600 and the hotels for my entire stay was fairly affordable.  I visited the wine country in Angers.    We decided to take a European holiday this year visiting France, Italy and Spain and the price tag so far is over $15,000.    The air flight alone were about $6,000 and the hotels are pretty pricey in euros with the current exchange rate about 1 euro per $1.30 but still it will be worth it to enjoy a nice time in Europe.

The biggest problem Europe has though is that most hotels only accommodate 3 people and then require you to book a second room if you have four or five people with you.  European hotels are the most anti-family friendly places on earth!    Given that problem, we opted to rent a house in one spot and other accommodations elsewhere.

I am really astonished at how much going to Europe costs and reminds me why we’ve largely stayed away.   Of course I recently had my roof replace for 13k then my son’s tuition for school came due with first payment of 10k and now another 15k for Europe.   So I’ve easily spent 38k in about 3 months and that doesn’t include any of the extras for the trip like new digital camera to take great photos, the tux, or my upcoming MBA tuition for the Fall or the 20k I plunked down  on my mortgage to get down to less than 10k.  I decided I would take surplus cash and eliminate all debt by the end of the year.  Even with interest rates at 3% it doesn’t make sense to carry debt even at this low interest rate when cash is sitting not earning any real interest.

If all my goals hold, by the end of the year I won’t have a single dime of debt except for a student loan that’s now at 1.85% interest due to some fancy debt arbitrage.   I guess this time next year I’ll go on a really nice Australian/South Pacific vacation!

So I walk into a retail place called “The Men’s Warehouse” looking for a tuxedo.  I wasn’t trying to rent one but rather buy one that was somewhat “disposable” for an upcoming event.   The sales woman quickly measured my size and grabbed a tux and asked me to try it on.  It was a Calvin Klein Tux and it fit nicely and looked great.    The moniker, “you’re going to like how you look” seemed to be a great fit for the store.   That was until I saw the price tag for the tux which came in at a whopping $649.   This was the cost for just the tux not the shirts, shoes, cufflinks or other items.

While I wouldn’t have thought twice about plunking down $649 for a tux, the fact that I needed a more “disposable” one weighed on me so I decided to do a quick price check on Amazon.com.   I typed “Calvin Klein Tux” on Amazon and lo and behold…..the exact same suit for $349!

After the sales clerk came back, she asked me how I liked the suit….I said I loved it but didn’t love the price and did a price check on Amazon and saw I could get the exact same suit for 1/2 off!    She said she couldn’t lower the price but offered me a two for one option.  Buy the tux and get another suit for $100.   I laughed and told her the exact same suit is on Amazon for $349 and another sales clerk overheard me and said, “yeah everything is cheaper on Amazon.”

So it became clear that I would be probably not be taking the tux and order it from Amazon, she went off and came back with a nearly identical clone of the tux with a different brand name for the low cost of $249.   I really couldn’t tell the difference except that the Calvin Klein tux had a brighter sheen to it than the clone but paying $400 extra for some sheen didn’t make too much sense to me so I told her I’d take it.    The price point was lower than Amazon and I could get the needed alterations there to ensure a perfect fit.

Next, the sales clerk took me to try on some shirts then began to pull out cummerbunds, cufflinks and other stuff.  I quickly looked at the prices of everything (usually $49.99) for just about every item and did a price check on Amazon.  Sure enough, Amazon had every single item for half of the cost.   I did feel bad for the clerk because she spent a great deal of time getting items for me to try on so I went ahead and ordered two overpriced shirts ($120 for two) where I could have purchased them at Amazon for about $30 a piece.   But spending $60 extra for whatever tiny commissions or kudos she might get from the store seemed fair to me.

So the lessons learned here is that the Men’s Warehouse is a great place to go get measured, try out some brands and pick the one that fits best then go to Amazon.com and order your merchandise at half the price!   I wonder how long it is going to take for retail stores to ban cell phones and instant price checks.