You know that feeling you get when you buy brand name item at a discount? It's like you've beaten the system. You're absolved of any shopping guilt because you've saved money rather than spent it, even if that isn't actually the case. With the rise of discount outlet stores—which raked in over $50 billion in the past five years—retailers are keenly aware of our desire to buy things at prices that seem too good to be believed.
Turns out those deep discounts on brand name labels aren't always a steal. In February, Barneys New York was slapped with a class-action lawsuit accusing the luxury retailer of deceptive discounts at their lower-priced outlet stores. The plaintiff, Kristen Schertzer, claims she spent $450 at Barneys Warehouse on items that suggested a 50 percent markdown, when in fact, she alleges the products were never originally intended to be sold at Barneys.
"Barneys' scheme has the effect of tricking consumers into believing they are getting a significant deal by purchasing merchandise at a steep discount, when in reality, consumers are paying for merchandise at its regular retail price," according to the Schertzer's claims.
This not the first time consumers have raised concerns over brand name products sold by discount retailers, many of which produce lower-quality products for outlets, despite the implication they're more expensively made.
Banana Republic, Gap, Michael Kors, Cole Haan and Neiman Marcus have all been accused of selling lower-quality, outlet-only products as if they were deeply discounted items from their higher-end stores, when in fact they're not.
"I think outlet stores are configured to try and nicely mislead most people into thinking they're getting amazing overruns, amazing bargains," Mark Ellwood, author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World, told Marketplace in 2014. "When you walk into an outlet store, you have to think, this stuff was made to be cheaper."
In their independent investigation, Marketplace "found items in outlet stores made with less durable leathers and different fabrics than the comparable products sold at the retail stores."
Ellwood wasn't surprised by the findings. "The quality of products at outlets varies widely. Remember, this stuff was largely made just to be sold cheaply. So they're going to cut corners," he said.
Coach, one of the labels in Marketplace's inquiry, acknowledged the discrepancies. "Generally, our manufactured-for-outlet product will be less embellished — using less overall hardware and/or simpler hardware, may not have an exterior pocket, or may have a narrower gusset, may have a simpler (non-branded) lining, or may use a flat versus tumbled leather — compared to the retail bag that inspired it," a Coach rep explained.
Meanwhile, Nordstrom Rack—Nordstrom's outlet chain—confirmed to Racked in 2014 "that only 20% of what it sells is clearance merchandise coming from their stores and website, while the rest is bought expressly for the outlet."
In 2018, Neiman Marcus settled a class action lawsuit over false claims in its Last Call outlet stores and promised more transparency on items made for cheaper outlets rather than the flagship stores.
An earlier suit against Michael Kors over their outlet practices resulted in an almost $5 million settlement and an agreement by Kors to replace the MSRP price on outlet tags with "value". So when you see that word on Kors outlet price-tags, it's an indication that the product was made expressly for the outlet and suggests the quality of that item isn't the same as one you might find by the flagship label.
Confused yet? You're not alone. If you really want to know whether your discount is for real, or just a cheaper knock-off with the brand name stamp of approval, the FTC has some helpful guidelines. Here are some things to look out for, according to FTC consumer education specialist, Colleen Tressler:
- Recognize that if you're buying something that looks new and undamaged, the price may be lower for a reason. For example, plastic might replace leather trim on a jacket, or a t-shirt may have less stitching and a lighter weight fabric. If top-quality is important, you may want to keep shopping. But if it's the style or the look that's key, quality may be a lower priority.
- If you're unsure whether the store sells "made-for-outlet" only merchandise or how to tell the difference between it and regular retail merchandise for sale, ask the staff.
- Shop for off-season merchandise. It typically comes at bargain prices.
- Ask about return policies. Some outlet stores let you return unused merchandise any time as long as the price tag hasn't been removed and you have the receipt. Other stores have 90-day or 120-day return policies. Some don't allow any returns.
- Many regular retail stores won't take returns from their outlet stores. That's something to ask your neighborhood retailer about, too.
So the next time you hit the racks and find a brand name handbag with a price tag that seems too good to be true, don't be surprised if it is. The label may be impressive, but the quality less so. That doesn't mean you shouldn't buy something if you love it, just research what you're really paying for before you hit the checkout counter.
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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.
In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.
In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.
But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.
Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.
In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.
Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.
Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:
1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan
2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.
3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.
4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.
5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.
Here are charities offering support in Haiti:
1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.
2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.
3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.
4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.
When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.
Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.
The aesthetics were undeniably luxe and historic. The campaign showcased the rarely-seen Basquiat painting Equals Pi (1982), which the brand acquired for the background's proximity to its distinctive Tiffany blue. Also notably historic is that Beyoncé was the first Black woman to wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond.
Before Beyoncé, the only other stars to wear the yellow diamond were Mary Whitehouse, wife of American diplomat Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse, Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn, and singer Lady Gaga.
"Beyoncé and Jay-Z are the epitome of the modern love story …. Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art decorate," said the press release accompanying the campaign.
The campaign, titled "About Love," is stunning and has both classic and contemporary references. The image of the couple posing in front of high art recalled the iconic stills from their "APESHIT" music video, for which they famously rented out the Louvre and posed in front of the Mona Lisa.
THE CARTERS - APESHIT (Official Video) www.youtube.com
Their "APESHIT" photo made a giant cultural impact for its juxtaposition of Western beauty and Blackness. Tiffany's campaign seemed to have similar goals — showcasing Beyoncé and Jay Z as the peak of luxury, this time juxtaposing the Basquiat and the Tiffany diamond.
As a Black couple, their appearance in such a luxury campaign was a big move for representation, but in a post 2020 landscape, there was an outcry of criticism.
Despite the aesthetic beauty of the image, the high capitalist undertones didn't sit right with some on the internet — largely younger demographics. Though this campaign was an effort by Tiffany's to appeal to younger audiences and make the brand feel more relevant, Twitter's verdict was clear: a blood diamond wasn't the way to go.
The diamond, which was mined in South Africa in 1877, comes from origins laden in the implications of colonialism. The practice of mining in South Africa at the time was exploitative and destructive, eschewing the livelihoods and safety of African miners and their communities for... what? Money? So Tiffany could try to sell us some dream of affluence using Black celebrities as to "Blackwash" the history behind their treasured piece?
The Washington Post also had some choice words, saying: "Its campaign does not celebrate Black liberation — it elevates a painful symbol of colonialism. It presents an ostentatious display of wealth as a sign of progress in an age when Black Americans possess just 4 percent of the United States's total household wealth. If Black success is defined by being paid to wear White people's large colonial diamonds, then we are truly still in the sunken place."
Alongside the campaign, Tiffany & Co have promised to donate $2 million to HBCUs to fund scholarships and internships. But this measly amount (considering the multi-billion dollar net worth behind LVMH) is not enough to cover up that, despite their performative efforts to promote "diversity," Tiffany's is entrenched in a colonial history that neither beauty nor Beyonce can make us ignore.
While Black representation has been increasing over the past few years, the question of how we are represented is starting to be considered with more nuance. And as we examine the structures of wealth and hierarchical values, many people are starting to ask whether these should be the standards we aspire to anymore.
Jay Z and Beyoncé have come under fire before for their promotion of Black Capitalist values — which the kids don't seem to want. Jay Z especially seems invested in the trappings of traditional (read: white) success and wealth. His cannabis line recently unveiled a campaign based on the work Slim Aarons — which was famously focused on "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places" — and its unashamed opulence raised some eyebrows.
Images like this aren't as revolutionary as they once might have been since they reinforce the status quo and tell marginalized people to reach for the same luxuries and lifestyles deemed aspirational by the people who have oppressed them.
Anti-capitalist theory has been around as long as capitalism has, but younger generations are more likely to question the status quo — even when it comes packed with Basquiat and Beyoncé.
The conversation about the Tiffany campaign is indicative of how Gen Z thinks differently about money and what it means to them. They are less likely to be seduced by the luster of the aspirational, and more receptive to relatability.
No more does financial literacy seem restricted to the pretentious or the elite — we get it, finance bros; you love capitalism. With Cleo, understanding your money is something that can align users with their values.
And those values don't look like blood diamonds or corporate pandering.
- Sorry, Beyoncé, but Tiffany's blood diamonds aren't a girl's best friend - Washington Post
- The Black-white wealth gap left Black households more vulnerable — Brookings
- The Unashamed Opulence of Jay Z's Luxury Cannabis-Themed Slim Aarons Photoshoot — Popdust
- ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE DOING ATTRACTIVE THINGS IN ATTRACTIVE PLACES WITH SLIM AARONS — Elle Decor
Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.
From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.
1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance
If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.
2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping
All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.
camping road tripConde Nast Traveler
If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).
3. Bring Food From Home
Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.
Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.
4. Avoid Tolls
Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).
You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.
Road TripThe Orange Backpack
5. Save on Gas
Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.
6. Get a National Park Pass
All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.