Outlet malls lure shoppers with the promise of designer goods at fire sale prices—but many don't deliver bona fide bargains, so beware.
Here are three ways outlet malls tempt you to spend:
- That looong drive. Consumer research shows that with most outlet malls an hour away from urban centers, the investment of time (and having dragged five girlfriends) may spur you to shop more. "I didn't come all this way for nothing!"
- Value confusion. Although outlet malls sport brand names galore, many stores don't offer genuine designer items. Some (Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor, Coach) have separate product lines just for the outlets.
- The maze. If you can't find the bathroom or the food court at the outlet mall, you're not alone. Many malls are designed to keep customers moving—not sitting.
Outlet malls do offer discounts. Just make sure you can identify high quality at a low price when you see it. Or save time, stress (and gas) and shop online or close to home.
Many thanks to Ellen Ruppel Shell, author of "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture," for her input.