TIME apple pay

Apple Pay Rival To Hit Stores This August

Apple Inc. Reveals Bigger-Screen iPhones Alongside Wearables
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It has funding from Wal-Mart and Target

Apple Pay rival CurrentC is gearing up for use in stores by consumers.

The app — which was created by Merchant Customer Exchange and has funding from Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy — is getting a limited trial run in stores next month, according to Bloomberg. It’s expected to be used in larger public tests later this year, the report said.

Merchant Customer Exchange is expected to introduce the app during the third quarter, Bloomberg said.

The app has fierce competition, though, with electronic payment systems from Apple and Google already available to shoppers.

As the report notes, there are security and other issues involved as CurrentC goes public. For instance, the app was hacked last year during testing, which might make potential users wary of its safety. And Bloomberg notes that CurrentC has not signed deals with credit-card companies.

“We expect there to be more than one successful player in mobile payments, and we expect to be one of them,” Scott Rankin, Merchant Customer Exchange’s COO, told Bloomberg.

MONEY deals

8 Ways to Negotiate a Better Price

Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

Simply asking for a discount can save you money.

Negotiating often means having to be a little bit pushy and understanding basic psychological techniques in order to get a good deal. Because of this, many of us forgo negotiating and continue paying retail price for almost everything we purchase.

We often forget, however, how simply asking for a discount can save money, thereby avoiding the need for negotiating tactics. It’s a simple idea but here are eight questions you can ask that could save you big bucks.

1. Does This Expired Coupon Still Work?

Many of us are guilty of clipping coupons for future use, and then forgetting about them only to realize they’ve expired. Instead of throwing away the expired coupon, take it to the store and ask if they will accept it, anyway.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond offers this for all of their coupons, and Walmart will take expired coupons as long as the register doesn’t read it as such. So, don’t let the expiration date fool you.

2. Is This the Best Price You Can Offer?

When working with smaller boutique shops, or thrift stores, they expect you to negotiate. Asking if this is the final price, or the best they can do, will often get you a bit of money knocked off the final price.

If they aren’t willing to budge, try walking away and seeing if they come down on their price. If not, just be patient and look for another salesperson who’s willing to negotiate on price.

3. Can You Match a Competitor’s Price?

Big stores like Target and Lowe’s will often match a competitor’s advertised price on the same object simply by asking. You can either bring in the competitor’s weekly circular displaying the price of the exact same item, or use your smartphone to bring up the webpage that displays the price online.

In some cases, you can even submit the price of a competitor after the fact, and receive a refund for the difference. This is another reason why it’s important to save your receipts.

4. I Want to Cancel My Service — Is There a Better Deal?

Threatening to cancel your Internet or cable TV service isn’t a negotiating tactic you should use all the time, but if you’re in the process of moving, or evaluating your yearly expenses, this could be the perfect time to ask this question.

Most companies will offer a six-month promotion, or other short-term deal, in order to keep you as a customer. Simply let them know that you’re thinking of switching services, or cancelling altogether, and ask if they can offer a better deal for you to stay with their service.

5. Will You Take $X If I Pay in Cash?

Nothing is a stronger negotiating strategy than cold hard cash. Ask the cashier or sales rep if they will take $X amount of money if you pay the entire balance in cash. Maybe even flash the cash you have as a way to let them know you’re serious.

Most of the time they will consider this option, especially when you’re buying a car, since the dealership can avoid additional red tape from loans and the fees.

6. Can We Barter Services Free of Charge?

If you have a particular set of skills, you may be able to barter services in exchange for something you need. I offer my landlord bookkeeping services in exchange for a discount on my portion of rent.

I have a friend who gets free labor on houses she renovates by offering scrap metal and other valuable recyclables to contractors in exchange for having them remove the items from the house. It’s a win-win for both parties. So don’t be afraid to barter your services instead of exchanging money.

7. Do I Qualify for Various Discounts?

A good portion of restaurants and retail stores offer military or senior discounts that aren’t publicly advertised. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what kind of various discounts are available. Most military or senior citizen discounts will be in the 10%-15% range.

Another lesser-known discount is the friends and family discount. Even if you’re not sure if a family member or friend qualifies you to receive a discount, it never hurts to ask. Some employees will occasionally use their discount on your behalf.

8. Are There Any Upcoming Sales or Holiday Promotions?

Most stores offer yearly sales and holiday promotions as a way to drum up business or clear out last season’s inventory. As a woman, I know that Victoria’s Secret offers their semi-annual sale, so that’s usually when I make any purchases.

Ask the customer service rep if there are any upcoming sales or holiday promotions, then mark your calendar so you can come back (or order online) to save some money. Sometimes they’ll even offer you the sale price right then and there. It never hurts to ask!

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MONEY Shopping

No Taxes on Back-to-School Shopping! (But Only in These 17 States)

Tim Barber—Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP

Starting next Friday, these states are offering tax holidays on clothing, computers, school supplies, and more.

The best time to do your back-to-school shopping, or any shopping for that matter, is starting next week. Every summer, a number of states hold sales tax holidays on all sorts of supplies, from notebooks and pencils to clothing and computers.

This year’s round of holidays starts on July 31 (get ready, Georgia and Mississippi!) and ends in late August, with each state’s tax-free period typically lasting one weekend.

As MONEY’s Brad Tuttle noted last year, these tax holidays aren’t exactly Black Friday when it comes to savings: Sales taxes in most participating states ranges from 6% to 9%. That said, with parents spending more than $600 on average for school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation, those savings can certainly add up. And you don’t have to go to the mall to save: the tax break applies to online purchases as well.

Want to see if your state is set to give you a break? Hover over the map below—the sales dates in participating states will pop up, along with the eligible items. Prices listed next to a product category mean you can’t spend more than that amount on any individual item and still get the tax break, although there is no cap on overall spending.

One special case is Massachusetts, where the state legislature has gone down to the wire waiting to approve a 2015 tax holiday. It’s likely to pass so we’ve included it on the map, but be aware that this particular holiday is still unconfirmed.

*Note: Dollar figures are per item. There is no cap on overall spending.


MONEY Shopping

Say Goodbye to Shopping at Walmart at 3 A.M.

Exterior of Walmart store at night
John Crowe—Alamy

24-hour Walmart Supercenter is fading.

Roughly 40 Walmart Supercenter locations are giving up on being open to shoppers 24/7, and many more Walmart locations could follow by closing for at least a few hours in the wee hours of the day.

According to Bloomberg, two dozen Walmart locations backed off 24-hour openings this spring, and more than a dozen others will follow suit. Affected stores include those in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. Shoppers in these areas will somehow have to figure out how to live without the option of heading to Walmart between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., the period when most stores seem to be shutting down.

The most obvious reason Walmart is backing off 24-hour stores is that they’re not worth the cost or trouble. In the age of e-commerce and 24/7 Internet shopping, few consumers are compelled to head to an actual store in the middle of the night. Earlier this year, Walmart increased hourly wages for 500,000 workers. Apparently, the world’s largest retailer has decided it’s not worth it to staff nearly empty stores with cashiers and clerks overnight.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the changes are the start of a much larger trend. “I question if it is a test and could become a national rollout,” Edward D. Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough told Bloomberg. “There aren’t that many shoppers there overnight. How many people are going to Wal-Mart at 2 in the morning?”

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MONEY Shopping

‘Trophy’ Women’s T-shirt at Target Called Sexist and Demeaning

target employee organizing t-shirts and apparel in target store
Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Target thinks the shirt is cute and funny.

Does a T-shirt featuring the word “TROPHY” that’s sold at Target help perpetuate rape culture? Indeed it does, according to a new Change.org petition.

“The truth is that millions of women and young girls are taken as ‘trophies’ every year in war, sex trafficking, slavery, and rape,” states the petition, which was created with the goal of pressuring Target to stop selling the shirt. “The word trophy should not refer to any person, man or woman, because we are not THINGS- we are human beings. Labeling any person as a ‘Trophy’ is demeaning their humanity and objectifying them as a tangible object that can be bought, used, and disposed of.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had a few hundred online signatures. But after attracting significant attention in the media over the past day, the total was up over 12,000 signatures at last check.

As USA Today observed, people offended by the “Trophy” shirt have been hitting Target on social media for weeks. “The fact @Target has a bridal shirt that says ‘Trophy’ on it AND in the juniors section sickens me. How can that seem like a good idea?” one woman Tweeted more than a month ago.

Target responded to the controversy with a statement explaining, “It is never our intention to offend anyone.” What’s more, Target insists that many customers love the “Trophy” shirts. The joke seems to be a play “trophy wife,” a term coined way back in 1989 in a Fortune article about CEOs and their younger second wives. “These shirts are intended as a fun wink and we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests.”

Obviously, not everyone agrees that the shirt’s message is lighthearted and cute. It’s a fun wink “kind of like how catcalls are just friendly observations,” says a writer at Jezebel.

Read next: 5 Ways That Amazon Is Still Far Superior to New Upstart Jet.com

MONEY online shopping

5 Ways That Amazon Is Still Far Superior to New Upstart Jet.com

Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center
Bartek Sadowski—Bloomberg via Getty Images

For the time being, Amazon has the edge in several key categories.

On Tuesday, the groundbreaking shopping site Jet.com launched nationwide, and one thing is immediately, abundantly clear: Jet’s prices are indeed as phenomenally cheap as promised.

Jet.com CEO Marc Lore says that the site, which gives members access to cheap goods based on a complicated dynamic pricing system, is not trying to compete against Amazon. Yet the site maintains that its prices are 10% to 15% cheaper than anywhere else on the web, Amazon included, and the prices of products on Jet are listed side by side with prices for the same items on Amazon. Jet’s claims on cheaper prices are more or less verified by a Wells Fargo analysis showing the site’s prices are 9% lower on average than Amazon’s, according to InternetRetailer.com,

What’s equally apparent as of Tuesday’s launch is that the overall customer experience at Jet is hardly the equal of the world’s largest e-retailer. Here are five categories where Amazon still has the edge over the new kid on the block:

Convenience. Jet members, who pay $50 annually after a free 90-day trial period, get free two-day shipping on most common household items, as long as the total purchase is at least $35. But because the company focuses relentlessly on keeping prices down, it promises slightly slower delivery (two to five days) on other products in order to control shipping costs.

Amazon Prime subscribers, by comparison, get two-day shipping on almost all purchases fulfilled directly by Amazon, and orders of $35+ are eligible for free same-day delivery in some parts of the country. Amazon customers who don’t subscribe to the $99-per-year Prime service can get free standard (slow) shipping on purchases of $35 or more. Amazon also gives all manner of shoppers a variety of shipping options—one-day, Saturday delivery, no-rush shipping in exchange for credits that equate to discounts—that should meet the needs of nearly every buyer.

Selection. Jet has an impressive 10 million or so products for sale. But Amazon’s selection blows Jet’s away by a factor of at least 10, and perhaps as much as 20 or 30. (Amazon doesn’t reveal the exact number of items it lists for sale, but estimates range from 100 million to upwards of 300 million.)

Early testers of Jet’s pilot program have noted that the selection is solid in terms of standard household items such as cleaning supplies and toiletries, but weak in categories like sporting goods, apparel, and (understandably) fresh and frozen foods. As of Tuesday, searches for things like “socks” and brands like “Hanes” and “Nike” yielded no results at all at Jet.com. (You can, however, purchase such items through Jet partners like Macy’s, J. Crew, Apple, and Crate & Barrel and get 5% to 15% back in the form of Jet.com credits.)

Browsing. Jet is terrific for shoppers who know exactly what they want to buy but simply want the cheapest price, assuming the site actually stocks the item in question. The browsing experience at Jet, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired compared to Amazon.

Amazon has countless pages, lists, filters, subcategories, and recommendations to help shoppers find the most suitable item in the situation when the customer is unsure what to buy. For instance, say you need to buy a birthday present for a party your child is attending. If you typed in “boys gift age 10” at Amazon, you’d see more than 25,000 results that seem age-appropriate based on a quick scan. You could narrow the search in seconds by clicking on category filters like “Toys & Games” and choose among 20 more subcategories such as “Electronics for Kids,” “Puzzles,” and “Building Toys.” Enter the same search at Jet, and the site returns exactly one item—a set of FDNY figures that’s not necessarily appropriate for 10-year-olds but turned up, presumably, because the product contains 10 pieces.

User Reviews. Studies show that more than 60% of online shoppers consult user reviews before making a purchase decision. But for the time being at least, Jet has no user reviews whatsoever. This isn’t surprising considering the service is so new—it hasn’t had that many users yet. If and when Jet does give the option for members to add product reviews, it’ll likely take a long time until there are enough for shoppers to feel like they’re getting a true picture rather than the snap judgments of a few individuals.

Amazon has been compiling reviews for years, after all, so it’s got quite a head start. The absence of user reviews at Jet probably doesn’t matter much for household goods—diapers, paper towels, and such. Consumers tend to know the brands they like in these departments. As for other times when shoppers would feel more comfortable seeing reviews before picking an item to buy, there’s nothing to stop consumers from using Amazon like a showroom, in the same way that Amazon customers have used Target, Best Buy, and other physical stores as showrooms. The term “showrooming” means to scope out an item in one location before ultimately buying it from another, cheaper retailer. Now that Jet’s in the picture, the tables can be turned on Amazon, with showroomers browsing products and reviews on Amazon before purchasing them from Jet.

Other Membership Perks. In addition to shipping benefits on purchases, Prime subscribers have access to unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows, unlimited ad-free music streaming, unlimited photo storage, and free access to countless e-books via the Kindle Lending Library, among other perks. The value of these services depends entirely on how much (or how little) the subscriber actually uses them.

By contrast, right now the only benefit of a Jet membership is cheap prices. That may be the best benefit possible for shoppers, of course, but many Prime subscribers have gotten used to enjoying the extras that come along with membership. They’ll find the prospect of swapping Prime for Jet particularly difficult, and arguably not worth the tradeoff.

Read next: Everything You Need To Know About Amazon’s New Rival Jet.com

MONEY Shopping

8 Retail Loyalty Programs With Big Rewards

Retail And Tourism In Southern France As Economy Accelerates
Bloomberg via Getty Images s

Just be careful not to overspend for the sake of getting rewards.

Are there certain retailers you frequent more often than you’d like to admit? Many retailers have loyalty programs that can be pretty rewarding, especially for those who shop on a regular basis.

First, a quick explainer on loyalty programs vs. store credit cards. There are retailer-specific rewards credit cards that can help shoppers earn bonuses for brand loyalty as well, but they may carry higher interest rates than the average credit card and they’ll likely require a credit check. Loyalty programs are mostly free (though some on our list do charge a fee) and they’re not a line of credit, even though they will reward you for shopping at the store.

A word of caution, though: While it’s good to get discounts and perks for what you do spend, be careful not to overspend for the sake of getting rewards. If you get into debt, what you end up paying in finance charges may outweigh the goodies you get for being such a good customer.

That said, membership does have its rewards. Here are eight awesome loyalty programs that can really pay.

1. Starbucks

My Starbucks Rewards

How it works: Coffee addicts earn Stars by paying with their registered Starbucks, Teavana, or La Boulange Card or by using the mobile app. Select Starbucks products sold at grocery stores can also earn Stars.

What you get: Free drinks, free food, custom offers on items and early peeks at new products.

Bonus: App users receive a free featured iTunes song weekly.

2. Regal Entertainment Group

Regal Crown Club

How it works: Film buffs earn credits for tickets and concession purchases.

What you get: Free popcorn, free drinks and, of course, movie tickets.

Bonus: Members-only sneak previews of upcoming films.

3. Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale’s Loyallist

How it works: Members earn points for every dollar they spend, be it online, in-store or at outlets. Cosmetics and fragrances earn double points.

What you get: Free shipping every day—no minimum purchase required.

Bonus: A $25 gift card every time you reach 5,000 points.

4. Sephora

Sephora Beauty Insider

How it works: Every dollar spent is a point toward rewards.

What you get: Beauty swag worth 100 and 500 points, seasonal promotions and free beauty classes. Spend $350 to unlock VIB status, and $1,000 for VIB Rouge.

Bonus: Free birthday gifts that you’ll actually love, such as Satin Lip Pencils from Nars.

5. REI

REI Member Benefits

How it works: Pay a one-time fee of $20 to enroll.

What you get: A bevy of deals, in-store discounts, and 10% back on full-price items, thanks to REI’s member dividend.

Bonus: Discounts on ski lift tickets at select resorts, plus bike and ski shop services.

6. Walgreens

Walgreens Balance Rewards

How it works: Members rack up 10 points for every dollar they spend on most items.

What you get: $5 for 5,000 points, $10 for 10,000 points, and so on – to redeem on your next purchase.

Bonus: AARP members can link their cards for more rewards, namely, 100 points for prescription refills and 50 points per dollar spent on Walgreens brand health and wellness products.

7. Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble Membership

How it works: Pay an annual fee of $25.

What you get: Free one- to three-day shipping; 10% off most items, 40% off Barnes & Noble Store Bestsellers.

Bonus: 10% off Starbucks café purchases.

8. Safeway

Safeway Club

How it works: Scan the free card with every purchase.

What you get: Automatic savings online or in-store. Forgot your card? Just enter your phone number.

Bonus: Save on Safeway gasoline at participating stores.

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MONEY Shopping

Don’t Pay the Pink Tax! 6 Men’s Products Women Should Buy Instead

Don Nichols—Getty Images

Products targeted at women tend to cost more than similar ones for men.

If you’re not already frustrated about the “pink tax,” you’re about to be: As the New York Times recently revealed, women pay a premium every time they shop—often without realizing it. From personal care to clothes to dry cleaning services, products targeted at women tend to cost more than similar ones for men, even when the items in question are made from identical materials.

In a viral YouTube video, Mic’s Liz Plank estimates that this gendered pricing costs the average woman a whopping $100,000 in her lifetime (um, yikes). Willing to forego pink packaging and floral fragrances? Start purchasing these six items from the men’s aisle now to save big:

1. Razors. Multiple ALL YOU editors swear by this one. Instead of buying a Schick women’s “Hydro” razor for $12.79, buy the same Schick product targeted at men for $11.99. Or better yet, start subscribing to Dollar Shave Club: the most basic subscription will give you five blades a month for just $.60 each.

2. Deodorant. Degree Women’s Ultra Clear Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $5.35 ($2.06 per oz.) on soap.com, while Degree Men’s Invisible Solid Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $4.85 ($1.80 per oz.) on the same site. The same applies for clinical strength products: Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $4.73 an oz., whereas Gillette’s clinical strength deodorant costs $4.58 an oz. (Both Secret and Gillette are owned by the same parent company, P&G, and contain nearly identical active ingredients.)

3. White denim. As our brilliant style director Carole recently pointed out, if you’re looking for a pair of straight leg white jeans, you can save big by shopping in the men’s department. Carole recommends this pair of Levi’s 501 Fit Jeans ($47)—a steal compared to similar styles for women at LOFT ($59), Gap ($70) and J.Crew ($135).

4. Shaving cream. Just as with razors, you should stock up on cans of shaving cream from the men’s aisle: Gillette shaving cream targeted at men with dry skin costs $.49 an oz., compared to a similar Gillette product for women for $.51 an oz.

5. T-shirts. Box-cut tees are on trend right now (thanks, normcore!) but instead of shelling out extra for a women’s “boyfriend” style, head to the men’s department for inexpensive tees in solid colors like black, white and grey. I like the basic pocket tees from Old Navy’s men’s department, which cost just $12.94 compared to $16.94 for similar women’s styles. (If it’s slightly too baggy, throw it in the dryer the first time you wash it.)

6. Face cleansers. Skincare lines targeted at men are often cheaper than their same-brand counterparts for women. Neutrogena Invigorating Face Wash for men costs $1.06 an oz., compared to a similar Neutrogena Invigorating product for women that costs $1.66 an oz.

This article originally appeared on ALL YOU.

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MONEY Shopping

How Walmart Beat Amazon on Prime Day

Somehow, Amazon came out looking worse than Walmart.

Over the years, many of the same criticisms of Walmart have been leveled at Amazon: It’s ruthless with suppliers, working conditions are horrible for employees, its size and relentless focus on low prices are bad for Main Street mom-and-pop businesses, and so on.

Yet in one very important way, the world’s largest e-retailer has remained head and shoulders above the world’s largest retailer. Essentially, consumers have said the Amazon shopping experience is just plain better than Walmart’s. In fact, Amazon arguably offers the best shopping experience, period. Consumer research from the likes of The Reputation Institute and Foresee put Amazon at the top of the pack in terms of customer satisfaction.

Then along came Prime Day. Held on July 15 to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary, Amazon hyped it as a summertime Black Friday, with countless deals rolling out through the day. By some accounts, it was a huge success: Amazon sales were up 80% in the U.S., and Amazon said that the rate of sales orders during parts of Prime Day eclipsed Black Friday.

“Customers worldwide ordered an astonishing 398 items per second and saved millions on Prime Day deals. Worldwide order growth increased 266% over the same day last year and 18% more than Black Friday 2014 – all in an event exclusively available to Prime members,” Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, said in a press release. “Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event. After yesterday’s results, we’ll definitely be doing this again.”

Yet while many shoppers bit, many others came away feeling bitter, perhaps even betrayed. Instead of finding amazing prices on items they truly wanted, shoppers bashed Prime Day on social media because Amazon failed to deliver on the hype. If Prime Day wasn’t being described as a “crappy yard sale” overloaded with bizarre, random items, then observers were saying that the majority of the deals were underwhelming in terms of price. Still others complained out of frustration that the deals they actually did want disappeared before they had the chance to buy because quantities were so limited. And even before Prime Day arrived, there were grumbles because the sales were available only for subscribers to Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime service, not all shoppers.

Remember, Amazon generally stands out among retailers for its superior customer experience. That experience includes low prices, but also more transparency and fewer tricks, always with a focus on doing right by the customer.

In light of all of the above, it feels like some line was crossed on Prime Day. For many consumers, Prime Day clearly demonstrated that Amazon is just as capable as the J.C. Penneys, dollar stores, and Walmarts of the world of trying to dupe shoppers with gimmicks and hype. Rather than focusing on delivering the best customer experience possible, Amazon built up Prime Day in order to jack up all-important Prime memberships and attempt to quickly unload tons of merchandise, regardless of the bad long-term taste it left behind and the trust sacrificed in the process.

By most accounts, the deals offered by Walmart as a counteroffensive to Prime Day were just as hit-or-miss as Amazon’s, with a few truly great bargains mixed in with a whole lot of meh. Matthew Kirkwood of the deal-tracking site Ben’s Bargains said via email, “Amazon Prime Day was a bad deal for consumers,” because Amazon has offered better prices in the recent past on items like the Amazon Echo and Fire TV Stick than it did on Prime Day. At the same time, though, Kirkwood put “anyone who avoided Walmart’s deals” in the category of winner on Prime Day—because the deals just weren’t that good either.

So why might Amazon still come out of Prime Day looking worse than Walmart? For one thing, Prime Day was Amazon’s baby, so it should bear most of the blame if shoppers feel it was a bust. For another, it’s Amazon. Shoppers expect a lot more out of Amazon than we do out of Walmart—which after all is up there with McDonald’s as one of the most-bashed brands on the planet.

Normally, social media pours on the praise when retailers host big sales. Yet according to Brandwatch, there were nearly as many negative social media mentions of Prime Day as there were positive: 41,000 vs. 47,000. “A split this close is rare,” Brandwatch’s Kellan Terry said via email. “The majority of the time, positive mentions severely outnumber negative mentions.” Meanwhile, Walmart received 34,000 social media mentions, and “many negatively categorized tweets are actually referring to Prime Day with Walmart as a better alternative.”

Finally, Walmart comes out the winner (or non-loser) from the consumer point of view because even if its “Rollback” deals weren’t amazing, at least they didn’t disappear in 10 minutes, or even 24 hours. “Our prices aren’t over after just one day,” a spokesperson told AdAge. “These rollbacks will be available for up to 90 days while supplies last.”

MONEY Shopping

5 Things You Can Try Before You Buy

JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Airbnb lets potential homebuyers rent the house they are considering buying.

Pretty much anyone can go to a store to try on clothes or drive to an auto dealer to test drive a car — trying things out is a routine part of making purchases. It’s just not that enjoyable. Sometimes, trying things out is a hassle or isn’t enough to help you make a confident buying decision, but most people accept it as one of life’s little annoyances.

From filling out your wardrobe to deciding on big-ticket purchases, there are more and more options for consumers to conveniently and confidently spend money. Here are some examples of things that don’t have to be terrible to shop for, thanks to some creative business people.

1. Cars

Many car rental companies sell their vehicles to consumers, and renting the same make and model you’re considering buying is a good strategy for finding out if you really like it — it’ll give you a bit more time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle than a traditional test drive.

Hertz has a program — called Rent2Buy, available in some parts of the country — that allows you to purchase the exact car you rent. You pick up the car for a three-day trial period, and if you decide to not buy it, you just pay for the rental expense.

2. Houses

As we previously reported, Airbnb started a program with Realtor.com in which potential homebuyers can rent homes they’re considering purchasing. You pay for the Airbnb cost, of course, but you actually get to live in the home and test out the feel of the neighborhood before you commit to a massive loan and the next several years (or decades) in one place.

3. Eyewear

Glasses are one of those items you need to try on to be certain they look right, which can make them tricky to order online. Warby Parker is one of the better-known online retailers of eyewear, and they will ship you five pairs to try on, for free. That’s better than buying several pairs and returning the ones you don’t like, plus, their frames tend to be less expensive than those sold at an eye doctor’s office or bricks-and-mortar specialty eyewear store (Warby Parker does have a few stores).

If you need adjustments, however, you will likely have to leave your house to have them fitted at an eyewear store. Otherwise, you can do this whole glasses-shopping thing from the comfort of your couch.

4. Clothes

There are some services in which you can have a stylist shop for you and deliver selections to your door. There’s one called Trunk Club for men and another called Stitch Fix for women. Shipping is free (Stitch Fix has a stylist fee that can be applied to a final order, while Trunk Club’s website says there are no membership fees), and you pay for only what you keep.

5. Household Appliances

Pirch sells indoor and outdoor home appliances, but the showrooms are interactive, allowing customers to base their bathroom remodeling decisions off more than how much they like the way the shower head looks. There a few of the swanky stores in major cities, and the locations have a calendar of events, so you can see what appliances you get to play with when you show up.

These companies may make shopping a little more fun and a heck of a lot easier, but don’t let that distract you from the financial side of things. For bigger purchases, specifically cars and homes, you need to figure out the money situation well before you start trying things out, because it’s easy to try nice things and go way over budget. Shop around for the best financing and take time to compare products, rather than jumping at your first option. Try to be proactive by checking your credit well in advance of loan shopping, so you can make an effort to improve it, if necessary, and research what sort of financing you can expect, based on your credit score.

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